Friday, July 10, 2009

Beijing Day 7 Part 2: Hutong Rickshaw Tour & Lao She Teahouse

as mentioned in my earlier post
day 7 was really educational
& i truly enjoyed myself tat day

after e dubious temple
we headed down to Qian Men Xi Da Jie for lunch
well, we sorta ended up with a small window of time where we didnt hv anything particular in mind
so we thot to hv lunch near where we booked a table 4 our night entertainment

cant remember e name of e place where we had our lunch
but it was one of e simplest meal we had in our entire trip =P

Gerry & i ordered a bowl of zha jiang mian each
*had a hard time trying to toss all e ingredients & sauce to mix them up well*
we later learnt tat in ancient times
tis was actually a dish of e poor
who wld entertain guests with leftovers mixed up in a bowl of noodles

& while eating, we kept eyeing tis rickshaw driver
who was trying to get customers for a hutong rickshaw tour
eventually we decided to try it out
& didnt regret it a single bit

e rickshaw in beijing is slightly diff from e remaining few left tat we see in sg
in sg, e driver is cycling alongside e carriage
in beijing, e driver is cycling in front of e carriage
so our driver (Liu Shi Fu, tat's how we called him) had to keep turning ard to explain stuff to us

see e 4 knobs tat are on e top of e door frame in tis pic?
in ancient times, e chinese believed strongly in men dang hu dui in marriages
basically wat it means is tat e bride & groom's families hv to b of equal social class & standing b4 a match is approved and arranged for

according to liu shi fu
e knobs on e door frame represent e social class & standing of tat family residing there
in tis instance, since there are 4 knobs
in e past there prob was a shi deng guan in e family
literal translation: 4th rank official
which, based on my limited knowledge, is already quite a high ranking official

& u see e 2 stone decoration tat flanks e 2 sides of e door frame?
apparently one can also tell wat kind of official e person is from e shape of e stones

tis pic shows e stone tat a warrior wld hv
e round drum-like shape is supposed to represent e drums used in war

then tis one is for a scholar
kekeke... no prizes if u cn guess why its rectangular shaped =P

well, e hutongs are really a dying breed in beijing
& apparently some courtyard houses (i.e. e residences) were placed under government "protection" as a cultural site

tis pic shows e ceiling of e main doorway of one such protected courtyard house
not sure if u cn see
but each square is actually a drawing of a white crane
in chinese culture, cranes are considered symbols of longevity
its prob e next most favoured bird symbol after e phoenix
*jus in case, if u didnt know, e phoenix symbolises power, virtue, grace & prosperity; no surprises why there was a time when e phoenix also referred to e empress*

children playing along e streets
well... liu shi fu was a great cyclist who manoeuvred his way ard tight corners & small alleys in a speed tat was faster than my pic-taking skills

we also had e opportunity to walk into an actual residence

tis one is their bathroom-cum-toilet
well, lets jus say tat i really appreciate my home sweet home
*we got scolded by one of e lady tenants for taking pics*

e famed Liu Li Chang market
*where e earlier dubious taxi-driver claimed was closed & sent us off to tat dubious temple*
tis is traditionally a marketplace where scholars & artists wld come to get their brushes, chinese ink, paper & other assorted stationary

we also stopped at one of e youth hostels
which was previously an ancient brothel!!

it really looked like one of those brothels in e period dramas or movies
really cld imagine e ladies all standing along e 2nd flr balconies looking down & waving their handkerchiefs at e oogling men below

all said, e hutong rickshaw tour was really worth it
came to know where e famous opera singer Mei Lan Fang was born
*kekeke... Gerry & i were so inspired, we caught e Chinese movie Mei Lan Fang on e plane on e way back to sg*

we even paid liu shi fu more than wat he quoted us
he was a wonderful guide
*ignoring his frequent spitting, which apparently is a norm for e beijing ppl anyway*
who took e time to explain & share stories with us
& also helped us take some really great photos

e entire rickshaw tour was approx 1 hr 30 mins
& we came back jus in time 4 our night entertainment
Lao She Cha Guan (Lao She Teahouse)
3 Qian Men Xi Da Jie
*look for e huge KFC & walk a little more to e west of e KFC*
tel: 6303 6830 or 6304 6334

to those who plan on visiting beijing
i wld recommend a visit to Lao She Teahouse
i mean beijing is famed for its chinese acrobatics, opera, wushu (martial arts) performances & stuff lk tat

at Lao She
u cn happily enjoy all these
& with unlimited tea refills & delicate chinese pastries

