The Chinese Way

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Monday, March 28, 2011

For those Kimberly lovers/haters, you may be sad/happy to know that this is the last story about her.  As the tour came to an end, it was now time to tip the guide, Robert.  It is suggested to give $5 per person per day to the tour guide.  Since the 11 of us were at dinner the night before, we all threw money into an envelope to present to Robert as a thanks for a great tour.  A few of us decided to stop by Kimberly's room to collect her tip.  We knew she had not tipped any of the bus drivers or local tour guides throughout the trip, but surely she was going to give Robert something.  After all, she used him as her personal tour guide making him take her to laundry, numerous personal meals, and answer her 100 stupid questions (which were typically a question that he had already answered in the last five minutes).  She answered the door all disgruntled and explained how she didnt have any money left.  We explained how she of all people should give him something considering how much she used him.  Begrudgingly, she hands over 20 yuan ($3).  After laughing at her, we asked for more explaining how that would not cover one day's worth of a tip.  This is when she tells us she won't be able to eat the rest of the week if she gives more.  Perhaps she should have thought about that before purchasing the stupid tee shirts all week long.  Disguested, we threw the money back in her face and left.  As we walked away, she said something about being a single mom.  Maybe she shouldn't go on trips if she can't afford it, plus Robert is a single income earner for his family.  Perhaps this is why I have not problems writing about her stupidity for the week.  The tour is now officially over and today was departure day, most of the group wasn't scheduled to leave for at least another day or two. So now we are officially a group of 11 (we booted Kimberly off the show).  

We slept in a bit but wanted to get going early as we were heading to the Summer Palace, the summer home of the many former emperors. At 8am we all met in the lobby (including Robert who asked to join us but not Kimberly of course as she's out of money) and made our way to the Metro to take 3 different lines directly out to the Summer Palace. The trip took about an hour and a half but cost just 2 yuan (30 cents US) so no complaints here. Once we arrived Robert took over and we got a little tour-guide bonus for the morning!  Robert helped us purchase our tickets and then we visited the toilets (hint that Amy is writing this blog) prior to entering the Palace. We may have mentioned earlier in this blog how it's not a custom for Chinese people to wait in a line. These bathrooms were by far our worst experience up close and personal with this custom. These elderly Chinese women come in and even though I'm in the queue right next to the door they somehow manage to shove me aside and slip into the stall before I can get there. At first I felt bad throwing my weight around or shoving back but after a few rounds of this back and forth I adoped what Robert calls the Chinese Way. I decked about 3 of them and finally, with my pants already unbuttoned and almost down made it into the stall - my prize was the squat toilet.

The Summer Palace is quite spectactular as it sits on almost 3 KM on Kunming Lake. There are many different palaces, pagodas, bridges and gardens to the palace. It also features the longest painted corridor in the Guiness Book of World Records (says Robert). There were, of course, a bazillion people there so it made trekking through with the group a bit tough. We all made it to the marble boat (ready for tea ceremony and all) and decided to go our separate ways here. Robert took the first group departing back to the hotel and the rest of us wanted to climb to the top pagoda as rumor had it there was a large buddha up there. We found our way and purchased tickets to get in and started climbing up. We were a bit sore from the previous day's climb on the Wall so we were moving slowly. But again, we were enjoying beautiful weather and the views were spectacular. We made our way halfway up and found ourselves in front of another ticket booth. So we'd paid once to get into this Palace area, and a second time to get into this particular temple. A third time was too much to ask so we turned back and made our way back down to the grounds.

Tired of the crowds we headed to the opposite exit to find a Metro station. At this point we said goodbye to two more members of our group as they were switching hotels and wanted to relax the rest of the day so they went back to the hotel. Now down to 6 people, we decided to check out a historic Hutong (narrow alleys formed by traditional courtyard residences). By this time we were pretty hungry for lunch so as we got off the Metro we wandered down to the first Hutong we saw and were greeted by a very loud lady advertising her restaurant. I said yes, let's go, it must be good since she's yelling so passionately. We were escorted to the back of the restaurant to a private room for just us which was lovely so the locals would leave us to eat in peace. We enjoyed a lovely feast of veggies, kung pao chicken, sweet 'n sour pork, cashew chicken, rice, beers, etc for all under $10US per person. Never ceases to amaze me! Unfortunately, Macca ordered what looked like sizzling beef with peppers and when it came out it was quite impressive. When she bit into a piece of meat she learned it wasn't beef but instead was some sort of innards (we think it was sheep's lining or something). Poor Macca, but luckily we had plenty of other things to enjoy (and you better believe that neither Dave nor I tried it!).

