Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 4 - This Tour Goes to ELEVEN! Part IV - Lunch

 - with Beijing Rice Liquor & Fastest Tour of a Cloisonné Factory Ever.

Quick - What's Cloisonné? 

(It's that art form of metal items (vases, boxes, hair clips, bracelets etc., etc.) covered in  metal (copper-alloy) defined shapes of enamel.)  

         We've all seen some of it, maybe owned bits and pieces.  And in China, like jade, it is big government business for the government.  
Why do I bring this up? Because our lunch took place in the upstairs restaurant at this tourist stop.  On our way up to the restaurant we got the fastest tour ever.

Here are the vessels with the metal shapes. (Look Quick!)

Here are the women filling in the enamel. (Don't Blink... or you'll miss it)

Here are some examples drying. (No one's working here... extra dim)

Here are some of the vessels from the first firing.  (Keep moving, keep moving)

Here are vessels next to the kiln. (Wait... can I see?  Uh- )

Here are the polishers. (Zip... not even time for pictures)

We got to see these things at rapid fire speed. One wonders about the workers' eyes as the lighting was rather terrible.  Well I s'pose at lease they no longer have to work by candle/oil lamp light.  Or in freezing open air factories to get natural day light?  Now it's 50 degrees in the winter.  Not so bad if you wear your coat.  And you can see from the blurry pictures - we were rushed along, and the camera couldn't focus in the low light.
And in the end I realize I didn't even get a picture of a finished vase.  My guess is this factory wasn't really on our schedule, or Eleven didn't have a good agreement with this particular stop, and was getting nothing.  Either way, we were certainly NOT encouraged to look around or shop here.

So we were herded upstairs to a noisy but spartan restaurant.  The food was generally bland, limp and generally beige in color.  (Except for the dumplings. They were tasty)  But a definite contradiction to the ideal of the Chinese meal that is balanced and attractive in both looks and flavors.  I figure it was a nice quick and fortunately short lived glance into the flavors of Communist China.  The only unrealistic aspect there is we were not starving to begin with, and there was plenty of food for us to eat, however bland it might be.  At least the tea wasn't unforgivably bitter.
We were also given a sample of the local rice liquor, "a Beijing specialty."  It definitely fell into the category of meszcal, home brewed vodka, or certified-not-poisonous moonshine.  It was alcohol alright, and your mouth was definitely cleaner after you drank it.  And if you needed an emergency sterilizer for the life-saving amputation you might need to perform, you might have something here.  That's about all the positive things I can say about it, other than the cups it was served in were robin's egg sized so you didn't accidentally take a big mouthful and have to spit it out theatrically.
As a mildly odd/amusing note - as we were getting ready to leave, a bus tour of a large networking company, of the NetGear sort, came in for lunch.  Huh!  Interesting what happens when you concentrate all the loose Westerners in one place.
And we were done with lunch.. and off to the next destination.

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