Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hutong, more gardens, Wangfuge, Wangfujing, The Egg: Day 21

These guys most have been excited. 75 people all wanting San Lun Che (3 Wheeled Cart) rides.

I push over several old women to secure the SLC of prosperity. In Chinese wordplay, 1 6 8 or Yi Liu Ba sounds like Yi Lu Fa or "A road of fortune." There is a boba shop in Toronto that uses this number as well. One that serves awesome mango boba I might add. Uncle Xiao Guan and I ride our way through the Wu Tong on the coat tails of money money money.

Here we pass by the athletics school that Jet Li attended.

Most of the ride took us through these homely Chinese neighbourhoods. We didn't get to stop to look around but it was crazy windy so that might have been a good thing.

This area is apparently livelier at night. I think it's called the Liu Qi Ba (678) or Qi Ba Jiu (789).

Here we are at yet another garden house.

Another statement of the obvious. Well to us. So "Le" is the proper spelling of my last name (actually pronounced more like "Luh"). At least in mandarin. "Loh" is some strange old form of romanization. So the sign read "Le" (although the character is written in simplified font) and points to my sister, a Le.

Could this possibly be the coolest tourist attraction name possible for a Chinese temple garden? I want to go to the BAT POND!

Apparently the carvings on the ground are part of some elaborate ancient Chinese drinking game. I think shots float down the "river" and stop at unlucky (or lucky depending on your perspective) partakers.

Maria up to her mischief.

Random garden lake with area in the middle. I think there is a bridge on the other end but it wouldn't surprise me if there wasn't.

For lunch we went to a restaurant in the middle of some park. It was a branch of the famous Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong.

This plate of little fishes is a typical Chinese cold dish served in the early parts of the meal. We liked it and decided to order another one. The staff insisted on charging us for it. Gee, CCM service. More surprising was that they charged us 32 RMB which amounts to about $5 for not only a small quantity but by China standards, that's pretty expensive.

1000 year old eggs. Something I avoid.

Plate of savory meats.

Maria became somewhat obsessed with this fishes head. It was abnormally round and had a strange face she could not help "fall in obsession" with.

I give a go at it but it just doesn't do it for me.

I very much love fried Bao of almost all sorts. These really ought to be served with sweetened condensed milk.

In a stroke of strange coincidence, the 2008 graduating class of Normal University's Experiment High School was having lunch here for their graduation trip from Taiwan. Our tour group as my mom corrected is in fact for the 1958 graduating class of Normal University's Experiment High School. 50 years difference but they find themselves at the same place for lunch. What are the odds? At one point, the old folks broke out in singing the school's fight song or whatever it is sung for. It could have been more rousing because I'm guessing most of the kids were confused and didn't join. They all had school jackets and most of the old people had hats with the school's name on it.


Next, we arrive at Yonghe Lamasery. I like this lion statue. Look at how he surpresses (or is it opresses) the smaller lion.

This should be in a video game.

Here we are inside the Wangfuge (Hall of Infinite Happiness) a.k.a. Dafolou (Hall of Great Buddha). This is my "ninja photography" of this gigantic Buddha statue at the temple. It's something like 26 meters tall. But what's impressive is that it is carved from one massive piece of wood.

In another museum hall, we've got this crazy dude with many arms. Maybe he's the patron God of cherry picking.

Maria as the stand-in Buddha.

I'm going to put this claim out there: the Wumpus, invented by China.

Another return of the four heavenly kings. Guitar Hero Buddha rocks my socks once again.

Wangfujing shopping district.

Our hunt for celluar SIM card account recharging begins. We had to go to several locations before we found the one that could do the recharge.

I forget the process but you have to go to what looks like an ATM, push through all sorts of options (they have English but it was rather confusing which options to select so it's better to get one of the staff to do it for you provided you are able to communicate what you want) and then after you put your money in, it prints this piece of paper out for you. I think what you do is just call the number on the paper and that will credit your sim card with the amount of money you put in.

Not sure what this is. Maybe a voice mail password?

Anyways, after some trouble, success!

Duo duo (my younger brother who sometimes resembles Taiwan pop-star Wong Li Hom), we miss you! Wong Li Hom was seen everywhere pimping all sorts of products. We saw a lot of him as he was on every bottle of bottled water that was provided on the bus.

This is a jewelery store. But Blanc Pain? That means White Bread in French.

Church of St. Joseph, a.k.a. Eastern Church, a.k.a. Dongtang, a.k.a. Wangfujing Tianzhutang. If you go to Wangfujing Avenue, it'll be hard to miss this sucker.

Apparently, churches in China == skateboarders. I guess it's the one place the cops don't care if you skate on.

Yao Ming with Tree growing from his head.

Beijing National Centre of the Performing Arts, a.k.a. the Egg. Less than 1 year old. This building was pretty impressive looking.

We had to walk around the building to get to the entrance. It wouldn't have made sense to drop us off by the door now would it? It was freezing windy out at night. Oh, and you might be wondering, hey! What happened to dinner? Well there was none. In another stroke of genius planning, from Wangfujing, we started driving towards dinner which was across town and got stuck in some horrible traffic (I think there was some Prince of Denmark or something in town) and we pretty much had to yell at the tour guide to take us to the Egg and skip dinner because the Egg tickets were way more expensive and plus they are idiots because the Egg is like right next to Wangfujing. You'd think they'd book dinner in the same area? Naw, that'd make sense! It got to the point where we attributed every dumb decision as being motivated by kickbacks. Even when the natives were getting restless in the traffic the tour guide was smart to pull out snacks to placate us but sure enough, my mom said "I bet she has a 'good friend' (Hao Pun Yeou) who can sell us these" and on queue, right then...

The entrance to the Egg is actually a ways off from where you might imagine it. This picture is about at the same distance from the main building as the previous one.

You have to pass through this long security tunnel. We had to check in our cameras! This in the age of 5 megapixel camera phones. Pretty ridiculous.

Here is the museum type portion of this building.

Some pictures inside that I took after the show of the building interior. It's really quite an impressive building. Down there is where you come out from the security tunnel / museum area.

And inside the egg. Much like the Bird's Nest, there is a massive cover over the actual usage area which strikes as over the top but beautiful. Can you justify such a big space for a small 5000 person theatre? Only in China...

So some notes on the play. It was this horribly sappy Chinese propoganda musical about this town combining their town spirit to build a dam. WTF. I swear, 5 people got up and left the show about 10 minutes in. People were sleeping left and right but truth be told, Maria and I had a blast. It was so over the top and cheesy and the silver body suit very theatre-gay cabaret office dancers (factory workers) were something to behold. It was like La Cage aux folles in space but then there was this poor peasant town of aboriginal folk in traditional clothing whom I assume did their part in giving up land for the dam. Who knows. And then the strange Darth Vadar "I am your father" moments and the Chinese equivalent of "Nooooooooooooooooooo" I can't even explain it. I wonder if youtube has anything.

Well here are some vids from inside that I found.

From the lobby.

and one about how ridiculous the stage is. Oh, and they gave us KFC for dinner afterwards. And charged us. Classy... thanks for asking.

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