Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 10 (January 9. My favorite day of the trip.)

Our last day in Beijing was unforgettable. We began the day with a visit to the Cloisonné Factory. Cloisonné is a type of Chinese artwork that is made from different types of metal that is heated and then shaped and painted by hand into exquisite pieces. I was fascinated by the intricacy of each piece of art. Thankfully, the factory had an extensive collection available for purchase in their gift shop so I was able to pick up a few gifts for my mom and sisters. Next on the agenda, was the part of the trip I had been waiting for (insert drum roll)… climbing the Great Wall of China. In history class, I had read about the Great Wall, but as I stood on the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, I was speechless. Spanning over 3600 miles, the Great Wall is the only man made structure that can be seen from space. It was built to keep out invaders from Mongolia and other barbaric countries of ancient times. Now it stands as a testament to the rich history of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Several members of our group decided to climb to the top of the section of the wall, but I was content climbing only halfway up so that I had plenty of time to take pictures to document this once in a lifetime experience. After saying farewell to the Great Wall of China, we headed to a place where I could easily spend a week and a few years’ salary, The Pearl and Jade Factory. Thanks to a strong American dollar (in China at least) I did not leave either place empty handed. {If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, pearls are a very close second!} During the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the world watched in awe as the Beijing transformed with the additions of the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. Although the buildings are rarely used now, they are brilliant works of art. Before leaving Beijing, I was privileged enough to see both buildings. No Chinese experience would be complete without tasting the various tea flavors. At a tea-tasting ceremony, I was able to taste many flavors of hot tea. The tea flavors ranged from bitter to sweet to mint and everything in between, and each tea would supposedly cure various ailments. Our last stop in the capital city of China was a shoppers dream. Although the market had no name, it was another place where I could easily spend a week without getting bored. The first floor of the market was full of purses. Coach, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucchi were a few of the brands represented. The second floor was an array of Ralph Lauren, North Face, True Religion, and other brands of shirts, jackets, coats, and jeans. I hear that the fourth and fifth floors were full of shoes and sunglasses, but I didn’t have time to make it that far. (I should clarify by saying that all of these items were fake, but they were really good fakes.) It was with a lighter wallet and a happy heart that I left Beijing on a soft sleeper train headed for Xi-an, in the Shaanxi province of China. Even though a room for 4 on the train was smaller than one of my closets at home, and the beds were harder than a piece of plywood, 50 FFA members can have a blast anywhere!

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