Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Caught Off Guard

I got off to another late start on Wednesday, December 8th. After having a late breakfast with my Chinese national friend, we headed out to the northwestern part of Beijing to see the Summer Palace. We made the thirty or so minute drive a couple of miles outside the city center (Tianamen Square) before reaching the outer walls that enclose 2.9 square kilometers made up of Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill. As we entered this UNESCO World Heritage Site, an older presumably middle aged Chinese woman approached me and my friend. She began to talk to my friend in Chinese asking questions about me (i.e. where I was from, what I was doing in Beijing etc.). She then said she would be our tour guide as we advanced through the palace, but that we wouldn't have to pay her. I knew she was trying to scam us somehow, maybe pickpocket us when we weren't paying attention, I'm not really sure to this day. She seemed nice, telling us a number of interesting things about the Palace and even taking a couple decent photos of us. Then, after only about ten minutes of walking she vanished. I wasn't quite expecting that, however, I wasn't complaining either since I didn't feel like walking around with my hands in my pockets anymore to prevent thievery.

We progressed down the path that extended around the lake to get a better view of Longevity Hill and its temples overlooking the body of water. Once we reached the foot of the hill, we stopped momentarily to rest before making the climb up the hill we had been walking to for twenty or so minutes.

So here's a story that I hadn't planned on telling in this forum, but I figured another anecdote couldn't hurt. While looking out on the lake and enjoying the view with the mountain range in the background, my friend was asked to take a picture of this attractive Chinese girl and her mother. After taking the photo for them, the mother asked my friend in Mandarin if we would like one as well. We figured a photo of us in front of the temple would be nice so she took the photo for us. It ended up that we ascended the Longevity Hill at the same pace, going back and forth taking photos of each other. Since it was pretty obvious the mother-daughter tandem spoke no English, the conversation my friend and I carried out along the way was about how good looking the girl was and guessing her age. Nothing to serious, I thought was more for the sake of conversation rather than acting on it considering the language barrier (at least for me).

At one point, though, following my friend taking another photo of these two individuals with the scenic backdrop, he started talking to both of them as we traversed up another staircase. While I was paying no particular attention to their conversation, I noticed in my line of sight that the girl looked at me and started to chuckle before my friend stopped talking to them and they walked off. My friend then comes to me and says "Hey I got to tell you something." I could only guess for that moment what in the world he could have said to them to make them walk off so suddenly. He ends up telling me that he told the girl I thought she was attractive, in front of the mom! She then said that I was too young as it turned out she was six years older than me. Now, normally this is no big deal, although, in this case for the mother to hear the whole conversation about me when I had done absolutely nothing caught me off guard. After this scene took place, we didn't see the girl the rest of the time at the Summer Palace. This did not really surprise me.

We continued up to the top of Longevity Hill to see the Tower of Buddhist Incense and the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom. We did end up seeing both structures, displaying more famous and unique Chinese architecture from the ancient world. Furthermore, once reaching the top of the hill, an incredible view of both the lake and downtown Beijing were visible, making the climb that much more worthwhile.

Soon thereafter, we headed back down to walk over to the seventeen arch bridge that stood across the lake from Longevity Hill. Once making it over to the structure, the harsh winds of winter in Beijing forced us to return to my friend's flat to rest up before going out later that night.

Later that Wednesday night, we did head out to one of Beijing's finest dance club's, Mix. Now while nothing not suitable for this blog took place, I will be brief for both your sake and mine in my retelling of the night. It was a very odd experience to be in such a public setting where I had no idea if I would be able to communicate with anyone outside my Chinese friend. It made for a whole new dynamic, especially in my limited clubbing experience (keep making fun of me all you Europeans for not being legally able to drink in my own country).

In my next post, I will talk about my Thursday, December 9th (hopefully include Friday and Saturday, too) when we got lost in Beijing looking for the 798 Art Gallery.

To my readers: I do apologize for a number of things. First, the more awkward time gaps between posts. I have been busy since returning home, but I assure you that I am trying to finish up my adventures through Asia while getting settled at college. Second, I will try to bring back the longer posts that became a staple of mine while still in Singapore. I just want to bring you up to speed as fast as I can. I will attempt to bring those back from this point forward to avoid such stop and start reading. Finally, I apologize for not having a place for you to correspond to me in a non-public setting. If you do have any questions or comments about my writing, travel advice, or anything else, please write to me at the following e-mail address: itsjcoco@gmail.com. Thanks again, loyal readers, stay tuned for my next post!

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