Beijing: Not for asthmatics.
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 30 of 251 › view all entries
April 15th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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