blogbury in china, part 6: chengde

(I’m back but I still have to upload the rest of the photos)

Here are the photos from the Chengde trip.

Notes:

  • We had a typical tour guide (she was half Manchu, actually), and she managed basically everything for us, from our 7:30 wake-up call to the food at each restaurant.
  • The biggest thing that’s missing from these pictures: we saw dozens of Buddha statues, including the single biggest wooden Buddha in the world (which was absolutely jaw-dropping), but we were forbidden from taking pictures of any of them.

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blogbury in china, part 5

(Chengde trip pictures coming soon)

Notes:

  • Sorry that it’s been so long.  I don’t have a good excuse beyond the exam on Thursday and the Chengde trip this past weekend.
  • We went to the Temple of Heaven last Saturday morning, then Hongqiao market (basically bargaining practice for tourists) in the afternoon.
  • I had dinner (good, cheap noodles) with Victoria and her friend from Columbia that evening at a mall in Zhongguancun
  • I spent Sunday afternoon with Benjamin; we had lunch at a dim sum restaurant in Wudaokou, explored Yiheyuan, and had terrible kung pao chicken for dinner at the first restaurant we found near a random subway stop.
  • We saw Jingju/Peking Opera Wednesday afternoon (yes, they scheduled it the night before our exam; the other two classes didn’t have an exam but we still make up the majority of the program).  There were Mandarin and English subtitles (Jingju is in an archaic southern dialect) but they stopped after a few minutes; it was still reasonably easy to follow the basic story but I really couldn’t catch more than a few words of what they were singing.  The second half or so was actually mostly combat/acrobatics and had little or no singing; I’m not sure whether that’s standard.
  • On Friday night I went with Victoria to a Tibetan cafe her coworker owns in a hutong near the Lama Temple (unfortunately that was already closed when we got there).  Afterwards we walked around hutongs for a while, then walked three and a half blocks (Beijing has a large-scale street grid that divides the old walled city into six by six large blocks; within these blocks the streets and hutongs are not organized in any consistent way) to her grandparents’ apartment. We talked with her aunt in Chinese for an hour, then took a bus to see her hotel (the Columbia internship program has unbelievably nice housing).
  • Saturday morning we left for Chengde.

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blogbury in china, part 4

Notes:

  • It’s been raining a decent amount the past few days; every time it cuts smog levels in half within an hour and keeps them there for the better part of the day.
  • The Chaoyang theater trip was with the whole program on Wednesday night; the Yuanmingyuan trip was with some classmates after lunch on Thursday.
  • I had hotpot for the first time Wednesday afternoon; there’s a bowl or two of very flavorful soup boiling in the middle of your table and you drop raw meat, vegetables, and noodles in them, wait a while, then fish them out.  I’m not sure how to describe the result; you get a consistency and flavor that you can’t really get any other way and it’s excellent. Hotpot is extremely popular here; some people have been three or four times in the five days we’ve been at Beida.
  • The internet continues to defy our attempts at explanation; yesterday morning the active theory was that we only had internet for July because the previous occupants of our rooms had paid for it, and the shutoff the previous night had been permanent – but then we got service back that afternoon. Now people are saying that we don’t need to pay for international access unless we want campus wifi because our hotel is meant for international students; this still wouldn’t explain quite how intermittent the connection is unless that’s just a technical issue.
  • The cafeterias here have a huge selection, though it’s more or less the same every day. Each building has several independently-labeled counters with their own lines (never more than five or ten minutes long), each of which has five or ten dishes. It costs about 10 yuan, or $1.50, a meal, and there are giant watermelon slices for 1 yuan each (though they didn’t have them today).
  • Today we looked around in the Beida athletic center, which hosted several events at the 2008 Olympics (most famously ping-pong).
  • At any given bus station, at least five buses arrive and leave every minute (a bus ride to anywhere in Beijing costs 4 mao, or about 7 cents, with an Yikatong smart card)

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