Things I learned today:
1. Dotted lines and lanes on the highway are suggestions. If it is a two lane road, it is acceptable to create additional lanes, up to four or five, so that everyone gets to their destination faster. It is also acceptable to straddle a lane and be in neither one and to ignore all the people behind you while they beep.
2. No one uses their turn signal in China.
3. If your driver has a dented up car, he is not a very safe driver.
4. If your driver does not wear a seatbelt and has a pristine car, he is a safe driver.
5. It is ok to go the wrong way up one-way streets at high speeds as long as no one else is coming. If someone else does happen to get in the lane nose to nose, beep at them until they move (even though you are in their lane).
6. Red lights are merely suggestions. You have at least ten seconds after it turns red to make a turn wherever you want to go, snarl up traffic and almost hit pedestrians and cyclists.
7. It is completely ok to park in the bicycle lane, the cyclists can ride in the car lane…no prob.
8. Spitting is a national past time.
9. Wearing pearls in the winter makes your neck look younger (seriously, got a whole lecture on it before being asked to buy a strand for my neck). Something about the minerals seeping into your neck and smoothing your skin.
10. When you enter a park, you must go find the nearest person and stand two inches from them…even if you have plenty of room and there are only 3 other people in the park.
11. It is fine to gawk at tourists. In fact, it is recommended that you walk right up to them and stick your face in theirs to get a better look.
12. It probably best, if you are a back seat driver, to wear a sleeping face mask when you go out somewhere in a taxi. Oh, and make sure you chew some gum so you won’t grind your teeth down to nubs by the time your taxi arrives at your destination.
On a more serious note, we had a great time touring today. I uploaded all of the pictures into a slideshow below. We first toured the Lama Temple. It was very neat. It had three outer courts each having a small temple holding a different Buddha. Each one had a different function such as longevity, medicine, wisdom, happiness, etc. The very last temple we went in had a gigantic Buddha that was carved out of one big tree. Apparently Buddhism came to China from India. When one of the emperors, somewhere along the line, wanted harmony, he invited the Tibetans, Mongolians and two other groups (sorry my memory is sketchy) to the palace and he built a temple in honor of all four groups. All of the signs on the gates and into the temple are written in the four languages. When the Tibetans heard that the emperor wanted to carve a huge Buddha, they sent him a tree as a sign of peace and thanks for uniting the four groups together in Buddhism.
We left the Lama Temple and went on to the Temple of Heaven. It had a big courtyard with lots of green. It was square and represented earth. The round rings of the temple and three tiers represented heaven. The middle tier represented the emperor because he was in between heaven and earth.
The park around the Temple of Heaven was very neat. It had a huge covered area where many people met and played cards and other games. Our guide said it is a place for people to come and be happy. There were many people singing, dancing, playing the foot bean bag game that I cannot remember the name of. Vivian found it very interesting. Some people were hitting themselves at their waist and our guide said it was to increase circulation. We also found some of the signs amusing:
Our guide told us that everything was made of wood, pieced together without any nails and very old. So, no flames are allowed –matches, cigarettes, etc. so nothing will catch fire. If one thing caught on fire, the whole thing will come down.
There were also older men with a long calligraphy brush and some water writing poems on the sidewalk.
We were also taken to eat our “authentic meal” which turned out to be a buffet and that was interesting. We basically ate fried rice and steamed vegetables. I was not trying any of the meat…I didn’t recognize it. Steven was a little more adventuresome. Vivian ate spaghetti…don’t ask me how spaghetti was on an Asian buffet, but it was!
We were also taken to a Tea room and had an authentic tea service performed. It was neat. The lady explained the different types of tea, showed us how to use and hold our cups. They were tiny little espresso glass sized cups. We bought two tea/coffee cups that change from the scene of a dragon, to the Summer Palace (Steven’s changes to Emperor’s Masks) when hot water is poured in it. Steven also enjoyed some of the Ginseng tea and we picked up a pack of that. Apparently one teaspoon is good for FIVE cups of tea…wow! Strong stuff. They threw in two tea temperature tester clay figures. In order to test the temperature of the water (it has to be a certain temp for the different teas), you pour the water over the figurine and if it pees (it is male), the water is the perfect temp. We are now the proud owners of two. Vivian just giggled. Very interesting…moving on….
We are about to go eat dinner and attend the Acrobat show. It is not too far from our hotel. Hope you enjoyed the pictures and thanks for following along with us. Tomorrow we visit the Great Wall, Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. I am sure I will have lots more pictures and more observations on the local culture.