Wo ai China!

Beijing Travel Blog

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Flea Market near Tiananmen.

The last week or so in Beijing has been great.  It hasn't been hard adjusting at all.  After a few days of rainy weather, it has become a lot more stable and either it isn't as smoggy or it isn't bothering me as much.  I am also getting the hang of campus (I got lost a lot...) and riding my bike everywhere.  I actually like the bikes a lot, they make it really convenient!

There isn't really a lot to mention from last week.  Went to a hotpot restuarant -- basically a restaurant where you cook your own food in boiling water.  This was the traditional meal that Mongolian warriors ate before going into battle.  GT students obviously would need to eat large amounts of meat to brave Tsinghua.  Kidding, but it was actually very good, the meat was far less fatty and more quality than anything I have eaten on the trip thus far.

Bart, Kevin and I in front of Mao!
  Molin (the only fluent Chinese speaker in our group) was at dinner with us and ordered for everyone which was nice.  However, he ordered a lot of meat!  They just kept bringing it to the table.

The restaurant was in the Wangfujing area, a very big shopping district in Beijing and so we shopped for a little bit after dinner.  You have to bargain a lot here to get what you want for an even halfway decent price.  We have met so many people when bargaining (usually American-born Chinese) who tell us we are getting ripped off even when we think we are getting rock bottom prices (I paid $2 for a Mao watch...).  I really like bargaining in China, though.  They seem more playful when bargaining rather than angry or mean.  They also have interesting stuff on sale.  You can find anything from a Mao lighter that plays the Chinese national anthem to chopsticks to jade statues in the street.

The demolished duck.
  Plus all of the fake stuff -- purses, jackets, backpacks, etc.  I got some nice chopsticks for about 8 US, some Christmas ornaments for family members fairly cheap (about a dollar each) and a fake North Face backpack for 6 US.  Quite a deal!

After shopping, we found a TCBY!!!  I was a little confused about how it is "The Country's Best Yogurt" if we are in China, but it was great to find something relatively healthy and American all in one blow.  Wangfujing was very nice and I am sure we will go back soon, although probably not by the Subway which was another whole ordeal in itself....

Tuesday night the Professor invited us to a traditional Chinese dinner and dancing with the Tsinghua students.  We rode our bikes to the restaurant (it was on campus) and had another interesting dim sum meal.

Me by the Great Wall. Man, it was beautiful!
  I found out later that one of the cold appetizers I ate was pig ear...chalk that one up to a learning experience.  The dancing turned out to be a group of regular Chinese people basically ballroom dancing in a little park by the restaurant.  It was very interesting, apparently they just play music at different times of the day and everyone just stops to dance.  The dancing was different than the U.S. as well...much more formal and they two people dancing hardly looked at each other.  There were a couple of professional dancers among the couples that were especially fun to watch, esp. when it got dark out and the only lights were from small twinkle lights on pagoda-like shelters.

We had a test last Thursday (on the 4th day of class).  We are currently taking manufacturing which has definitely proved to be the most challenging course so far.  It is only 2 weeks and 2 days and we have 2 tests, 2 projects, 5 HW's and a final.

I really liked this hat.
  I haven't stopped working!  Since those two dinner excursions, we haven't been able to leave campus at night.  2 hours of class, break (study), 2 hours of class, project work, hw, study.....repeat, repeat.  I can't wait for this class to be over!  However, we did get a break over the weekend and went to Tian'anmen Square, the Great Wall and the Pearl Market, all of which were far more exciting than EOQ, Newsvender and Production Planning....

I'll start with Tian'anmen Square.  The tour to the Square was arranged through our class and so we got to take a bus downtown which made things a lot simpler.  The first thing we did was walk through Mao's Mausoleum.  You have to wait in line for awhile to be able to go through and you aren’t allowed to take anything in (backpacks, cameras, etc.

What I climbed. Hmmm.
).  I, being a tourist, thought we were in line to walk through Tian’anmen Square but quickly realized my mistake when I saw Mao’s body on a raised, lighted platform.  All of the Chinese people in line with us stopped to buy flowers on the way in and put it by his grave.  I was reading in my guidebook that his body is frozen and preserved and brought out to display every day.  Kinda weird.  It would be like us saving Abe Lincoln’s body and walking by his frozen remains….

After the Mausoleum we wandered around the Square a bit and the Professor told us a couple different things to do…flea market, duck restaurants, Forbidden City, etc.  We decided to delay the Forbidden City and go find the flea market which was pretty interesting.  More bargaining, lots of different stalls.  Got a really nice camera case for relatively cheap.  Bargaining is kind of addictive, not really a good thing since this money definitely looks like play money.

