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China 10: Amazing cloisonné, dodgy driving and holiday festivities

After the big excursion up on the wall it’s fair to say we could’ve flopped for the rest of the day. Instead there was a shopping mission, the drive back to Beijing and since it was a public holiday, a nosey back at the popular lakes area.

When we were planning the trip, the friend who recommended the guide services of Joe mentioned visiting a cloisonné factory. I searched online to find out what the heck cloisonné is; intricately crafted metalware/enamelware was the answer, and I thought yes, that could be a goer.

In my head I likened it to the lacquerware factory in Vietnam where I had been utterly impressed by the expertise of the artisans – especially as they had been able to overcome various kinds of disablement caused by Agent Orange. And it was sort of like that, though I would discover that the traditional Chinese craft is a lot more expensive!

Joe was happy to add a factory visit into the day and after leaving Mutianyu we set off to find it. We found ourselves at Huairou Cloisonne where one of the sales staff came out to meet us and took us on a tour, explaining the complex six stage process.

We ended up in the showroom where orderly displays of beautiful colourful vases, bowls, plates etc etc gleamed at us. I checked a couple of price tags and my eyes watered a little. I went in search of prices that I could vaguely justify, while the saleswoman kept drawing my attention to products way out of my league.

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After much dithering (poor Mike probably bored out of his head by this stage) I settled on this vase: CNY880 or about NZ$176! Yowza. But these aren’t the knock-offs you may find in the city – the items here all went through the proper painstaking process.

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The drive back was relatively ok and while Joe’s driving was absolutely fine, the almost feral behaviour of others can create dicey moments. One of the craziest ‘rules’ is turning right into traffic – you don’t have to give way it seems, just pull out and put that onus on the car you pull out in front of. We very nearly got collected by a car doing this.

We said goodbye to Joe and traversed the busy hutong back to our hotel. He was excellent and if you need a tour guide in and around Beijing I highly recommend him.

It was Monday of the mid-autumn festival long weekend. Earlier in the trip we went to the Shichahai lakes area and thought it would be good to return there after dark for another flavour of the holiday festivities. We glimpsed the sunset on the way there and spent some time wandering around trying to find a lakeside bar/restaurant. Most places seemed to be focused on more the bar aspect so we gave up on the food idea.

The density of pedestrians didn’t put off some vehicles from making their way through and we watched a wee drama unfold as a car driven by a young female must have made contact with an elderly man as it inched through. He didn’t seem to be in pain but judging by his shouting he was far from happy. When we returned some time later, they were still there and had been joined by a policeman.

We found an upstairs bar and sat overlooking the mayhem for a while.

And then there was just one more day left in Beijing.

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