Tuesday, October 12, 2010

China: Day 2: Jade factory

The adorable “the Jerry” gave us a wake-up call each morning but on day 2, Gill and I chose to ignore his call and snoozed for another 30 minutes until the alarm clock that Gilly packed (I told you this girl is organized), promptly announced the beginning of our “Great Wall” day! We quickly got dressed and then went down to have the famous Lido Holiday Inn breakfast, and boy, what a treat!!!! All the western breakfast foods that one could possibly want (definitely not need) and once again we felt like jumping on the tables, just like our beds the previous night, and shout “Hurray”. You see, in Korea (and probably China too) there is no distinction between breakfast/lunch/dinner - it all consists of rice, kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) and vegetables. This I find really annoying because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and I love going out for a nice brunch. Unfortunately, for the past 8 months a real English breakfast has been but a distant memory BUT now it all changed, and we fuelled up on yummy breakfast foods – enough to last for the day!!!! “The Jerry” had to literally come fetch us from the breakfast table, where we, like queens, leisurely sipped our breakfast coffee, so that the bus could take us to our first stop: The Jade carving factory.

In China, Jade is known as the imperial gem and dates back as far as 6000BC when it was mined for the first time. It is colorless when pure but also comes in orange, lavender and pink. It is, however, the various shades of green, in China known as Feicui, that Jade is better known for – the brighter colors being most sought after. Even today, this pretty green rock plays a significant role in Chinese culture where Jade bracelets, instead of diamond rings, are used as wedding bands. Jade, just like diamonds, can last forever and reaches a minimum hardness of 6.5 on the Moh’s Scale (Diamonds is a 10). Here I must add that some Jade also come in diamond ring prices reaching up to $3000 an ounce. Of course, way above my little budget, but I did get to try on one of these wedding bands and it was quite interesting how they determine the size: first you have to make your left hand (chosen because its closer to the heart) into a fist. Then they measure the first three knuckles on your hand (index, middle and ring finger). This measurement will be the diameter of your jade bracelet, which they will then, with a plastic packet, maneuver over your hand. In my case, because I apparently have soft hands according to Chinese standards, the sales lady actually just measured the first two knuckles (index and middle finger) and I’m not joking when I say it looked like an infant’s bracelet. At first I was not quite sure if I should try on this minute piece of jewellery, but the sales lady promised that any bracelet that got stuck could be kept, so I was game! I really didn’t have anything to loose, except for a hand should I ever want to get rid of the bracelet. (Un) fortunately the plastic bag trick really worked and I was surprises at how comfy this bracelet fit around my wrist. Definitely a trick I’ll remember!!!! We browsed around for a bit, admiring all the pretty things we couldn’t afford and then it was time to go again – next stop: The Great Wall of China!!!!! (to be continued)

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