Yesterday, we awoke at 5:30 am which is for those of you back in EDT. We lazed about and had breakfast at this enormous breakfast buffet at the hotel (grand mixture of western food and Chinese food) and Geoff got our guide to set us up with a very special tour of the old city of Beijing called the Quiangong Hutong. Hutong means well (as in water well) and are the old original walled cities. They have been preserved with shops and night clubs and restaurants and some are still residences. It was a cold and sunny day. Catherine booked us a small van and much to our surprise, everyone decided to join us. We squeezed in and when we arrived there were 6 rickshaw drivers waiting to take us by twos through the old city. Our guide, Ox, explained who lived there and how the Hutong's worked and he even took us to someone's residence. (Some retired people make money by allowing tourists in to see where they live.) The man we met had a lot of pets: cats and dogs and homing pigeons and a mynah bird that said Nia hou.
The Hutong seemed unusual, as you hear that in the preparations for the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese made way only for everything new and modern. This old part of the city I found surprisingly beautiful amid the concrete and traffic and high rises. Beijing is a bustling modern city with Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC on every corner and even the Hutongs, though dating back hundreds of years were made into discos that sold Budweiser. I think everyone liked this special glimpse into a seemingly secret part of the city.
After the tour and a quick lunch, we all boarded a bigger tour bus and did the big Beijing tourist schlep: Tienanmen Square, the F , the Olympic Stadium and an Acrobatics show. All these places were filled with tourists of all kinds and also vendors hawking postcards and souvenirs (don't even look at them or they follow you for a mile.) and of course beggars. Grayson was upset to encounter a man who would not leave him alone. He kept pantomiming that he wanted food. We finally got him to leave us alone and Catherine taught us how to tell beggars to go away. A sobering lesson for Grayson.
By the end of the day we were all exhausted. Geoff, Gray and I caught a quick meal at a Malaysian restaurant and home to the hotel. Tomorrow we see the .