Sunday, August 13, 2006
Our last day in Beijing
Today was fantastic and the high point of our trip so far. We began the day with a boat ride across a small lake and saw both the “hot” night spots of Beijing and the first section of the Grand Canal that brought the Emperor’s concubines from 1700 kilometers to the south.
Next we climbed up the Drum Tower which the city residents relied on to tell time. It was also a great spot to be able to look across Beijing and see the contrast between the old and the new. It was much easier to climb the Drum Tower than the Great Wall.
After the tower we returned to the lake for a boat ride and a serenade. The musicians were two beautiful young women who played mandolins. Since it was Sunday many families were out and about. One family left the driving to their young daughter. She was much more interested in looking at us than in driving and this resulted in the family’s boat hitting both a bridge embankment and a few other boats.
For lunch the guide arranged for us to go to a local family’s home. This area is known as the Hutong district and it is named after the old courtyard homes found there. The courtyard homes were originally the property of one family and often had four generations living there. Now the government has taken the homes and put four or five smaller families into these houses. Our family’s father is an outstanding worker at a local factory who has been rewarded with the larger part of the Hutong. He and his wife cooked the best meal we’ve had here and told us a little about their lives in Beijing. They showed us around the whole house and we were amazed at the number of pets kept by the families. If we ever feel that out house in Laurel is too small, we just need to look at the pictures from our visit here.
After lunch we joined a rickshaw tour of the area. The poverty we saw impacted each of us. We later discussed that this may be the life that we are taking Sophie away from. Much of the area is being rebuilt, as is much of Beijing, in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. The work never ends with workers and machinery going day and night, seven days a week.
Our next stop was a freshwater pearl factory where Anne did a little early-bird shopping. To continue a tradition from the Acampora family, we bought pearls for both Katie and Sophie to wear on their wedding day. We got a few other gifts but we can’t tell you to much more without spoiling a few surprises when we get home.
The last stop of our tour of Beijing was a visit to the Summer Palace. Unfortunately, it started to rain just as we arrived. It was very difficult to move through the area without losing an eye to a passing umbrella and we moved through the park quite quickly. We’ll have to check it out next time.
We arrived back at the hotel and spent some time repacking and thinking about how, after tomorrow, our live will never be the same. Sophie, here we come!
Posted by Anne and Steve at 10:02 AM