Today we are heading to Tianjin. What's different from our previous forms of transportation is that we are taking the train. Now in America, that isn't seen as a main source of transportation like it was back in the day. In China, everyone seems to use it to get from city to city. With the congested roadways as well as the many driving rules in place for drivers trying to commute daily, the train seems to be the perfect way for the Chinese people to get around. It was nice to see the countryside from a different perspective than on the road.
Recently in In Beijing Category
Today we headed towards the Summer Palace, home of the infamous "Dragon Lady". We then got to take a look at where the Olympic games were held. We ended our day at Tianamen Square. On our way to each location, I noticed something that I've been noticing throughout the time here: Chinese driving. Everytime I look out the window of our tour bus, I see at least one car cutting off another car, followed by numerous honking and bell ringing from bikes. Now from that description, you'd think there'd be car crashes left and right. However, not once have I seen any sign of even a minor car accident since I've been here. Dr. Li let me know that the driver's tests taken in China are more vigorous than those taken in the U.S., so you really need to know what you're doing to drive in China.
The temple was not only a beautiful building consisting of hand painted drawings; it was also designed to represent how important heaven is to the Chinese people. The temple had three levels of roofs in different colors. The bottom green roof represented the people of China, the second level was yellow to represent honor to the emperor, and the final top level was blue to represent heaven. To walk to the temple you would start at the southern lower end so heaven was higher and closer to the sky. As you walked up you were getting closer to heaven in a sense. The layering of the temple interested me, because all the people of China were included in one level; there were no classes as in America where we base class on income. The Chinese also felt the emperor was superior to them to place him above themselves. In America we don't honor and respect the president as the Chinese people who build great temples and bow down in his honor.
The temple of heaven was the only stop today. It was very interesting to see the cultural difference here. At the temple of heaven, there are several areas with different groups of adults taking part in exercise with each other. Four of the unique things we saw, among other things, were: 'hackey sack', hoop tossing, tai chi, group dance.
It is very interesting to me how adults get together outside to partake in different exercise activities. I suppose it makes a lot of sense how Chinese adults tend to keep in such good shape! Being encouraged to exercise outside with a place that is provided, in a welcoming environment with people around the same age group is a great way to stay fit, both mentally and physically.
The architecture was also interesting. In China, the square represents Earth, and the circle represents Heaven. This is used throughout the temple having circular buildings within square courtyards. In the final section of the area there is a large square courtyard, with a three circular platforms leading to a small circular disk on top. This is representing heaven within Earth.
After the temple, we took a train to Tianjin. Here we took some time to settle into the hotel, then had a dinner with a few students from Nankai University, a large university located a few blocks from our hotel.
Josh playing the hoop toss game with a local
A kid and his mom
Gate in the Temple of Heaven
Group shot at the end of the Temple of Heaven
A bicyclist in Tianjin
A city shot of Tianjin
Well know I know why it is difficult to blog things later; I can't remember it... But here it goes.
Great wall, porcelain factory, tiananmen square.
First of all, I could not believe what the Great wall of China had in store for us. One thing I noticed further along the day on the Wall was how wedding photos are taken before the actual wedding itself. (correct me Dr. Li) I was glad Alex and I ran into this as everyone ran further along the path, as I was able to witness this cultural difference. Although I am not familiar with getting married or have attended a wedding in my life that I can remember, I now want to understand why the American culture despises this (superstition?). But whatever I say, here is a picture that I took as the couple were together.
After the big Wall, the group headed to Tienanmen Square. I was fortunate enough to join Vince and Alex before we went to the location as a group. We are able to see all the flags raised in the morning, along with the massive amounts of people that were there during our visit. I will attach a photo once I get my USB drivers for my phone to transfer the photos.
The porcelain factory; very talented artists. The art of making porcelain items just amazes me. Each one is handcrafted, one by one, into a piece of art with many man-hours behind the piece. Every single piece has a story, whether you try to guess what the state of mind the artist needs to finely create the masterpiece, but how the entire process of even making this art is possible. As the group has experienced, we learned that the artists have at least 3 years of experience in doing the type of work they do, but some may have captured how tedious it can be. I am not the best at story telling, but I will show the pieces of art that have been created and looked at during our stay at the porcelain factory.
After a tough day of walking probably the most distance in my life, I cannot complain. This trip is going way too fast for me. Time to interact with the students from the university in the morning.
Got the first feel for the market place today. We were only there for about an hour but it was overwhelming to say the least. Everyone would be coming up and grabbing you at every shop trying to get you to buy the same knockoff designer things that every other shop has. They also don't even give you a chance to look at what they are selling. If you just stop for a split second to look at something, they will hound you about buying it right away. It is really fun to haggle with the shop keepers though. They will offer some outrageous price to start but most items you can get down to less than half of their first price. I bought some sunglasses for 50 when the starting price was 300. And I still feel I was ripped off. I hoping to get a little more experience when we get to Tianjin and get some good stuff later in the trip.
