Sunday 11 November, extremely windy, -1 to 7c
We could sleep in this morning as we are not meeting our tour guide until 9.30. After breakfast, a visit to the ATM and making payment arrangements for the DVD and photos they're producing for us we finally were underway by 10am. Our first stop was the Summer Palace. When we stepped off the bus the cold wind hit us and everyone was busily doing up their jackets and putting on scarves, gloves and hats. After rugging up we walked into the entrance and stopped beside a huge man made lake (for one of the empresses). Oh my god….the wind was beyond cold but at least today it's not raining….it's actually really sunny. We walked through lots of courtyards and came upon a very, very long undercover walkway. One of the emperors had it built for his mother 'cause she liked to walk and she could walk while it was raining. I was walking ahead of the group and when l turned around l couldn't see any of them so l back tracked and was just about to burst into tears( you have to imagine, there were like a gazzilion people around who all speak Chinese and l'd left the tour guide's phone number on the bus so l was feeling a bit anxious) when Deb said " are you looking for anyone". I'd never felt so relieved in my life! So after finding Deb we didn't have enough time to walk up the hill to the palace so went to the designated meeting place to wait for the rest of the group who hadn't yet arrived. Guess who was 30 minutes late…..no….not me, Mum! The tour guide and Deb and l were running all over the place looking for her when she ambles on up to us saying, "oh, l thought we had to meet back here at ten to". Back on the bus we headed to the Huang area where we went for a ride on a rickshaw (it was a cheats version as they pulled us along by a bicycle) to the house where we had lunch. The government subsidises the families who host the lunch. It was pretty nice….probably better than most of the restaurants we've been to. As a thank you we all had to give them a gift from the country we live in. We returned to the bus on the rickshaw we came on and then it was off to the silk factory. It was interesting listening to them talk about the silkworm(although l missed a fair bit as the need to go to the bathroom was far greater than need to know about the silkworms habits) and how they get the silk from them, then we watched them stretch the silk and we were even allowed to help them. I bought a silk doonah as l have been needing a new doonah for a while. From the silk factory we travelled to the Temple of Heaven. This is a place where the locals gather to sing, dance, play cards and exercise. The atmosphere was wonderful and it was fantastic to see everyone getting along and having fun. I don't think something like that would work for us in Oz. We had a tai chi lesson which was a laugh. I can see that it would be very relaxing. It is still very very chilly. I got a bottle of water out of my bag and it was almost as cold as if it was in the fridge.
I'm back on the bus now. We've just dropped mum and a few others off to a Kung Fu show and are now stopped and waiting to collect some people from another tour who're are not seeing the Kung Fu show either and then we'll drive to the hotel. Tonight Deb and l are meeting the son of one of mum's friends who lives and works in Beijing. I wonder how this'll go. I thought it was a bit cheeky of her to arrange for us to meet some stranger and she goes off to see a show!
This evening went extremely well. We were supposed to meet Ian (the stranger) at our hotel when the bus dropped us off at around 6pm however it was 6.30 when we finally arrived and he was still waiting for us so we quickly raced to our room dumped our shopping, had a toilet stop and ran back to the foyer. We caught a taxi to the second circle and walked through a few alley ways (hutongs) and l'm thinking "uh,oh,where is he taking us" when we came upon a unassuming door that was actually tled us into the restaurant. What struck me was that there were only European diners. The food was absolutely delicious….the best that we've had since we arrived. I even ate fish!!!! I know, right! The conversation was about his Chinese experiences etc. After dinner we walked to the Drum Tower which is a huge and ornate structure, opposite that and at the other end of the square was the Bell Tower which was much plainer in comparison. We also realized that this was the area we had visited earlier today during our rickshaw ride. From here Ian took us to a Tapas and drinks bar where we had a nightcap, talked some, then caught a taxi back to the hotel. Mum was here when we arrived and she said that her show had been cancelled due to some dignitaries in town booking it out. Pretty poor effort there!!! So she'd been back at the hotel since 8pm….we arrived back here at around 11. Tomorrow we book out of the hotel, go to the markets then catch an overnight train to Xian.