The rain finally caught up to us. We’ve travelled through India and Southeast Asia during rainy season with maybe one hour (cumulative) of rain in our way. It was great. But today, it finally caught up with us and we had a full day of rain. Miserable, heavy, angry sheets of rain. I suppose it will help clear the Beijing sky, since the smog made it look like we were in Silent Hill when we arrived yesterday.
Anyhow, when all this rain started pouring down on us we were at the Summer Palace of Beijing. It looks and feels alot like the China Pavilion at EPCOT, with its carefully manicured lawns and picturesque architecture and serene scenes. On a nice day the palace grounds would be stunning, but on a day like today, we couldn’t help but worry about when the rain would stop! At one point, we went down into a little shopping area modeled after a Chinese market in Suzhou. When the rain came, tons of mud went gushing on to one section of sidewalk in this area. People were struggling to stay dry and keep their nice little white shoes clean, but it was all for nothing. Mike called it the “Summer Palace Mudslide.” Everyone at the park got soaked today. A few people in the park, though, were determined to see as much as possible and were still trying to walk to pavilions and temples while it was pouring rain and the park had already closed. We admired their determination, but, we weren’t interested in continuously being soaked. Besides, with as much hacking and spitting as goes on in any public space in China, we were disgusted at the thought of the rain washing that off the sidewalks, only to land on our soaking shoes.
On that note, there is seriously a problem with spitting (and yucky snot rockets) in China. I know it is cultural and all, but it sounds terrible, looks disgusting, and is completely unhygienic. People do it on the street, on the sidewalk, in planters, on the floor in the Metro, everywhere. Old men, young men, old ladies, young ladies, kids, everyone. A few years ago I read an article about problems with the behavior of “mainlanders” at Hong Kong Disneyland. The reports included things such as urinating into flowerbeds, cutting lines, and spitting everywhere. It was such an issue that signs preventing such behavior were put up and etiquette was strictly enforced by “Disney cast members” at the HK park. At the time I read the article I was in disbelief about how such behavior could actually occur among adults, but, now I have seen with it my own eyes. On a positive note, we did see a cute little video on the Metro on the way to the Summer Palace teaching queue etiquette and manners for getting off and on the train car on the Metro.
After leaving the Summer Palace, we went back and had a quick meal at the Xidan shopping area (walking distance to our hotel), and called it a night. Tomorrow we hope the weather is better so we can see some downtown Beijing sites.
Pictures were nearly impossible since we kept having to store the camera to keep it from getting soaked. We did manage to snap a few good ones, but not many. A little story on the last photo below…. we normally use a few different tricks to get photos without any (or with minimal) background strangers spoiling the shot. The last shot is at “The temple of the Fragrant Buddha” (the Chinese just love names like this), and it was pretty crowded. As long as people are steadily moving, and they’re not wearing any really bright colors (red, anything pastel or neon, or solid white), they can mostly be eliminated when bracketed shots are blended. The problem is when you have lots of people moving in the shot and a few of them that just want to sit or stand in the same exact spot. Then, instead of being washed out of the photo in a faint blur, they become prominently highlighted. So, if we have what we think is a good shot, and a few lollygaggers are standing around, we usually wait a minute or two until they clear out and give us an open window. If they stand around like an idiot for a while, usually just sending an uninterrupted blank stare their way is enough to get them to move along. Sometimes though, after looking our way in acknowledgment, they may get a little passive aggressive and really hang out in the frame for a while. That’s when you have to do the same right back and go and stand awkwardly directly in front of whatever they’re trying to photograph. That usually does the trick and, with the exception of the Taj Mahal, we’ve mostly been able to eliminate crowds from photographs. So, at the temple of the Fragrant Buddha, we had that bottom shot framed up, and Mike noticed this old white guy (he was a Spaniard) sitting on the ledge right in the middle of the otherwise mostly empty frame. He was a scrawny guy, maybe in his sixties with gray curly hair styled like he got a perm at a nursing home. He had an older Nikon SLR with a mega-zoom lens and was completely absorbed on this somewhat discrete ledge snapping away tele shots from an anonymous distance. His “wife” was inside the temple pretending to be Buddhist, and this went on for several minutes before we decided this guy didn’t seem to be moving along. Mike asked me to head up to the ledge and give him the passive aggressive “no more photos here buddy” routine. So, I headed up there and sat a few feet in front of him on the ledge in the direction he was shooting. I unfolded the HUGE map of the Summer Palace (because the place really is huge) and did a pretty good job of blocking whatever he was doing. But, he just shifted a little bit, and started shooting again from a slightly different angle. That’s when I realized what this creep was shooting: little kids. Specifically, little girls in the 8-10 year old range. He had the camera at full zoom and I looked and could see exactly what he was shooting, a little elementary school-aged Chinese girl running and playing, who was wearing a little summertime outfit. Then I looked right at him and gave him the dirtiest look I could, like “I see what you’re doing.” He looked a little sheepish at this, then looked away. His wife emerged from the temple and he hurriedly tucked the camera away like he’d just been sitting there quietly pondering on the paintings and reliefs on the temple. I don’t even know if what he was doing is specifically illegal in China. It should be though, and if he was caught doing that in the U.S., especially in the south, I don’t think it would go well for him. Anyway, the guy left after that and we got the shot you see at the bottom.
That’s about it for today. We did realize we had a couple short video clips from the “Tiger Temple” back in Thailand after we had already posted for that. We figured we’d upload them on a rainy day or something. That’s perfect for today! Anyway, it’s a short little clip, but here you go: