Sightseeing in the capital city

I awoke right before the alarm rang, jumped out of bed and got dressed which took forever because I don’t know where everything is. My roommate came back from breakfast as I headed out. As I entered the dining room I was greeted with beautiful silver warming trays with lids and glass vases and figurines above then on a ledge. The food choices were quite interesting ranging from broth to pumpkin to flavored hummus.There was no bread of any kind here except a round white dough ball stuffed with pork called a “bowsa.” I chose a boiled egg I peeled, fried rice, and a slice of watermelon.

Needless to say, I was late to meet in the lobby which is frowned upon. As we waited for our ride, I went next door to the bank ( a small glass enclosed room filled with people at kiosks) to find out that my cards wouldn’t work at a kiosk there but I was able to get some money from the director.

emporers summer house

We boarded the van and first visited the Emperor’s Summer Palace located on a lake accessed by a boat. The lake was dug by hand by the Emperor’s workers who stacked the dirt up to form a mountain behind it. (See a picture of this on the post.) We walked around the large park surrounding it and learned that the lions which were in several places are always a pair of male (with his foot on top of the world) and a female (with a young lion at her foot.) We walked through part of a long covered walkway built for the Emperor’s walks with pretty paintings on the ceiling.

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temple of heaven

Next we visited the Temple of Heaven where we had to step over the marble raised threshold because it “kept away evil spirits.” (second picture on post) Some students with their teachers asked if they could take our pictures with them which we did. Later a small group of kids asked me if they could take a picture with me which we did and the oldest girl thanked us in English! I later realized that in such an ethnocentric country that I was really an anomaly with my “blonde” hair. The temple was painted in red, their favorite color, with a cobalt blue roof. The interior housed a wooden throne with dark wooden walls.

Overall, I’ve found the Asians to be quite polite and kind, giving little gifts when you spend time with them. I also appreciate their modest dress, especially the women’s. Rarely have I seen women wearing shorts, no tank tops, and usually. wearing black heels in all settings. I was surprised to see the older men at both locations with the hem of their knit shirts rolled up exposing some of the midriff to cool off. Also, the women wear an “apron,” a quilted drape with arms to hold the handlebars of their scooters, the main form of transportation for all.

The streets were very crowded, even with their version of interstate highways everywhere in the city. The capital appeared to be quite large with 6 concentric rings of roads around the city, but not much of the past remains due to their desire to replace it with more modern streets. However, I did observe a few tree lined streets. There were lots of weeping willows and other trees planted in the parks. Beautiful roses of various colors lined the medians in some downtown areas. Other medians had begonias, daylilies and other familiar plants.

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As we were walking in the city, we encountered construction areas where the dirt smelled like sewage, so much that I gagged at the first one. Extensive smog and clouds made the skyline appear hazy or smoky most of the day. Even though the smog blocked the sunlight somewhat, it was still very humid and hot. The body odor of males in groups smelled like onions, grease and sweat. Unpleasant.

Big napkins are nonexistent in restaurants. The nicer ones have round tables with a glass Lazy Susan which holds all the dishes served family style. I learned early on that only the quick get to eat, because when the food’s gone, the meal’s over. Soup was served with every meal, even breakfast. And there were small ceramic spoons and small bowls for it. The majority of the meal was eaten with chopsticks and we’ve taken to spearing some items that are practically impossible to obtain otherwise.

At night I noticed lots of signs lit up in red, with some hotels, restaurants and stores having English translations underneath.

Next, join me for the first English camp.