I'd only slept for 1 1/2 hours, but I was glad for whatever rest I got. C and I showered and got ready, and by 6.30 a.m., we went downstairs for breakfast. I was glad that the breakfast buffet spread was good. It wasn't exactly scrumptious and elaborate ... but at least there were things that I could eat. The tour guide kept reminding us that breakfast was RMB88.00 per pax at Maya Island Hotel.
Some photos I snapped that morning of my friends' plates ....
Vermicelli - dry and hard and tasted funny; I was glad there were freshly cut vegetables every morning; we loved the steamed purple sweet potato which we ate every morning; The herbal tea egg was a bit too salty
There wer bacon, cold cuts, fried rice and egg omelette as well
Soybean milk, some baked goods were available ...
For the first 2 mornings, I made sandwiches with bread, bacon, cold cut meats, and vegetables .... after 2 mornings, I got bored and gave up.
It was a pleasant morning outside, not too hot. At 7.30 a.m., we boarded the bus but we left only at 7.50 a.m. Our tour group was large - there were 40 of us, mostly Chinese but from different parts of the world. There's a Taiwanese-Australian mother and son, a Singaporean-Chinese couple, 5 American-Chinese, 4 Chinese from Southern China. The rest were Malaysians - 15 (3 families) from West Malaysia, 12 of us from East Malaysia, and my friend C is a Bidayuh.
The tour guide was Apple - she's 37 years old, petite. She has been a tour guide for 18 years. I would say that she's quite knowledgeable about the history of the Chinese dynasties, and could speak for long about the notable emperors and empresses related to the places we would visit. But then, being so experienced on the job already, it's not surprising that she would already have those information at her fingertips.
I found Apple to be narcissistic and full of self-praise. She's won 8 awards, she said. She's telling us that we're lucky to have an award-winning tour guide. So we had better appreciate it. But why is it that I cannot feel the sincerity of what she says and I cannot feel her hospitality. Then, she's always telling us that it's not obligatory for her to do something for us, but she's doing it anyway. So then why is she telling us that she's done that much for us? Is she telling us that we should appreciate the effort that she has put into her job.
Apple said we did not have the right to be tired. She said she should be the one who was more tired than us. We were on holiday while she was the one working. Therefore, she called us out for sleeping in the bus. "Oy! Oy!" she called out to us. Both C and I ignored her. But actually, I found her to be very rude when she did that. Didn't she have the courtesy to even address us properly? Oy? Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Besides being a tour guide, Apple was also a hardcore salesperson. From the start, she INSINUATED that we HAD to spend at the shopping stops that she would be bringing us. We should show her how we appreciated her by spending lavishly at the shops that we would visit.
The first stop was a jade outlet ... and during the journey, Apple told us an elaborate story about how her late grandmother's jade bangle which has costed at least RMB30,000 had protected her when she fell down one time. She also showed us the jade bangle she was wearing, said to be worth RMB50,000. It's imperative for every Chinese person to own a piece of Jade! That's what she insisted. Good quality jade would increase in its value as time passes by, she said.
A staff polishing jade ...
So we spent about 2 hours at this jade shop; Well, I liked jade. It's just that I did not know how to buy one. How would I know how to differentiate between real and fake ones? So I merely browsed around the outlet. After a while, some of my friends bought pillows made from stone beads; each was selling for RMB390.
Next, we went to The Juyong Pass of The Great Wall of China. Finally, I was about to see something. The Juyong Pass is the nearest to Beijing ... and probably the steepest. Apple was more interested to get us to spend - buying Great Wall of China certificates at hundreds of RMB. We ignored her when she asked us to congregate in front of the shop. We headed straight for the wall. Heh.
I did not climb all the way up. I only climbed halfway ... I found the steps too high to maneuver. My friend CV said my legs were too short to make the climb. Lol. Anyway, I did not want to force myself. I was just happy to enjoy the cool weather, and to take photos of the wall for the rest of the time we spent here.
The Juyong Pass of The Great Wall of China
View from high up ...
We lingered at the Great Wall for about an hour, marvelling at the sheer size of its construction and what it took to build them years ago without modern equipment. After an hour here, we boarded the the bus again.
