Monday, May 21, 2012

Cloisonné Factory, Summer Palace, Acrobats


I realized (OK, Corey scolded me), that not only did I not finish the Beijing trip, I did not even finish Day 1!

I was not kidding when I said you pack as MUCH into the days as you can when there is a good possibility one of the parties will not be back there.

After the Great Wall (did I mention it was GREAT?)!…I asked Doyle if there was a little “shopper-tunity” in the area.  He came through in a big way.

We made our way to a Cloisonné factory this was a cool stop, and YES, it is licensed and controlled by the Chinese Government, and YES, Doyle does get something at the end of the season for the people he brings there and who buy…but I did not mind that since I asked to go…and he did not push it.

This is an amazing process.  We were met by a lovely young lady who stepped us though the process.  Sadly, it seems to be a dying art because finding craftsmen (and women) is becoming more and more difficult.  I will do a quick step through the process mostly by pictures.  It was really quite something!


Ok…so see that stack of vases behind the man?  He is inlaying them with wire to make a design.  The next pic shows a finished bowl that is ready to have color added.  Go ahead and take a really good look at that.  Check out the detail.  Each little section will have color added!


These ladies add the color bit by bit.  Then it is fired, and more color added.  It takes at least seven passes to get the colors as deep as they want them.  They also have to add the color to “fill” in the areas…so the wires are not jutting out.  Each time the pieces are shined.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat…


Here is the shining process and the bowls of color used.


This last picture is a really good example of being “partially” complete! You can see where the color has been put down, but how much more there is to fill.

They  not only do vases, they do pictures, jewelry, pens…it was pretty incredible.


Beginning and finished product.


Part way through the process…and completed in the store.

IMG_3503 Stacks of vases!

In an interesting switch, it was Corey and Stewart who found bigger ticket items that they loved.  Mary Ann and I did jewelry, but Corey found a vase and Stewart two pictures.

Thankfully, the items are amazingly light and while bulky, easy to carry.

After this we were off to the Summer Palace.  IRONICALLY…it had been sooo cold there, the canals were still partially frozen, so we could not take a ride on the “gondolas”


You can see the men working to break up the ice and get these boats moving again.  It was still pretty thick, so I’m not sure how long this process took.

IMG_3514Here is the Marble boat…well, actually, according to Frommer’s…it is neither Marble nor is it a boat.  It was built during a restoration of the Summer Palace.  This restoration was funded by moving money away from the Chinese navy.  This “frivolous” expenditure really came to light when the Navy was defeated by the Japanese in 1888.  So, while it is pretty, it is very  much resented b/c it shows China’s weaknesses in the modern era!

Then one thing I did NOT get a good shot of was the Long Corridor.  It is a covered promenade…over 700 meters in total. Each cross beam is hand painted with a different scene from Chinese History.  The guide books say that there are over 10,000 scenes in total

Here area few of the beams:IMG_3521IMG_3522IMG_3523

You can see each one is different and are quite detailed.  I’m not sure of the upkeep process, Some of course, were in  much better shape than others.

IMG_3526 With Mary Ann.  I have to say, by the end of the trip I was tired of seeing myself in that jacket..but it was necessary!

After a good walk around the Summer Palace, we did a quick drive-by of The Bird’s Nest, and other Olympic venues. 

This is where we probably did the MOST tourist thing EVER..but we LOVED it!

We went to an acrobat show.  They do 4 or more shows a day…and each act built on the skills and was more complex than the one before.  We had VIP Seats …. see?

DSCN0358 We were in about the 4th row…maybe a touch close, but thankfully nothing was really “above” us.

Then the show begins.  I compare this show to the ballet we saw in Russia.  Was it the BEST acrobats China had to offer? No…because they are all training for The Olympics…however…it was very entertaining.

IMG_3554 there was a sign to describe what was happening.

IMG_3556 Yes, they are spinning umbrellas on their feet.


They rode bikes.



stacked and balanced on chairs…


Carried each other up and down ladders


All pretty cool.

The Grande Finale was the motorcycle riders.  An orb  was brought on stage…and one by one, riders entered the orb and rode around inside.  By the end I want to say they had six riders in this thing…and no one was injured.  (Insert your own joke here)


All in all a terrific and fun 90 minutes.  And just think…in another hour they would do it all again…and  yes, some performers did more than one trick!

