andydoesbeijing (andydoesbeijing) wrote,

July 27, 2008 -- Ming Tombs, Great Wall, Walmart

Prepare for Great Antiquities

Breakfast was the standard bread, eggs, fried dough, hot coffee, hot
milk, and hot OJ-crack. The beverages were served by one of the staff
out of huge ladles: round 6" metal pots on long metal handles. Master
Sun invited Rachael (Amanda's roommate) and me back to his table for
some authentic Chinese breakfast: rice porridge. Looked better than
the white bread, but it could have used some brown sugar ;-)

We schlepped out a little earlier than usual, at 8:30am. (Breakfast is at 8am.)

Exquisite jade, I give you friendship price

Hard at work, making jade forthe tourists
Our tour agency has planned into our itinerary stops at various
stores. We didn't really understand why till Barlow dropped that the
government requires our tour agency to bring us to these stores. We
appreciate the opportunity to see these products and purchase them,
but some of the stops are a little random.

A hen on a cock
Today's government-mandated store of the morning was a jade factory,
an "exquisite jade" factory. Although the front lobby was a little
trashy with women noisily hawking their wares from behind a counter,
the factory and the sales floor itself were pretty epic. They gave us
a tour through a display factory area, where a handful of workers were
crafting jade products. There were a variety of products in a variety
of sizes, from tiny charms of the Chinese zodiac animals to those same
zodiac animals as tall as my chest. We then walked past 3'-long jade
junks (several thousand dollars), 7'-wide wall pieces (several
hundred thousand dollars), etc. The sheer amount and scope of
jadework was stunning. Of course, what did everyone end up buying?
Jade sand paintings with their names painted on.

Goin' Down, Down, Down

Walking up to the Ming Tombs
At the Ming Tombs, Master Sun ran a wushu review session in a plaza
just inside the gates. 45 American kids doing wushu on a cultural
antiquity area: awesome.

Exiting the Ming Tombsapproaching the Soul Tower
The tombs themselves were impressive, but in a different way than the
Forbidden City's architecture was. Instead of lots of grandiose
detailing and large roofs, the tomb is very spartan and simple, but
still quite grandiose. Also, it's 27 meters underground. It's a
basic tomb, but it was still Quite Large. Also, there was a Soul
Tower above-ground to symbolize the tombs. Our only regret: not
enough tour-guiding to make the Tombs more significant.

Whatever Mao Z wants, Mao Z gets

Lunch was at a nice restaurant, a large banquet hall with a number of
tables. They had already set the food out for us by the time we
arrived. It was the standard variety of food, but quite delicious.
Also, they had french fries. French fries, man! With little dishes
of ketchup! Coulda used salt, but they went pretty well with the
sauce from the chicken. Other highlights: tiny little cups, about a
teaspoon big, to use with the 112-proof rice wine on the tables.
Whoa, man.

We got to lunch a little after 1pm and finished aboug 2pm, but we had
to stay there till 3pm. It seems that the government also requires us
not just to go to certain stores, but to stay there for a certain
amount of time. Well played, communism, well played. So, we
meandered around and looked at an awful lot of Stuff. Oh, Stuff. I
spent most of the time chatting with my classmates, getting to know
each other better.

Today, You are all Heroes

Climbing the Great Wall
After lunch, we took on the GREAT WALL. It was pretty great. Also,
it was pretty steep. We walked about, dunno, half a kilometer as the
crow flies. We went up about half a kilometer, too. Just like the
dogs outside our windows say every morning, that was "ruff."

On the way down, a couple people counted the steps and concluded that
we walked 1650 steps. (I'm not sure whether that accounts for the
flat slopes.)

We had a big party on the watchtower on the top of the hill. Facebook
will have nigh on hundred photos of everybody and their
sister roommate. (That is, once we get the internets
working and people can upload photos.)

Steven Dotts is a HERO
En route to the bottom, a bunch of us picked up "Hero Cards," small
souvenir plaques verifying that we climbed the Great Wall, upon which
they would carve your name and the date. 40 yuan wasn't too bad -- we
were also paying for these people having walked almost as high up the
hill as we did. (Furthermore, it was the only stand still open by the
time we came back down the hill, around 5:30-6pm.)

Walmart Superstore

Olympic Coca-Cola rings at theWalmart
That pretty much speaks for itself. There's a mall on the way into
the city from our hotel, so we've been making noises about going
shopping. Today was the day -- but we had to skip dinner at the
hotel. Shucks!

Chinese Walmart is pretty, um, Walmart-y. All the price tags are the
same typeface. The signs marking the aisles off were in both Chinese
and (pretty good) English. The food was all Chinese, of course. One
international constant I found was the Coke display, which was an
Olympic Rings display made out of Coke cans (and their associated
brands, like Fanta).

To our chagrin, granola bars appear to be unique to the United States.
Kim told me how one of her Greek friends, who had moved to the U.S.,
was fascinated by granola bars: "it's cereal ... in a bar!"
Apparently the Chinese do not share our fascination. At least they
had Cheerios and Trix. I also bought a lot of yummies and gummies:
chocolate-filled wafer koalas, cookies, and fruit gummi snacks. Om
nom nom!

Noodles from the food court.Appetizing!
Since we missed dinner at the hotel, we had to buy it at the mall.
An awful lot of people spotted a KFC and headed over there, but I
deigned not to stoop to such Americanisms. I went upstairs to the
food court on the fifth floor, where I was promptly embarrassed by my
naivetë. After wandering around a bit deciding what to eat, I went up
to a counter and tried getting food by pointing at the sign of meals
on the wall. The servers demurred and guided me towards another meal
they were apparently serving. When I tried to pay, they showed me the
proper method: one guy walked me up to a front desk at the entrance to
the food court, where they transferred my 20 kuai onto a debit card;
then, he walked me back to his register, where he debited the 8 kuai
(about $1.15) for my dinner from the card; and finally, the women at
the front desk cashed me out and took back my debit card. It makes
sense in a culture where you take a bill from the counter to the
cashier, then bring back the bill marked paid. In addition to helping
me get food, they served me some delish food: boiled cabbage and
peppers with noodles in broth. It was sooooo good, hot, and filling.
There was also noodles in multitude, since the bowl was wider than my
face is long! After eating for twenty minutes, I unfortunately had to
ditch half my meal and run to catch the bus. I should eat out more
often: a buck and change for a ginormous bowl of noodles? I love

You win. Excellent

Chinese TV is a little ridiculous. They have the corresponding shows
for StarSearch and whatnot, but we ended up watching some epic serial,
like a martial arts drama filmed in the soap opera production style
(lighting and camera work). Quite Epic. I can't say we watched it,
per se, because Rachael discovered that you can play the TV in
Othello/Go. It's just built in and you use the remote control to
choose which tile to put your stone in. After playing a couple games
and failing miserably, Matt dropped in and offered expert strategic
advice. We finally won, and the TV acknowledged its failure:

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