Gerry & i ordered other pastries apart from those tat came with e tix price tat we paid for
i thot e pastries were all so pretty!!
& i've never had such interesting pastries in sg...
ahem... i was so caught up with e performances as well as e pastries
tat i forgot to take a pic of them until only one of each of wat we ordered extra were left
*luckily there was still 1 each to take a pic of*

do call ahead for reservations
place was packed with tourists & locals
price depends on e performance & where u wanna seat (cn ask them to advise)
& dun b shocked if u hv to share tables with strangers

upon entering we were greeted with music by tis trio of female musicians
*was amazed by e 1st lady in e pic who was making music was fingering e edges of diff bowls filled with diff amt of water*

there's also a statue of ex-US president George Bush Senior
apparently he also visited Lao She before!!
there were many other famous ppl who came here too!
*chk out their pic gallery if u cn*

i understand tat performances may also vary
we were quite fortunate & had quite a gd variety
there were e 4 diff tea ceremonies for each season, chinese orchestra, singing, a chinese dance, opera, wushu performance, a magician etc etc etc

we werent seated tat far back
in fact tink our seats were quite gd for e price
but my camera was limited in its capability
so e pics mgt look a little small

was quite impressed with her acrobatic skills
tis one is where 2 girls were perched on each end of a stick
& e lady jus happily continued twirling e stick round n round WITH HER LEGS!!

then tis was e other performer who impressed me greatly
face-changing
which is a form of traditional chinese art performance
where basically e performer changes into diff face masks in split seconds without e audience knowing how e hell it is being done
he's really one of e best tat i've seen
there are some who would use e sleeves of their costumes to cover their faces while they are doing e face chg
but tis guy DIDN'T!!
& he was so fast with e chg tat u mgt jus hv missed it if u blinked!!
he also came down to e audience & did it rite in front of all of us
still cant fig out how e hell its being done!!

another performance tat's worth a mention
ok... i forgot wat they call tis one
but its basically a choreography involving pouring tea from a very long spout teapot
these guys were quite gd too
& they came down to e audience as well
was actually hoping tat they come over to our side but they didnt

word of caution thou if u're one of those who doesnt understand e chinese language or culture
some of e performances mgt nt make any sense to u at all
e.g. e opera tat was being performed was an excerpt from e famous chinese novel Journey to the West
which basically depicts e famed Monkey God & his adventures
however, i cld see e table of caucasian tourists tat was nxt to ours was completely clueless abt wat tis guy was doing jumping & hopping ard on stage
*they seemed quite bored with some of e performances*
so u mgt wanna get someone who's kind enuff to explain wat's happening to u

Gerry & i were one of e last to leave
cos we were happily enjoying their tea
& then we got caught up with their shop & exhibits

i particularly loved tis series of mini models of e diff types of teahouses
*didnt even know tat there were diff ones until then*
e models were not very big
but they were so life-like tat u cld really appreciate e various atmospheres tat they were trying to protray

jus to show a few tat i particularly liked
tis one is a chan cha guan
(tat's wat e chinese characters say k)
i.e. where food is also served

close-up
see how they even hv e details of e wine bottles, food & chopsticks!

then tis is a shu cha guan
literal translation: book teahouse
so u shld b able to guess wat kind of a teahouse tis is supposed to b

close-up
e guy up on stage is supposed to b one of those story-tellers
sometimes u'll also get one of those who wld b giving out riddles for e audience to guess at

last but not least, qing yin zhuo
i.e. where there is music too

close-up
my pic for tis one isnt tat clear *my apologies*
but u shld jus b able to make out some of those instruments tat e musicians on stage are holding

these models are jus totally cool right?!

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