We headed back to the hotel for dinner and drinks:

IMG_3591For tomorrow was another day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Notes…from 18 months ago!

I was err…straightening…and found hand written notes from when I came to Hong Kong for the “check out” trip.  I am hoping I have some pictures in this computer to share then…and now.

I did not put in dates, that I can see….all I remember is I landed right before Halloween, and left in early November (just after the AWA Bazaar I think!)

I started my notes with the first time I traveled abroad…which was for my friend Karen’s wedding.  I remember being VERY uptight the whole time.  I did not know what to expect and that was going to a place that spoke my language!  I continued with my lists…going to Italy twice in 2001, first with Corey for business and then for vacation with the children.  Then Cruises in 2006 and 2010 to celebrate anniversaries and graduations.  In between I had traveled domestically…so I was relatively “seasoned'” , but still very anxious.

Notes…anything in purple is direct from my sheets.  You are under NO obligation to read this..but this way it’s down and I can toss the papers…here goes:

“In US I know what to expect on planes…coming to Asia…will they be the same?  What type of learning experience?  Chinese for dinner? That’s what I’m thinking” 

Packing: What to pack?  How much?  How do they dress?  Who will I meet?  Dinners out?

In Vancouver, we arrive @ midnight and check in.  Corey notices our seats are apart by row.  (it’s Business Class yay…since this is a check out trip)”  Can’t we be together? “No, it’s difficult” says the agent…Corey is convinced someone will switch with us.

To the Cathay lounge (what a $6K ticket gets you Corey says)..  We board  Many are seated by pre-board.  SO, here’s the thing.  The seats are all “pods” .  Private lounges as it were w/TVs, trays, foot rests, pillows, blanket, fully recline, very private and very separate.  High walls.  We are across the aisle from each other…and then settle.  Stow our stuff.  Everything goes up and nothing at our feet.

We can barely see each other!  I have champagne. – 1 glass.

How many times have I been on a plane?  I think I’m pretty smart…but I’ve never been on a foreign carrier. 

SEAT BELTS – American carriers take great pains to show you how the seat belt works b/c it is different from your car.  Now I am on a plane that it is the same as my car…and I can’t work the seatbelt!  I mean…the whole trip…every time I go to get up, I can’t work the seatbelt!

After a decent sleep, six hours or so, I wake up and prepare to watch a film.  I realize people are eating but no one comes.  I expect service, but I have not asked for it!  Not until Corey wakes up and I see HE gets service!  I tell him I’ve been awake an hour, and nothing.  “press the service button”  OH!  I’m an idiot.  More of my expectations need to be tapered to my new environment.

Watching a movie (One week with Joshua Jackson – the next George Clooney – at least in looks) I tell Corey I’m a little lonely over here.  He agrees it’s a strange set up…strangest he’s seen – and I wonder…is this isolation I feel right now …is this how I will feel there?

We eat.  I eat fruit, cereal and the breakfast.  What am I doing?  At home the cereal is enough.  I need to be very careful.  Can’t eat just because I am offered food.

We get off the plane and just – go.  Off plane, through immigration and customs – to train in 20 minutes.  That is with a bathroom break!

First thing I see off the plane?  Starbucks! I remember to tell Kari that…pretty funny.

To hotel.  To 19th floor check in.  8 am  room not ready.  We freshen up, I strap on my pedometer and off we go.

First to ____Nathan_____ street (see the black?  I left blanks in my notes b/c I did not know the names at the time…Now I live practically on it! It is actually Nathan ROAD, but I left the original) to get Corey’s pants fixed.  We are assaulted and I mean assaulted   by suit makers (HK is famous) and knock off purse and watch sellers – I may have to check the purse people out)

Corey orders a suit.  He has three and will need a fourth and they will fix the pants.