After lunch our group split up as half wanted to attend a traditional tea ceremony and Dave and I had to go back to the hotel to run errands and such before we leave. So again, we hopped in a taxi with Macca (if you remember this is the same dream team in the taxi from the Beijing train station). We should have known not to share a ride because once again, we got hosed. The driver nodded that he knew where the hotel was but took us the roundabout way, took forever and cost a fortune. The three of us should never take a taxi together. Ever. Once back in the hotel we relaxed for a bit and then collected all of our purchases from the last 2 weeks to take to the China Post office to send home. We had seen one a few blocks from our hotel earlier in the week so we trekked over there. Luckily there wasn't anyone else in the store when we got there so the nice staff lady who spoke no English could help us. Good thing Robert taught us how to pronounce our home country in Chinese earlier in the week, otherwise our package would have been sent to the UK. After shoving everything into a box, getting a shipping label and trying to compare estimates Dave had to run to the ATM for more money (this shipping thing costs more than we anticipated!). While he was gone a few groups came in for Post Office help and in the traditional Chinese Way moved my package out of line and I was relegated to the corner. At least we weren't in a hurry and eventually Dave returned with the cash and we successfully sent off our package. Fingers crossed it arrives in 4 weeks in the states!

Exhausted from the China Post we enjoyed a brief siesta in the hotel before meeting up with friends in the lobby at 7pm for dinner. There were 7 of us so we couldn't fit in 1 cab, we needed 2. We asked the hotel to call 2 taxis for us and they told us they would arrive in 10 minutes. Learning our lesson from the day at Olympic Park we agreed upon a big storefront we knew was nearby Bar Street if our taxis split up. The first group went off and then it was Dave, me and Macca waiting for the second cab. Uh-oh. When the first cab came the front desk told me another taxi was a few minutes behind. After waiting another 15 minutes I asked the front desk where the taxi was and they called the taxi company. After hanging up the front desk lady tells me that the taxi isn't coming, we have to find one ourselves. Ticked off, we headed down the street to the entrance of Imperial Park to hail a cab and had no problem. We were very worried that the other group had to wait so long for us but luckily they were waiting at the predetermined meeting spot patiently. We tried walking down Bar Street but noticed most of the bars didn't have food and those that did reminded me of buffets at American strip joints (Dave: how does Amy know what these look like?). There were persistent guys trying to get us into the bars and pictures of 'belly dancers' in the windows. Not in the mood for belly dancing we headed back to the cafeteria style food court we had been to the day before with the group as it was nearby. Unfortunately, as we got to the building the lights started turning off and the escalators stopped, indicating the whole building was closing. We were out of luck. I had seen Hooters Beijing down the street when our cab dropped us off so I suggested we walk in that direction to see if something was on the way. Worst case, we know Hooters has food and although the waitresses wear tank tops, we won't be bothered with any 'belly dancing.'  On the way we see heaps of touristy places all looking quite pricey. One in particular was a beer hall, and by that time we were cold, tired and hungry so we decided to go for it. Although the food was more expensive than we'd been used to paying, there was excellent beer on draft and a live Chinese band signing Western songs which was hilarious. We convinced Trash Bin to get up and sing Alanis Morisette and then Chris and Macca requested "Red Red Wine" (just to hear the accents) and joined in. Wasn't quite karaoke but was all good fun for our last night in Beijing. We managed to steal a few taxis from the others coming out of Bar Street and made it safely back to the hotel. Although we had fun, definitely miss having Robert navigate the local logistics for us!

The next morning we met the group for one last breakfast.  Once again we went to our local dumpling place for 4 trays of dumplings for 9 yuan ($1.5).  Finally eating that last dumpling, we decided that we couldnt eat any more for a while.  We were dumplinged out.  Good thing we were leaving China.  We said goodbye, hugs and kisses all around, and made our way to the airport for our trip to Hanoi via Hong Kong. 

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