We went to find the duck restaurant after the flea market, Peking Duck is pretty much Beijing’s official meal so we wanted to have it at least once while here.  We ended up back at Wangfujing street and this father/daughter pair started talking to us and asked what we were looking for.  We told them duck and they proceeded to take us to a restaurant up one of the little side streets.  They stayed with us and helped us order and then left.  It was kind of odd, but actually extremely helpful and the duck was very good!  There wasn’t much meat on it though, it seems like there is a lot of waste that they use to make a soup, which I don’t really understand because I don’t want to eat leftover duck parts any more when they are in a soup…

We shopped around a bit more after lunch, went to a chopsticks store, etc.  Headed back to Tsinghua to pass out in preparation for our Great Wall excursion the next day (leaving at 6 a.m.).  Had some Italian food that was pretty good (we managed to find the only 2 Italian restaurants anywhere near campus) and fell asleep pretty early.

The Great Wall was really amazing.  Jennifer had arranged for a bus to be chartered for everyone that wanted to go (there ended up being over 30) and we got to go to a really cool section of the Wall • Simatai.  Most tourists go to the part that is closest to Beijing (Badaling) but going further out apparently has better views as well as a more authentic view of the wall.

It took about 4 hours by bus to get there.  When we got there, as promised, there weren’t many tourists and the weather on Saturday was beautiful!  Best weather we had seen the entire time we have been in Beijing.  Not too hot, not too cold and not a cloud in the sky!  We had a pretty good lunch of some kind of Chinese food that was provided in the tour price and then started the long trek upwards.  The walk was pretty strenuous…completely uphill the whole way.  First, we had to basically climb a mountain to get to the bottom of a mountain which we climbed via the wall.  Took a couple hours to get to the very top and the views on the way were incredible.  You could see just how far the wall stretched on either side and I feel like I got a good idea of what it was like when it was first built.  It was really hard to fathom how a group of people could build a structure like this though…it is so huge!  How would they drag all of the rocks up all of the mountains.  The guidebook said that the Great Wall is the only man made monument that can be seen from space…hard to believe because it is only about 10 ft. wide in most parts but I guess it has a lot to do with the length.  We had a couple of people selling postcards, etc. follow us up most of the way and they would try to catch you when you fell and help you through the steep parts all while selling you the items they were carrying.  A lot of people got shirts that said “I Climbed the Great Wall” and Jenn said that hers should probably say that she was dragged up the Great Wall by the Chinese woman that helped her the entire way…

We got back pretty late on Saturday night and a lot of people wanted to watch the soccer game and the group headed to the Beer Garden by the West Gate.  Interesting place, probably the largest group of white people I have seen since we have been in China but that also probably has a lot to do with the fact that England was playing.  Had some kind of hoppy green beer and still ended up passing out early because I was so tired from the long day of climbing.

Sunday we all slept in.  It was great to not have to wake up to an alarm clock.  The girls wanted to go to Hong Qiao, the big Pearl Market and so we headed down at about 2.  We had made plans to meet up with some GT students from the Shanghai Study Abroad for dinner at around 6 p.m. so it gave us enough time to look around beforehand.

The taxi drivers definitely took us for a “ride” on the way there.  Our driver kept trying to speak Chinese to Carlanna and we were definitely charged more than we should have been for a ride downtown.  Regardless, we got there eventually.  The market was really cool!  More bargaining!  It had a floor of clothes, bags and shoes, a floor of electronics and watches and two floors of jewelry at the top • Pearls and otherwise.  We started in the pearl stores as that is what a lot of people tend to buy in China and we went to Sharon’s, one of the more reputable vendors according to guidebooks.  We didn’t want to get any fake pearls.  I was one of the only people that bough anything but I couldn’t help it, it was a great deal!  I got earrings, a pearl necklace and a ring for 40 USD.  And they were all freshwater pearls!  All of us want to go back later in the trip to get more jewelry for friends and family.  I couldn’t get over how cheap it was as compared to the States.  They even string the pearls right there and add the clasp which is superconvenient.

After leaving the market (we were all loaded down with shopping bags at this point) we called some of the Shanghai people and went to their hotel, which is apparently in the bar district.  The hotel was super-nice, five star I think.  Much nicer than the hostels we usually call home when traveling.  We ended up eating in the hotel at one of the restaurants and it was like a buffet type deal • pretty good.  It was nice to see and talk to some new people.  Spending every waking hour with the same 24 can get a little bit old and redundant.

After heading back to Tsinghua (we all had work to do) with the promise of seeing the Shanghai people next weekend (when we go to Shanghai), we all fell asleep pretty easily.  I am finding it easier and easier to sleep on that thin mattress…

This week (M, T, Wed.) has all been a blur.  So much work!  I haven’t been able to leave campus at all, not even for the 4th of July!  But we have managed to make a lot of travel plans • Shanghai this coming weekend, maybe staying here the next, then Inner Mongolia and Hong Kong and Macau for the last weekend.  I am the most excited about that trip as I have heard some awesome things about HK!

This is quite a long entry, I’ll write more when I’m back from Shanghai!


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Flea Market near Tiananmen.
Flea Market near Tiananmen.
Bart, Kevin and I in front of Mao!
Bart, Kevin and I in front of Mao!
The demolished duck.
The demolished duck.
Me by the Great Wall.  Man, it was…
Me by the Great Wall. Man, it wa…
I really liked this hat.
I really liked this hat.
What I climbed.  Hmmm.
What I climbed. Hmmm.
photo by: Eric