Wednesday, November 26

China, Day Three: Forbidden Attractions

We started out early this morning, leaving at around 9 for the Forbidden City. We spent a couple of hours walking around the Imperial Palace and its accompanying Gardens. As fantastic as what we saw was, I didn't get to see as much as I had liked to as our guide kept hurrying us along.

Our next stop was at a reflexology centre, where we were treated to a pretty excellent foot massage and brief lecture on Chinese traditional medicine. Of course this wasn't for free as advertised as we were asked whether we wanted to purchase any of the prescribed herbs! Yet more punting it seems...

After lunch, we headed to the Summer Palace, north west of Beijing. This was a beautiful and sprawling landscape, especially with the lake and hall of longevity up on the hill. Again we were rushed and only managed to spend an hour there. This made time for a visit to a nearby pearl factory where we learned how pearls were made and - you've guessed it - given the opportunity to buy some of our own. They were the cheapest in the land apparently!

Our final stop was to watch a pretty awesome acrobatics show, where young training cadets showed us their skills. Although it was thoroughly enjoyable, it wasn't of very high production quality; having said that it was pretty special if only because I got to participate in an act (and have pictures to prove it!).

The most bizarre part of the today was just before bedtime, when our guide brought some of her friends to our hotel room, where they offered their astonishingly wide selection of fake handbags to sell. I would have laughed in my amusement if I wasn't so terrified out of my wits.

A busy day, and mixed bag of highs and lows. The benefits and drawbacks of being on a scheduled tour are becoming more clear now, with the inflexibility of doing what we want, when we want just balancing out being able to sit back and be led everywhere. Having a driver and guide are also very handy... But still I do wonder whether I would have enjoyed today left to my own devices.