AsiaChinaBeijing

Beijing: Not for asthmatics.

Beijing Travel Blog

 › entry 30 of 251 › view all entries
Typical Beijing: cranes and smog.
The goal for the day was not too lofty: we just want to get a feel for our neighborhood. Hopefully it's not as bleak as it seems from our rather desolate apartment complex. (We love the apartment, but it feels like we are in the suburbs. The suburbs with a Cabrini Green flavor, that is.)

We set off towards the nearest subway station, Guomao. The China World Trade Center is near there, and I need to find a bank that will exchange traveller's checks (I have to pay for our apartment with cash - it's a lot of money which is why I am carrying "caveman cash" on this trip).

We stepped out of the apartment building and ... let's just say the air had a lot of "body" to it. I had to wrap my hood around my face as a breathing filter. It was that bad. I can't imagine the Olympic athletes will be able to put out peak performance in this stuff.
Workers at a river near our apartment.
I also think people with asthma or any respiratory difficulties would be in some trouble in Beijing. I have never seen pollution at this level.

We walked through the complex, past a promising looking modern art museum. Then we had to go back to the apartment because my camera didn't have a memory card in it. Start over! We finally fond ourselves walking along a large road, like a highway, through pollution and car fumes. Nice. In my travels I have had some miserable walks - Iceland comes to mind. But at least I was battling natural elements there. This pollution and dust creates a whole new level of miserable. To make matters worse, turns out the subway station is not near at all (and of course seems even further when you are walking through airborne filth!)

We finally found the station and the China World Trade Center.
Workers on break.
There were many fancy stores in there, and a grocery store stocked with all American , French and English brands. Super pricey! We had some difficulties finding Amex Bank, who couldn't help us anyway. They sent us to Bank of China, who cashed the checks after many thorough passport checks, carbon copies (with real carbon paper!) of everything, and resolute rubber-stamping of various documents.

From there, I decided I wanted to have lunch at a place listed in Fodor's, Shin Yeh. We jumped in a cab and tried to communicate that to the driver. No luck there. Jumped out, tried another approach with the next driver : we just pointed to the general area of the restaurant on the map, and he took us there. But after he dropped us off, we couldn't correlate our position to the map, and ended up walking some more.
Window shopping for haute couture at China World Trade Center.
Let me tell you, this is just not a walking kind of city! So we flagged down several cabs, and pointed to the Chinese characters in the book that spelled out the restaurant.  No one knew of it.

Finally, I decided our best bet would be a concierge, and it was easy enough to get a cab ride to Swiss Hotel. There, the friendly concierge wrote out specific directions for the driver. Success! We soon found ourselves at Shin Yeh.

But...we were not prepared for such a fancy restaurant! The restaurant was elegant and white linen. We were very inelegant in our travel wear. But they didn't turn us away and soon we were studying a bewildering menu with the waiter hovering over us.  We felt pressured to order fast (and we hadn't yet studied on meal customs here .
Cab ride attempt #1 (unsuccessful).
.. by the way, every thing is shared, family style). I ordered peanut salad and an omelet with dried turnips, and Steve unwittingly ordered an enormous seafood loaf thing and a vat of soup. This was enough food for a family of six. At least it was a delicious lesson to learn!  All that food and fancy environment set us back a mere $28. Oooh, it's so nice to finally be somewhere cheap!

Now that we knew about cabs (which are also very cheap by the way), we grabbed one right away and were whisked off to the Ya Show Clothing Market. We didn't quite know what to expect, but what we got was a huge building full of kiosks selling fake brands. You can get everything from Vuitton purses to iPhones to pearls at this place. We didn't buy anything but had fun with the retailers.
Cab ride attempt #4 (successful).
.. They would call to us, "Hey, mister! you need another shirt!"  and "Hey- you the BOSS, you the Boss! Need a jacket?" 

We soon found ourselves on the SPA floor, and since we showed a bit of interest, 15 pedicurists immediately accosted us. We ended up getting fantastic 30-minute foot massages for $4 each! Things were definitely looking up!

From there we walked to a street called Sanlitun, which is supposed to be a happening place. There were many bars and restaurants, but not much was happening. Guess it's one of those places that comes alive after dark.

From there, a cab back home. We made another grocery run (in the evening, the air seemed better by the way) and spent way too much time pondering this and that. When we got back it was too late for a big meal so we steamed some bao in our bao steamer and cooked up some broccoli. Excellent. Good times.

portia says:
hi, really enjoyed your blog. you may want to try the restaurant Xi He Ya Ju, its business card is at
http://www.travbuddy.com/photos_popup.php?placeid=171900&type=place&pos=0

I had reviewed it the last time I was in Beijing, their roast duck is to die for! since you had so much fun with the taxis, this might be a good adventure to try. Enjoy your stay there. I think Deats talked you into fish & chips, but he really likes duck too. I spent 5 days with him in Taiwan a couple of weeks back. Have fun!
Posted on: Apr 17, 2008
abuglio says:
Wow. this is totally fascinating. What an excellent entry. I can't wait to hear more about China.
Posted on: Apr 16, 2008
cmgervais says:
Ah shucks, thanks.

Bao is kind of a steamed bun or dumpling filled with meat of veggies. It's very common here, and the fact that we took so long deciding which to choose was highly amusing to the lady behind the counter!
Posted on: Apr 15, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Typical Beijing: cranes and smog.
Typical Beijing: cranes and smog.
Workers at a river near our apartm…
Workers at a river near our apart…
Workers on break.
Workers on break.
Window shopping for haute couture …
Window shopping for haute couture…
Cab ride attempt #1 (unsuccessful).
Cab ride attempt #1 (unsuccessful).
Cab ride attempt #4 (successful).
Cab ride attempt #4 (successful).
WHERE ARE WE?!
WHERE ARE WE?!
Shin Yeh restaurant.
Shin Yeh restaurant.
Shin Yeh restaurant.
Shin Yeh restaurant.
Self portrait at Shin Yeh restaura…
Self portrait at Shin Yeh restaur…
We certainly didnt go hungry! Shi…
We certainly didn't go hungry! Sh…
Ya Show Market.
Ya Show Market.
Ya Show market.
Ya Show market.
Foot massage step one: a soak in h…
Foot massage step one: a soak in …
Foot massage, ahhhhh!
Foot massage, ahhhhh!
$4 Foot massage at Ya Show market.
$4 Foot massage at Ya Show market.
Man agressively tried to seel Stev…
Man agressively tried to seel Ste…
Steve shopping (unsuccessfully) fo…
Steve shopping (unsuccessfully) f…
Steve almost bought a $23 bike.
Steve almost bought a $23 bike.
Steamed bao for dinner.
Steamed bao for dinner.
Beijing
photo by: Deats