Did I say in my last post it was cold? Well, it was still cold on Thursday. We had three places to visit on this day.
First we went to Hutong. This is the old part of Beijing which has preserved the old life in many respects. There are no high rises here, and the people live in a very simple fashion. We rode in rickshaws - a covered cart pulled by a guy on a bike. Although we were all wrapped up and had a lap blanket, it was still cold. We first rode through the city streets and just got an idea of the area. We then stopped and got out of the rickshaws and went into a local person's home. We were able to talk with him and ask questions through our guide. Turns out, he is a fourth generation Kung Fu instructor. His son is a 5th generation instructor. He and his son taught Jackie Chen and Jet Li, preparing them for movie roles. Also, his students performed in the opening ceremonies of the last Olympic Games held here in China. He is somewhat of a local celebrity.
It was interesting to learn that he has two sons. The minority groups in China, which make up only about 5 - 10% of the population, are allowed to have more than one child. One of his sons lives in Houston, Texas. The gentleman also lives in a house that has been handed down through his family for four generations. As long as a family member remains in the house, they will be able to keep the property. In the cities, an apartment lease is only for 70 years (I know, you are thinking 70 years?, but that's the way it is).
After seeing the home, we went for a stroll through the market. It was amazing to see all of the different foods just out there for purchase.
Since we had been to the market and all the food made us hungry, we decided it was time for lunch. Our guide took us to a noodle shop - a chain restaurant. We joked that the picture on the door was the young Colonel Sanders. Kayleigh and I had chicken noodle soup, Marissa and Noah had beef noodle soup, and Jeff had some spicy dish that none of us would try!
After lunch, we headed over to the Olympic Center. Although we could not go in the Bird's Nest (the stadium), we were able to walk around the Olympic Park and see it and The Cube (the swim center). The wind on Thursday was worse than the day before. It was especially windy at the Olympic Park because there are no tall buildings to block the wind. Although we would have liked to go inside the stadium and see the inside, it was still cool to see the Bird's Nest and the Cube. There is also a hotel nearby that is built in the shape of a dragon. Our guide told us that during the Olympics, the hotel rooms were over $1000 a night. Even now, the rooms are very expensive, but not as expensive as during the Olympics.
After the Olympic Park, we headed off to the Zoo to see the Pandas. To say we were disappointed in the zoo is an understatement, but perhaps it was tainted by the cold weather. Very few of the animals were out or active. Only the monkeys! We stood and watched the monkeys for quite a while. We did see the Pandas. Two of them kept their backs to us most of the time, but we were able to see one.
After freezing to death all day, we headed back to the hotel to try to thaw out!