Hope you are all well So far we have had good weather averaging 28 degrees and clear skies. Visited the Temple of Heaven set in a 267 hectare park which was constructed in 1420. Max bought a watch from a guy for a good price and in turn got ripped off with a fake 100 yuan note. Proceeded to the Hutong district which consists of narrow alleyways that criss-cross east-west across the city and linking to create a huge enchanting warren of one-storey ramshackle dwellings and historic courtyard homes Visited the Bell Tower an 18th century creation made of bronze weighing 63 ton and the Drum Tower - the drums were beaten to mark the hours of the day. To get to the top of these we had to stagger up the incredibly steep steps - 69 in all and high - for an impressive view of Beijing. Participated in a traditional tea tasting ceremony then walked the streets of the Hutong enjoying the atmosphere of the different shops, some very narrow and one shoe shop measuring a metre wide. Colourful rickshaws waited for fares in a nearby courtyard by the Bell Tower. Had dinner on the roof top of a restaurant before taking a taxi back to the hotel completely exhausted. Malcolm ate deep fried scorpians - photo for you as evidence. We are now experiencing smog for the first time in Beijing. While Max was teaching we visited the Summer Palace, walked Suzhou Street which skirts the Back Lake for 300 metres with 64 shops, 14 gateways or archways and 8 small bridges and where the shop assistants wear Qing style clothes. Walked the gardens which always means there is climbing to see the view of the huge Kunming Lake with many boats scattered along the waterway, walked the Long Corridor which runs along the lake for 72.8 metres with 14,000 pictures painted on its ceiling - the longest painted gallery in the world. Also on the lake there was a marble boat built in 1755 - 36 metres long with a hull made of massive stone slabs. Discovered a Pizza restaurant which offered a smorgasbord for 50 yuan ($8 AUD) including drinks and dessert. Each day the weather remains 28 degrees but getting more smoggy. While trying to go to the Hutong District without Max, got lost and discovered a shopping area that sold watches except you are escorted up the stairs, ushered into a small room behind closed doors. Virginia bought a good non genuine Louis Vuitton watch that has a 4 year warranty, no receipt and their business card! Visited the Pearl Market next door and then took a taxi to the Hutong District. People who speak English are hard to find and we need written instructions for taxi drivers. The last day in Beijing Virginia, Pam and Malcolm caught the subway right to the door of the Silk Market where there were rows of stalls packed with bags, handbags, wallets, purses, shoes and clothing with very persistent sales assistants accosting you - there is no such thing as browsing. Malc bought 2 polo tops he didn't need and also bought Pam a handbag she didn't need or want. Virginia did well with her purchases.
Hope this hasn't bored you. Off to Xian tomorrow (Monday).
Till next time.