Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tourists to Rock Stars

Today, we decided to visit the Summer Palace and the Olympic areas of Beijing. It was warm and VERY humid. We started with an pretty calm taxi ride to the Summer Palace, except for that one intersection that I kept my eyes closed through. I have been doing a lot of that in the taxi rides. I keep my eyes closed and pray that we get to our destination. The driver did pull over at the Olympic Stadium and motion to Bill to take a picture. Although we did not know it, this would be very helpful later in the day.

When we arrived at the Summer Palace, it was crowded. It must be one of the biggest attractions in Beijing. I can only relate the crowd to a very crowded day at Disney World. Summer Palace was built in 1750 B.C. by Emperor Qianlong to celebrate his mother's birthday. It was originally named Garden of Clear Ripples and later was used by emperors and empresses for leisure. It is located on 290 hectares, which is just over 716 acres of land and many, many steps. (I think we were in training for our climb up the Great Wall today!) We stayed for hours and may have seen half of the site. During our touring, we had a few Chinese people ask to have their pictures taken with us. They returned the favor by letting us take their picture. Throughout the day, we were very popular.

After leaving the Summer Palace, we flagged down a taxi. We hopped in and told him that we would like to go to the Olympic stadium area. He did not speak English and we do not speak Chinese so there was a bit of a language barrier. I had Bill pull out the camera. He found the picture we had taken on the way to the Summer Palace. He showed the driver. The driver pointed, smiled, and nodded. Thank goodness for that picture!

When we got to the Olympic park, you could not get very close. There were very tall fence and guards. Some of the fences were even electrified. We did get some pictures of the stadium, the aquatic center, and the Olympic village. Here we also had multiple people ask to have their picture taken with us. It actually was a lot of fun. They have all been very nice.

When we left the Olympic Stadium, we flagged down another taxi. This time we gave him the card for the hotel. He looked a little confused and drove on. At one time, he pulled over next to a KFC and started making phone calls. Bill thought he was going to get lunch. However, I could tell he was confused. I was afraid he was going to tell us to flag down another taxi. It seems that he called the hotel for directions. Soon, we were off again and made it to the hotel.

After resting a bit at the hotel, we decided to try a Peking duck restaurant. We went to one not too far from the hotel called Quanjude Peking Duck. The service and food were very good. We had yet another language barrier. However, the menus had pictures and English translations. We just pointed at what we wanted. Then, ordered our drinks. Fortunately, Coke is a universal word and I had learned the Chinese word for beer. They brought our food to the table and sliced the duck as we watched. Then, one of the waitresses showed us how to prepare the duck in the little thin pancakes. They were very tasty. However, we must have looked helpless or hopeless one. They kept coming back and preparing our food for us and putting it on the plate. We didn't see them do that for anyone else. We did get a good laugh about it. We were using the chopsticks well, so we thought. Hmmmm..... maybe not.

Another thing that we have noticed is that we really stand out in the crowd. We have seen very few foreigners here. We get funny looks, stares, double takes, but we enjoy it. We just smile and say, "Ni Hao" which is Chinese for hello. Most people smile and some look shocked. I have found a smile and a nod of the head works, too. We have just decided that we are rock stars and make the most of it.

We took almost 300 pictures again today. We hope you enjoy the ones we picked out.

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