Monday, June 3, 2019

A trip to China - Day 2 - On our way to the Beijing Zoo to see the Pandas

Day 2 - The friendship hotel, building number 4

I don't think by the end of the stay the hotel finished up with any friends.  But it was probably good that we started with the oldest and most quirky of hotels, setting the tone of what we can expect, and hoping it could only get better.
The whole setting for the hotel is amazing, with buildings set in beautiful gardens.  The foyer was polished marble, cavernous and implied a luxury we expected.
By the time we got to our rooms all those expectations were shattered.  All show and no substance, it is an omen.  Even the passageways belied what was behind the doors.

Perhaps it would be better to label it as an army barracks because that's what some people said it reminded them of.
And the bed?
A 6 by 3-foot lump of five-ply board would have more give in it.  Don't try jumping up and down on these beds or you'll break a leg.
Our guide tells us that these sorts of beds are good for us.  Maybe if we had been using them since birth, but not when you're pushing 70.  So much for that Feng Shiu north-south thing which I find somewhat hard to understand.

Breakfast is in the Friendship Palace a room set aside that is rather like a barn with all the breakfast food arranged down the middle and tables scattered either side. 
One small observation which I thankfully noticed at the end of the stay was the carpet stains that emanated from under the food and spreading out towards the tables, no doubt made by food sliding off serving utensils and plates, and not being adequately cleaned after the hoards of trip a deal visitors were finished.
Perhaps whoever organises the accommodation might consider a better introduction to China that to have everyone starting with the impression Chinese hotels are small, cramped, and suffer from a basic lack of cleanliness.
After breakfast we assemble in the foyer ready to be taken on our first adventure, to negotiate Beijing traffic. 
Here is where we first learn about scooters, and the fact anyone can buy one, no licence needed, and for anyone else on the road, beware.  We soon learn why we are being cautioned to look in every direction before stepping onto a road.
And get to see the infamous Building No 4 in daylight.

Beijing Zoo

The sad truth is, an hour is too long if all you're going to see is the pandas.
Because apart from the idea of seeing pandas and in particular the giant pandas, there did not seem to be much more to see in the amount of time we had allocated. 
Another hour, maybe, might have made all the difference, but I think that extra time might have clashed with the pearl factory, and that, for obvious reasons, was deemed to be more important.
And, the giant pandas are far and few between, and those that were on show were relatively lethargic, as though the had a big weekend, and we're sleeping it off. 

Then, remarkably, we came across one that decided to be a little more energetic and did a walk in front of hundreds of Chinese who had undoubtedly come to show their children the animals.

This Panda was also easier to photograph whereas the other panda, one chewing on a morning feast of bamboo, saw a lot of pushing and shoving by the spectators to get the best spot to take his photograph.  Having manners just doesn't cut it here, so do what you have to to get that photograph.

We also saw a couple of monkeys that were also in the panda enclosure, but they were not much of a side benefit.
There was no time really to wander off to see much else, but apparently, there were also red pandas, and a number of other animal groups, and surprisingly, a category call Australian animals.  But, who goes to another country to view your own animals?
The cutest animals were the stuffed pandas, and they were quite reasonably priced.
Back on the bus, and off to the Longing pearl factory, you know the sort of place, the one where the tour guide gets a cut of every sale.

Longing Pearl Factory

As soon as you get in the door you are marshalled to an oyster shucker, who gives you a rundown on the different types and colour of pearls.
Then there's a demonstration, where an unsuspecting punter is selected to pick an oyster out of the tank, then there's the guessing game as to how many pearls are in the shell, with the winner getting a pearl.

Guesses ranged from 1 to 23 and the answer was 26.  Nearest wins, and one for the person who picked the oyster out of the tank.  Now with the punters suitably warmed up, we move on the ways we can tell the difference between real and fake pearls.
It seems strange that they would but we were guaranteed by both the tour guide and the lady delivering the lecture that the pearls we were about to buy were real, so how could we suspect there was anything dodgy about them?
And, just to let you know, the prices are very, very expensive, even if they say they have a special.

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