We continue walking looking, not really shopping.  Admiring jewelry – every other store is diamonds and gold…hey…Luk Fuk!…

We walk through ____Peninsula Hotel_________ where there is very high end shopping.  Looking in Harry Winston window and one lady out for ???? (can’t read this) asks where we are from. Her name is Holly.  She tells us about a Women’s Club I might be interested in checking out.  Here’s the thing.  She’s moving to Auburn, WA while we are moving here!.  How odd is that?  She tells us about a bazaar at the Esquire Hotel (on HK side) next Weds, Nov 3.  I will Ferry over alone because Corey will be working by then. It’s time to strap on my big girl shoes I guess.

What ARE the odds we would meet Holly, who would chat us up, her moving, us moving, a woman’s club?  Not odds.  I think there is divine intervention somewhere.

We’ll see if it works, but it’s a place to try to meet people! She gave us the organization’s website.  Fingers Crossed.

WALKED back to the hotel, geesh, 6.3 miles and 15, 798 that does NOT include any of the airport walking.  Corey is one hell of a navigator, so many streets do not go through, but he got us over bridges and through train stations to hotel – where we find out there is a free shuttle from Mody Street (LOL) (it is actually Mody Road…but I didn’t know)

Walking around impressions:

Stay away from tourist area

There is 7 –11, KFC and McDonald’s everywhere.  City is decorated for Halloween on the waterfront…but it is also ready for Christmas – I can’t wait to go out tonight and see the city, but I bet we’d be too tired day one.

To hotel, checked in, had diet coke upstairs.  Unpacked, showered, almost failed right there. Went to tea snacks…wrote kids brief email on FB, had 2 glasses of wine to bed.  7 pm local…woke at 3.  Not much on TV  6:40 – now go workout?

Today we start looking for homes.  I need people.  I need a supermarket.  Did NOT see that yesterday.

The unfamiliar really has me scared

Friday – Met with Stephanie from Poway Group.  She is from NZ – took an Island Tour with Fat, as our driver.

Corey was amazed of how much of HK Island he had never seen.

Up to the Peak, to Stanley. Very cool.  Going to go back there! To Midlevel's where they literally have an escalator to take you to different levels. @ looks like there are cool restaurants there.  To the New Territories where there are beaches.

To lunch – a new place for Stephanie – Dim Sum type  I really need to practice with chop sticks!

Met Megan @ 2:30 to house hunt

1st place was @ Midlevel's East – had an oven, washer, dryer separate (all big) and wine in the kitchen.  Very nice, but for Corey’s commute…no.

Next place in Happy Valley – HUGE, except really, a see through door for toilet…really? but it was a walk up, third floor (really 4th) No way

We stayed @ Midlevel's but again, no oven.  Deal breaker.

Over to Kowloon (TST) to two great buildings.  Sorento  OMG 58th floor w/Balcony.  nice view but building in the way.  Building had holes in it so dragon could get through.

Next – to the Masterpiece.  The one on 57 we had to wait to see, so we went to the fully furnished one on 40.  Ready to go…had fallen through  FULL view of Harbor…amazing.  Saw 57 too, but that one was wardrobes, etc

So we offered less that what person wanted…but they took it!  It would cost us little to outfit it.  They gave it to us b/c we were from Seattle and they were just in Seattle.

We got notice the next day.

Saturday and Sunday -

Lots and lots of walking – exploring!  To lunch with Chris and Jenny @ Midlevel's.  Then walked around the Island.  We went to Jaspas – had chicken Caesar and Corey had pasta.

The escalators are amazing!  This place knows transport!

3 Hong Kong to come over.  6.3 HK to come back to Hum Tao (which is really Hum Hong…lol)  Dinner upstairs

Sunday we went to Corey’s office via MTR and walked it so he could get a feel.  He is across from Megabox…HUGE red building with tons of stores.  Toured Ikea (just like at home – we will be back) had lunch at CPK – it was VERY good.  Subway back, but never do tourist card again I guess.  Dinner upstairs.


It’s the crack of noon.  I am ready to shower and they are in our room.  Sent Corey off at 9:30.  to pool to read…35 min on xtrainer and weight work out

Now I am HUNGRY, dirty, ready for lunch.  took a walk outside to write and kill time.  After shower I’ll go for a walk and find lunch…such the adventurer I am…Tomorrow we move to the Nikko – it's a move to “our” area….I can look around.

Today was a taste of what life will be like.  I must start it earlier…Not good to let life start at 1.. 

