Sunday, January 23, 2011



Jim is out to see the Cathedral. He’s taking a cab over with several others. We've carefully packed our large suitcases for transport this morning. Absolutely no valuables and empty outside pockets; a secure lock (not TSA as they have keys for those). We’re going to go by overnight train to Xian, they have purchased two tickets for each of us so that we don’t have to share our compartment with strangers. But the bathroom is another story. They have prepared us for the fact that it is not uncommon for the suitcases to be searched for valuables. The big suitcases are being taken early this morning on a separate train and we won’t see them until tomorrow at the new hotel. We are carrying all of our valuable things in our carry on bags. Should be an interesting night.

Packed and on the bus by 12:30 pm we drove across town to visit the Hutong Village located on the edge of a lake called “the ocean” so named by the Mongolians when they first saw it because they’d never seen the ocean and thought they’d arrived at one when they saw the large lake.

The Hutong Village has been rebuilt in the old style; they call them the flat houses because they are all single story with flatter roofs than the taller homes. They are rather drab in appearance because the walls are all gray but the red doors add color. Some paid extra and rode in a rickshaw but most of us walked as we explored the area. We stopped at a private home for lunch. The husband was an artist and had beautiful paintings of flowers on the walls. His long white beard added a touch of character to his face.

The wife gave us a lesson in how to make a dumpling (wonton). Then the brave ones had an opportunity to make one; fortunately for all, those were not used in the wonton soup that we had with our lunch later. Yes, we had another wonderful Chinese lunch with the lazy susan before bidding our host family goodbye and continuing our tour through the Hutong Village. Several of the tour members including Jim used their chopsticks for the first time….forks were not available. As we neared the shopping center the number of vendors increased dramatically. One became attached to Jim and was determined to sell him some paint brushes. He continued to tag along and negotiate for the next hour as we strolled through the village. No, he would never quite meet Jim’s price. Thank goodness, as we didn’t need to take home paint brushes!

Today is a special day for the Chinese: if they get their hair cut today it will help them make more money in the coming year….yes…our Maggie was almost late because she had a hair appointment. Jo was too busy taking care of us so had to miss her opportunity.

Dogs: don’t see too many of them for the simple reason that after you purchase and license the dog you also have to pay an annual fee for the first year of $600.00; and for the second and third year $200.00 each year. They have an I.D. that is the same as the humans; similar to our driver’s licenses. And it is more expensive to have a large dog so they are very unusual.

At the end of the Hutong Village we toured the Winter Palace; much smaller than the Summer Palace but very beautiful. Then we toured a Temple and saw many different Buddha’s; each with their own special meaning. Didn't have to take our shoes off but we were not allowed to take photos inside. In the garden of the Temple there was a huge ceramic wall that depicted dragons on both sides.

Dinner tonight was near the train station and we had a fish dish (head and all) for the first time and caramelized apples as one of the plates. Soup signaled the end of the dinner plus a plate of fresh fruit. Arrived at the train station and had to walk through crowds to reach the platforms. Jo had warned us about the fact that many people sleep in the train station on the floor when they are traveling to save money; and also that the odors can get rather bad because they tend to bath rather infrequently. But we survived and made it to our train car without mishap. We had a whole car to ourselves at the front of the train; this made for a nice trip as we didn't have people walking through our car to get to the dining car that was located behind us. Only Jo had to share her compartment; she had three young men with her. The beds were very firm but clean sheets, T.V. with Chinese films and music made the evening fun. Jo brought along some “holy water” that we all enjoyed as a night cap before calling it a day. The holy water consisted of two bottles; one of rice spirits and a bottle of wine. The wine we've had so far doesn’t quite measure up to Two Buck Chuck (an inexpensive California Wine that has become named because it cost $2.00 and is made by Charles Shaw Winery and sold at Trader Joe's Stores). We had one western toilet and at the other end of the car a squat toilet. Everyone was warned to bring their bottled water and toilet paper.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

It is great that you guys got to see the history of Hutong Village and why the mongolians named it like that even though it was a lake. I love doing some research on the historical part of the places I visit. In my argentina travel I remember I had looked the tango culture up before the trip. It felt great because evry time I saw something, I understood what it was and who had had to do with its creation.