Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Beijing - Day 4

Here is today's email:

Hi! Today is our fourth day in Beijing and we feel like it is going by so quickly. This morning we met our guide at the Lama Temple which is a Buddhist temple on the North side of Beijing. Apparently Jeff and I don't know much about Buddhism because we had no idea that there is more than one Buddha! We saw about 10-15 different Buddhas, each with a different "job". Some are for wealth, some for food, harvest, rain, etc. The most interesting thing at the Lama Temple was this HUGE sculpture of Buddha which was made from one piece of sandalwood. It's in the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest wooden sculpture made from one single piece. I wish I could send you a picture, but they wouldn't let us take any for some reason (we tried but got yelled at).

After the temple, we took a taxi with our guide to a place called Hoa Hai which means something (not sure) "sea", but is really a manmade lake which is over 500 years old. The South side of the lake is surrounded by "western" bars, restaurants and pubs where he had lunch. Then our guide negotiated with a ricksha rider (bike with a cart) to take us for an hour around the "hutongs" which are alleyways. These aren't just normal alleys though, they are from the old Beijing where the common people used to live in VERY small one-room buildings. The alleyways meander through and without the bike guide, we probably would have gotten lost. We stopped at the house of an older lady who charged us 20RMB per person (about $2.50) to see what the inside looks like. Hers was actually pretty nice, but still very small. She gave us tea and showed us pictures of her family and all the other foreigners who have visted her. She was so cute, I bet she weighed about 80 pounds.

After our 1-hour long ride around the lake, we stopped at Starbucks and then got picked up by Mr. Hong. We absolutely LOVE Mr. Hong. It is very clear why westerners are not advised to drive here. Their rules (we think there are a few) are very different. If someone is merging onto the freeway, they have the right of way. Also, whoever is the biggest has the right of way. A bus before a car before a bike before a pedestrian...it's crazy! When we are stopped at a red light, street vendors come up to the window to sell stuff to Mr. Hong. Very different from the US.
We got home around 3pm today and don't have any plans tonight. The kids get back from their trip around 6pm and then we are having dinner. Last night when the kids were gone, Mario and Deanne took us to an awesome Thai food restaurant. It was similar to what you would get in the US, but we tried things that we hadn't had before like pineapple rice which was delicious. It's rice served in a pineapple with cashews, raisins, and pineapple. Sounds weird but was very good. We also loved the coconut soup. After dinner we went to a pub called The Tree which was full of foreigners and then to a couple clubs. Jeff and I are going out on Saturday night so they wanted to show us where to go. One of the neat ones was called Kokomo where we had a pitcher of sangria on the rooftop bar there, sat in swing-chairs (a rope swing hanging from the roof) and had a great view of the city.
One of our complaints about Beijing, which is a common complaint, is the smog. We haven't had a clear day yet, so the visibility is similar to a foggy day in San Francisco. We're hoping for some wind or rain so we can get a better idea of how big Beijing actually is. Other than the smog though, everything has been great.

I've attached a couple pictures from our trip so far, one is from last night at the restaurant, and the other is from the Temple of Heaven (yesterday's trip).

Temple of Heaven

Thai restaurant with Deanne and Mario

I'm sorry if these last 3 blog posts don't turn out right. When I go to the blogger webpage, it's in Chinese and it's not easy!

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