Tuesday, February 10, 2009

China Chronicles: Day Five (Part Two)

After the Great Wall, our tour took us to a jade museum, the Ming Tombs, and a silk museum. Actually, at this point I just wanted to go back to our hostel and sleep and go to a tea house. I am glad that there was no possible way to do that, because I actually had a good time.

I've never been overly interested in the Ming Tombs, but I like historical stories a lot and our guide was full of them. Apparently, during the Ming Dynasty, a fortune teller told the first emporer that, in order to keep the Ming line going, they all had to build their burial tombs to the north of the river that runs through the valley. Consequently, every emporer (they all planned and built their tombs while they were still alive) chose to be buried to the north- except for one Emporer, who chose to be buried, after hundreds of years of the line being kept, to the south. It turned out that the emporer who built his tomb on the south side of the river was also the very last of the Ming emporers.

Go fig.

At the jade museum we were treated to a lesson on how to tell whether a piece of jade is real or if it is fake (which came in handy later on at the Silk Market) and then we had a yummy Chinese lunch in the museum's restaurant. I'm talking delicious. We started with a hot and sour egg drop soup, then along with our rice we were presented with about eight different dishes- stir fried vegetables, steamed bok choy, pork and beef with vegetables, and much more.

At the Silk Museum, we learned about the silk worm and what part of they silk they use from it (the cocoon). Then we learned how they soak the cocoon and stretch it to an unbelievable size and then repeat the process until there are countless silk layers piled on top of one another. After, we were free to browse through their selection of silk bedspreads. Of course I fell in love with one and had to buy it... until I found out it was the most expensive piece in the shop (about 500$ CAN, which was much more expensive than the average 100$ piece). Why must my taste be so expensive?

That evening just so happened to be New Years Eve, so my friends and I decided to celebrate with a traditional meal of Peking Duck. We had met a foreign couple the night previous at dinner who recommended a great place to us, located on "Ghost Street" as it is commonly called. The street is completely lit up with red lanterns and all of the shops on the street are restaurants. It was a pretty cool place to be at night. Also, at our particular restaurant, we were told to ask for "Vivian"- the English speaking manager who was a friend of the couple we met.

It turns out, Vivian gave us the ultimate royal treatment at the restaurant. She sat us down at the back of the restaurant, there was lots of entertainment and the food was delicious. As a Peking Duck virgin, I was so pleasantly surprised at the crispy skin that just melts in your mouth. Typically, your duck is served with small crepe-like thingies (for lack of a better word) and you wrap up your duck with lots of different fruits and vegetables before dunking it in one of the three dipping sauces and eating with great relish. We ordered two, and while it was expensive, it was so, so, so worth it. Delish.

After we finished eating, Vivian presented us with a free platter of fruit, which was beautifully laid out. Then she took us on a tour of the restaurant, which has three courtyards (where they serve food in the summer) and two floors. It was a really beautiful restaurant. Yet another reason why I want to go back in the summer!

Livin' it up on Ghost Street.

My friends and I with Vivian, after dinner.

Checking out the menu... so much food!

The beautiful fruit platter.

Pancake with duck.

Our duck, after carving.

Our duck, mid-carving.

At the Ming Tombs. The object behind us is filled with donation money for the Tomb's upkeep.

Before dinner, relaxing with drinks.

Our terrible attempt at stretching the soaked silk... our guide told us we were hopeless.

The Ming Tomb of the first emporer.

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