The Great Wall was unreal. You can't even imagine how big it really is until you're standing on it, facing all of the mountains and hills out on the landscape. Just climbing up a few flights of stairs up there makes me realize how out of shape I really am. There were so many people climbing all over it also, we saw more "foreigners" there than anywhere else so far. It was nice hearing other languages other than Chinese for a change. We also met up with some people that were also from Minnesota that went to the Twin Cites campus and took a group picture. Its small world even on the other side of the world. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to come on this trip and the Wall was everything I thought it would be and then some. This is for sure something I will be remembering for the rest of my life.
Today we visited the Summer Palace, the Olympic Birds Nest and Water Cube, a large market, and watched a Kung-Fu show.
The Summer Palace was shocking because there were way more people here than I've ever really seen grouped in one place. How many? Well, the park estimated that they would have 4400 guests in the area by the end of the day. The most remarkable thing about the summer palace was the group singing that is done. In one of the areas, people group up to sing, and it feels very welcoming and very powerful to be in the middle of it. The Majority of our group was pulled into it to play percussion instruments and to get photos. It is also remarkable to me how many merchants there are at the tourist areas. At the summer Palace there were many merchants walking around shouting "Liang Quai! Liang Quai!" which is telling people that they are offering their wares for two Yuan. It's amazing how much work these people do to get their money.
The Olympic stadiums (Birds Nest and Water Cube) were amazing for their unique architecture and size. The Water Cube even has a water park inside of it. We had to wait for our bus after visiting the stadiums. During this time we convinced our group member, Paul Gearring, to sing for us. It was pretty great, we even gave him a hat and some tips, props to you Paul.
The market was pretty crazy. It was basically a department store just packed full of different merchants. Think of the Mall of America, but maybe twice as densely packed. (It's not as big as the MoA, but think of the spacing between stores and the stuff they stock). The merchants were pretty aggressive in trying to get your attention; some would even go out of their way to try to pull you over to their stand.
The Kung Fu show was pretty cool. I think that a Shaolin Monk's body is the epitome of Physical Fitness. They are capable of breaking metal on their bodies, and even balancing in the tips of swords, spears, and nails.
After the Kung Fu show, a few of us went to get a massage. It was pretty great, but I'll leave it to the other members of my group who went to describe it.
Here are a few highlight pictures of the day:
Water writer saying "ni hao"
Two families also on the dragon boat
Group Pic outside the Birds Nest
Track inside the Birds Nest
Group Pic inside the Water Cube
Artist playing outside the Olympic stadiums
In Beijing - Day 3 (pictures to be uploaded once I learn how to do it; I will edit this post along with day TWO of Beijing, stay tuned)
Opening off the day, the first stop was to the Summer Palace, which is a gorgeous location. The many people in this location set the atmosphere, as I believe it was very comforting and touching at the same time. The finest part for me was the music scene, as many people have gathered around to sing Chinese songs, seeming to bring everyone's emotions out as everyone is determined to have a great time. As a hint of the music was heard, I spot Dr. Li run up the steps past the many people sitting on the sides, looking very excited and emotional, these words still cannot capture what I saw in his face.
Picture of old man conducting the foreigners while singing Jingle Bells.
Along with the experience, the American group members were literally dragged up to the main stage to perform with mass amount of people that were there to sing and watch. They were offered instruments to play the beat, such as some bells, tambourines, and cymbals. The last song I experience before we had to leave was "Jingle Bells". Everyone instantly danced and sang along, while the paparazzi took photos of our group, feel as we have gained a little bit of superstar power in a place dominated by the Chinese culture.
After all of our adventures, Alex, Blake, Vince, Mike, and myself went to a massage parlor, the first time I ever had one. Although I would like to write a story about this event, Alex probably has a better story. The story that I have though is Blake and I were called cuties, although Blake has the better looking nose then I do, which I am jealous of.
Although this was maybe the last time I'll ever visit this location, I believe the main thing I learned about this event is to bring out your best emotions while partaking in events such as these. I want to bring some of this culture back to my primary home, the U.S., and share the experience that the group and I have gained while being in this beautiful city. Now it is time for our next stop, Tianjin.
Today after all was said and done after a full day of seeing the summer palace, shopping and a kungfu show, Vince, Danny, Blake, Mike and I went to get a massage.
The first thing that happened when we got there was laughter. Not from us, but from the masseuses. I had no idea what was going on. As they kept on talking, I started to realize what they were talking about by concentrating super hard on making use of what Chinese I knew. Fantastic, they were talking about how CUTE Danny and Blake were and how awesome Mike was. Later on I started having a huge conversation with them about how Mike could probably beat all of us in a drinking match and also coincidentally, how he had 2 babies in his stomach. Later on to be corrected by Mike as 3 babies, to which the masseuses all laughed their heads off. They proceeded to talk about small, teach us some Chinese and laugh at applaud Vince every time he spoke Chinese as they massaged our war torn legs from the Great Wall and eventually finishing off with our backs.
This has been a fantastic experience. Props to Mike, Vince, Danny and Blake for holding it down with the ladies.
And now a couple picture highlights.
Tricky disguise. Could of fooled me!
Some patriotic Chinese singing with the Heart to Heart Chorus
Ushpi and Emma in the Summer Palace
An Olympic piss!