Happy May Day! Today is a national holiday in China, but everything is open so it didn't hinder our shopping.
Have you ever met a champion cricket fighter? I have. Mr. Liu aka Cricket Liu is #1 and an animated character! More on him in a bit.
Today was our last day in China and we made the most of it.
We visited the Temple of Heaven. It was built in 1430 after the emperor had a dream that he had to build a temple where the seven stars are. He sent his men to find the seven stars. They didn't know what to do so they lied and told him they found the seven stars (rocks) and the emperor built the temple on the spot. The temple is 5 times the size of the Forbidden City (which is ginormous) so we only saw a snippet. There were seniors in the park playing cards, knitting, exercising and sleeping. We even walked by a band playing Jingle Bells. This is not the first time we've heard Christmas music on this trip! We looked inside the Hall of Prayer for Harvest. This is where food is offered up to god. The emperors knew as long as the people had food there would be no revolt so it was important to keep the masses fed. I didn't like the story we were told about pouring boiling water in the live animals ears so they would scream and god would know the food was coming to him/her.
Visiting a hutong was next on our itinerary. A hutong is an old area of the city where families live somewhat communally. They are a labyrinth of small alleys that lead to living areas. Families share kitchens and bathrooms. The hutongs are passed down through the families. First we got to see in inside a sitting room of a hutong owned by the Wong's for 100 years. The Wong's made us a delicious cup of jasmine tea and gave us a small gift. They explained what it's like to live in a hutong. The best part was when the animated Mr. Liu (a hutong neighbor) explained cricket fighting and how he is #1. He has a lot of articles and magazines to prove his cricket fighting prowess, including the front page of an Olympic publication. We met Tiger, his prize cricket, two other nameless crickets, some babies and two grasshoppers. There is a lot that goes in to the sport - wedding rooms, wedding water dish, a dish for babies, fluffy sticks to move them so you don't break their delicate legs, a scale to weigh them pre-fight and because they only live 100 days...caskets for the crickets who have won a lot. Cricket fighting is serious business - you can win enough to buy houses, cars, etc. Fascinating. We then did a rickshaw tour through the alleys of the hutong. So cool and something to experience. Meeting the Wong's, Mr. Liu and the rickshaw tour were a definite highlight of the trip.
If you ever need someone to bargain for you, call Aunty Deb. We had so much fun watching her work her magic at the silk alley market. She even tied a scarf around one sales girl's neck. Many belly laughs. I heard a lot of - lady you want to buy a...fill in the blank for whatever knock off they were selling. We visited another market after the Silk Market but it wasn't as good. They barely put down their cell phones to look at us.
Tonight was our farewell Peking duck dinner. We learned how to wrap the duck in the rice paper wrap with our chopsticks. Brenda struggled as the photo below shows. Dinner was really good and the farewell speeches emotional. Tonight we pack, have a short sleep and we will leave the hotel at 4.45 am for the airport. It will be a long travel day.
This has been an amazing adventure. Lots of laughs, wonderful sites, some questionable smells. I really like China and I wasn't sure that I would. It is cleaner, safer and more organized than I expected. There is a lot of green space, they even plant roses down the middle of the road. Today it was a bit smoggy but the smog wasn't too bad while we here. The people are really friendly - they wave to us and hand over their babies for photos.
Thanks to my family, new friends, Rennie, Roman and the China Pac guides for an outstanding (but not relaxing) vacation! Simply the best.