Need to look up a WW meeting

Only 2402 steps…must get busy

I heard the Cannon…it must be 12 (just so you know…I have NEVER heard that Cannon again….)

Showered and took myself to lunch.  Had Japanese.  I was so proud.  Lunch was 31.90 HKD (4.50 US) Eating alone was a little weird.  I had my book.  Yay.  The service was relaxed.  I have to learn to relax.  I thought I was being ignored…I wasn’t.  I walked from hotel and back.  Shopped a little in the mall.

they were breaking out the Christmas decorations…nice.  They wait until AFTER Halloween.

Corey called.  Meeting them for dinner.  Wearing my black top and leggings.  Met Paul.  He’s Scottish.  I need to concentrate to understand him. 

We met up with the office group. It was my choice, but I thought it was appropriate. Went to Wooaloo or some such Australian Steak House. (I have since learned the real name of the place.) Started a little stiltedly, but wine loosened everyone up.  Paul is very nice.  4 kids, daughter 15, we swapped stories. Corey loved his dinner.


Moving Day.  Harbour Grande to Hotel Nikko.  We slept late (for us)  Corey was going to get up and pack but slept so I handled it.  I had pre-packed on Monday so I didn’t have much to do.

Sent Corey off.  Upstairs for breakfast.  FB has been a savior for me. Been able to chat with Kari and a little with Kirk. 

I arranged a 2pm check out.  I should have worked out but didn’t

Breakfast  OMG – today’s potato choice was mashed and no kidding it was the best MP EVER.

Packed, had a quiet morning…check out at 1 – to Nikko.  Corey had my passport..he handled it when he got in.

Unpacked and went shopping b/c we were to have dinner with Hugh and Paul  Well, Corey said I should ask, but I didn’t.  I just went out on my own.

I just kind of wandered from place to place, in and out of malls.

I did not like the DFS (Duty Free Shop)…too stalker-ish.  I left.

Found a shopping area …looked around…found a shop that looked like it had things my size.  Most things look very petite.

Found two tops cute , but about 70 USD.  Then for shoes.  I’m a 40. REALLY?  40?  Well, very few shoes that size.  Found multi-colored flats, cute, different for me.  Bargained for all.

Lovely, and again weird, not speaking the language, but both sales people really tried.

To Mody Bar for a snack and beer.

To room.  Corey picked McLovin’s for dinner (seriously).  MUST READ MENUS and stop assuming.  Don’t assume that chicken burger is chicken breast!

To K-11 to walk around…and here is where the nervous breakdown happened.


The stores are SO different, and NO pasta sauce.??  The tears really wanted to come.  We DID find taco seasoning!  But it was weird what set me off!  I mean, it was a FULL anxiety attack.

Back to Nikko, hit 10,200 steps!

Wednesday – Field Trip Day!

Corey up and out.  I went to gym and worked out on an empty stomach.  Machine kicked my butt! I did 45 minutes and some weights.  Harbour Grand had better weights, so I could do whole routine.

To room to shower and then off on my adventure to HK Island.  Map in hand

Took taxi to Star Ferry Terminal.  I literally got mad b/c price changed from 21 HKD to 22.5 HDK as we sat…It was 19 cents and I was still mad!  To HK Island.  Fair was 2.50 HKD.  Off ferry and took myself to lunch.

Had to order by number…I was only round eye there, but I was brave and even used chopsticks, as much as I could.  I had 3 dumplings, pork and noodle broth.  How am I supposed to count that? 

Then to Excelsior Hotel for AWA Charity Bazaar.  20 HKD to get in.  It was PACKED.  Chatted up lady at desk and got a bag with some coupons.  Huge Bazaar.  Tons of jewelry, but it seemed pricy.  I’m still working on conversion.  I walked around 3 times.

My calm came back to me when I saw two butchers (and a wine shop)…that delivers!  They had turkeys for Thanksgiving!

Moments of crushing loneliness.  Really missed MA there.

Bought a few things. Starbucks for coffee.  Back to terminal and walked back to hotel.

Did not get lost!

That’s it…then end of my notes.  I’m guessing I left Thursday or Friday.  I really don’t remember.

It’s so funny to read again.  I found Pasta Sauce at the store…it just wasn’t near the noodles.