My tour guide, Nancy (aka Yun MinCloud), picked me up at my hostel this morning. I decided to take a private tour of the city so I could see all the things I really wanted to see in the city instead of trying to do it all by myself. We also had a private driver.
Panda House at the Beijing Zoo
Our first stop was the Panda House at the Beijing Zoo. We saw 5 giant pandas there, and a couple of them were younger and a little smaller. Most of them sat in a corner eating bamboo the whole time. Nancy was telling me an interesting story… In the 70’s, President Nixon and his wife visited China to develop relations between the two countries. While they were there, they met with Chairman Mao Zedong. He offered the Nixons some Panda brand cigarettes. The First Lady made a joke that she didn’t want Panda cigarettes, she wanted a real panda. Low and behold, China sent 2 pandas to First Lady Pat Nixon shortly after. She then donated them to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and held a big welcome ceremony for them.
This place was beautiful! The first thing you see once you walk in the gates is a huge lake with a bunch of paddle boats zooming around. The total area of the Summer Palace grounds is 2.9 square kilometers (approximately 716 acres), of which 75% of the are is taken up by the lake. There is a bridge that goes over the lake and it has 17 arches. The reason for this is because they believe 9 to be a heavenly number. So whether you start counting from the left or the right of the bridge, you will always have arch #9 in the middle, which is also the highest arch (closest to the heaven).
Jumping photo opp!
There are many older men that practice their calligraphy in the park. They use these huge paintbrush/brooms and paint on the sidewalk.
We also walked along a very long land bridge or corridor… Not sure on the correct term here. But anyways, it was 728 meters long and it went along the edge of the lake. In this land bridge, there were hundreds of paintings telling China’s history. It was really pretty!
We also came upon a marble boat. It was made for the emperors. It also has some symbology… The marble boat represents the emperor, large and imperial, and the water represents the people of China. So the people of China (water) can either carry the emperor (marble boat) or capsize it. It shows that even though the emperor is big and powerful, he or she cannot survive without its people.
I also noticed that many of the trees in the park had red and green signs on them. Nancy said that the green signs tell you that the tree is between 100 and 300 years old, and the red signs tell you the tree is over 300 years old!
Dr. Tea House
A little surprise stop on the tour was the Dr. Tea House. Here a girl taught me how to make tea… The right way. She was also telling me about the different kinds of tea and their benefits. I’ve never been a fan of tea at all, but I felt it would’ve been rude if I didn’t try it when she offered it to me. It’s growing on me a little bit, but very slowly. Though she made this fruit tea before I got there and put it in the fridge… Iced fruit tea. It was DELICIOUS!! She also showed me the “pee pee boy.” It can test the water to see if it’s hot enough. When you poor water on him that isn’t hot enough, he doesn’t do anything. When you poor water on him that is hot enough to make tea, he “pees” everywhere! Haha
Here are the teas I learned about and their benefits…
- White Tea- It can dispel the affects of alcohol and nicotine, and it acts on cold, coughs, and sore throats.
- Golden Green Tea/Slimming Tea (Wild Puer Tea)- It can regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lose weight. If it’s mixed with honey, it’s good for insomnia.
- Oriental Beauty (The King of Oolong Tea)- It’s good for blood circulation, skin, anemia, enriches blood, and it can soften blood vessels. It it’s mixed with brown sugar, it can nourish the stomach.
- Jasmine Tea- It can drive away summer heat, improve eyesight, shake off drowsiness, and relieve headaches.
- Litchi Tea (Black Tea)- It’s good for digestion.
- Gin-seng Oolong Tea- It can help restore energy and protect the liver and kidney.
- Tian Qu Flower- It can help restore energy, protect liver and kidney, and can improve immunities.
The Silk Museum
Another surprise stop was the Silk Museum. The woman that worked here that gave me the tour of the museum was not very friendly. She rushed through everything and made me feel like I was wasting her time, BUT it was really cool to see how silk is made. It comes from moth cocoons. They soak the cocoons in water and then take the moth worms out. Then they stretch it into a bunch. After that, they take the bunches of moth cocoons and stretch them far enough to make a blanket! For one layer, it takes about a ball the size of your fist (well my fist.. a small fist). They are able to stretch this to the size of a queen sized bed. I got to help stretch one layer. It was pretty neat!
Beijing Olympic Park
Our next stop was to see the Olympic buildings from the 2008 Olympics. The building were MASSIVE! I had no idea how big these buildings were.
Jumping Photo Shoot (Sorry some of them are a little blurry.)
Pearl Jewelry Store
The last stop of my private tour was another surprise stop… A pearl jewelry store. A woman showed me a freshwater oyster and how to tell the oyster’s age. Each thick black line represents one year, similar to how you tell the age of a tree. She also pointed out that freshwater oysters are triangular shaped, unlike saltwater oysters, which are oval shaped. She cut it open and had me guess how many pearls would be inside. Saltwater oysters have 1 pearl inside, whereas freshwater oysters have several. I guessed 10. Turns out there were 30! Fifteen on each side, but they were too small to make jewelry so they will be used to make creams and powders. She also told me how to tell if a pearl is real or not. If you rub two pearls together and they slip right off each other, then they are not real. If you rub them together and they scratch each other to make a white dust (no mater if the pearl is white or not), then it is real. And you just wipe the dust off and it looks like nothing happened to it. You can also rub them against your teeth and they should do the same thing.
That was the end of my tour…