Lunch time was at a restaurant located inside the jade outlet. Again, Apple launched the defensive strategy, in a way, telling us that we should not expect a lot for meals.
Egg-drop soup, cabbage, baby bokchoy, cucumber stir-fry, broccoli stir-fry, potato shreds, pork with sweet chilli, spicy chicken dices, braised tofu
Minced meat filling was found inside .... tasted ordinary ...
Light and refreshing.
Beer was cheap in China and sometimes we got served a bottle or two during meals
Well, there was nothing interesting about the food they served us - and it set the pattern of what we were going to eat for the next few days. In fact, for every meal, we got more or less the same type of dishes - the most popular being the egg-drop soup, cabbage, baby bokchoy, and cucumbers. But at least, the dishes were edible. I lived on cup noodles when I last went to Jiuzhaigou in Chengdu.
After lunch, we went to visit the hutong. There are many Hutongs in Beijing. We went to Guowang Hutong. I'd rather walk around the neighbourhood .. but Apple had arranged for trishaws to bring us around the neighbourhood ....
Hutong refers to the narrow alley way that connect these residences. Nowadays, the alleyways seemed big enough for cars to drive on. At one stretch of the road, a car drove behind our trishaw. The impatient driver let out a few honks and seemed quite keen to run us over!
When we boarded the bus, Apple spun the story about the marvels of traditional chinese medicine, and how the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences has aided with Mr. Lee Hsien Loong's treatment of cancer. Hmn, really ... did Apple take us for fools? Where was the proof in what she said? We really had to take what she said with a grain of salt as it was just a sales tactic she employed.
Our bus stopped in front of the hospital - the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences. I thought we were going to visit the hospital. But no. Apple led us across the road to a small building. An LED display read ...
Affiliated? Or just another shopping stop?
We were all ushered into a room ... and then a "lecturer" came in and talked to us briefly about traditional Chinese medicine. He offered to take our pulse in order to check our general well-being. Only a handful of people in our group had their pulses read. While the rest of us were waiting, the sales team came in and tried to push us to buy Bao Fu Ling and medicated plasters. I'd bought Bao Fu Ling years ago when I went to Shanghai. I did not think it was that good. Since then, I'd never bought it again in my trips to China. I did not intend to buy Bao Fu Ling as well this time. I was quite interested in the medicated plasters, only that it was very expensive. RMB300 a can. I did not think it was worth that much money. So I did not buy anything.
Next stop was Wang Fu Jing 王府井.We went to the snack street, where we bought some food to share.
Stinky tofu, RMB10
Too smelly for some; I found the stinky tofu a bit too dry; I ate 2 pieces. My friends too ate 1 or 2 pieces. We threw away the rest as no one else wanted to eat them. Lol.
Deep-fried squid, RMB20
This was delicious. The squid was thick and meaty and the crust was savoury and crunchy. Yummy.
Hawthorn candy, RMB10
I'd never appreciated hawthorn candy much ....
Offal, not sure how much this was
I ate a piece of intestine but did not like it ..
We exited the snack street into the Wang Fu Jing Main Street. This place is said to be in existence since the Ming Dynasty. Of course, now it's very modernised.
Wang Fu Jing Shopping Street
How I wished I had time to experience the more glamourous street of Beijing; for down the road are big brand names like the Apple store, Prada, Burberry, etc
Green tea ice-cream, RMB6.00
Very yummy ice-cream from Wuyutai Tea House
Then we walked to a restaurant within the snack street, where we were to have our dinner. The restaurant was called Bao Feng Lou 宝丰楼. The minute I walked in, I smelt the stale stench of the hot pepper oil .... Eew. The restaurant, the crockery and cutlery looked worn. They certainly did not whet my appetite.
Egg-drop soup, cabbage, baby bokchoy, sweet chilli stirfry. sweet chilli with egg, sweet chilli with pork, roasted chicken, roasted duck, fish
Of all the dishes, I liked the sweet chillies the most. :))
After dinner, we drove back to the hotel. We sure looked forward to catch up with some sleep, having the lack of it the night before!!