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Turns out no one wants to go to the police station.

Beijing Travel Blog

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Me and Lisa at Bally's Beijing.
I'm now becoming quite an expert at Chinese cab usage. There's a trick to it, considering the language barrier. The driver's personality can really help or hinder one's chances of success. I've taken to grouping the cab drivers into two categories: they are either either Merry or Sullen. (Sorry to say, most of them are in the latter category.)

But one funny cab driver we had yesterday morning made up for a dozen cranky ones. I was sitting in the front seat, and he carried on a lively one-sided conversation in Chinese with me, complete with hand and arm gestures. The gestures had to do with where we were going (Bally's Fitness), so I was able to play along with cartoon jogging motions. When we got to our destination, I said "thank you" in Chinese as I exited the cab.
Self portrait at Bally's Beijing. Pretty much had the place to myself!
(This is no small task ... I believe I would require surgery to make the proper sounds to say it correctly). But he obviously understood me, and was amused. He  then honored me by replying in my language, which came out kind of like, "Schenk ooooo" (not great, but his English was undoubtedly much better than my Chinese rendition). I clapped, nodded, laughed, he did the same, then we all said it a few more times in Chinese for good measure. It was just a nice cross-cultural exchange.  I liked that guy.

My friend and loooong time travel partner Lisa is visiting from Minneapolis (yippee!). She arrived last night, so we were "up late" talking and getting situated. Until midnight! We got up early (6am), and the three of us -- me, Lisa, and Steve -- headed out to Bally's bright and early.
Bally's Beijing.
We were able to get in this time, and found it to be a very hot, smaller (and much more empty) version of a Bally's at home, complete with Life Fitness equipment. Not bad. Had a decent work out.

After Bally's, our plan was to be dutiful tourists and register with the Chinese police. You are supposed to do this within 24 hours of your arrival. So we hopped in a cab and I showed the driver the address in Chinese characters. He shook his head, said a bunch of stuff that I took to mean, "Police? What, are you kidding me? Get outta here!"  We then tried another cab and got the exact same reaction. So we decided to give up on the notion for now (I am OK with skipping it altogether, as the concept rankles me thoroughly) and went to the grocery store instead.

If it seems that I spend a lot of time in the grocery store, well.
Me at Carrefour.
.. I do. The stuff they sell here is fascinating! I could spend hours. Well, I do spend hours. Here we have a perfectly normal deli case with various foods displayed ... oh, and what's that? Oh, yes, of course, CHICKEN FEET (ewww!).  And over there, we have a full section of jelly fish! In my favor is a huge case of bean curd products -- fantastic! With Lisa here, we had all of this to explore anew. So we spent a long time there, and pretty soon our plan to go out for lunch seemed too distant. We needed to eat, now! So we each got some mysterious noodle-based thing from the prepared foods section.

Back at home, we set upon our meals with trepidation. Frankly, mine looked like tripe or intestines. It was actually bean curd noodles stir-fried with vegetables -- spicy and delicious.
Unwrapping the "noodle surprise" for lunch.
It was an enormous pile of food for under $1! Steve had spaghetti noodles with a variety of peanuty spicy sauces (also under a dollar), and Lisa had noodles with vegetables and some mystery meat (which she pulled out and gave to Steve.) Lisa was the big spender in the group, as her meal came to about $1.20.

From there we decided to head to Tiananmen Square. An easy day was planned, because Lisa may be battling jet lag in the afternoon (Turns out she was absolutely fine, which is typical. I had some sort of sympathy jet lag though, and was sleepy all day. I even dozed in the cab! I think it's because I was "up late."). The driver gave us a little hassle that we couldn't understand, and dropped us a little ways from the actual square. No idea what the problem was.
Steve admires the National Theater.
From there we walked past the big "duck egg," more formally know at the National Theater. This controversial structure was Beijing's first taste of "modern architecture." We all thought it was pretty cool looking.

We finally found our way into Tiananmen Square, and my first reaction was... This is it? Considering the history and drama behind this place, and of course the sheer overwhelming size, I guess I expected more. As it was, I was completely underwhelmed. It was a huge expanse of concrete with some statues, frequently punctuated by soldiers. Big deal.

We gawked about for awhile and soon a woman came up to Lisa and asked her to pose for a photo. Lisa looked confused (understandable, right?) and the lady jumped up and down saying "please, please, please!" So Lisa smiled and said cheese, then another lady wanted a photo .
Lisa poses with her new friend.
.. weird! A crowd was forming so we got out of there quick lest Lisa spend the entire afternoon as a photo prop. What was that about? We determined it must be because she is 5'10" tall -- she is the amazing Tall White Woman! Too funny.

As we exited I happened to notice a women carrying a sign -- smallish, but definitely meant for others to read. How odd, I thought --  you just don't see that type of thing here. Pretty soon Steve alerted us that the police were making an arrest right behind us -- sure enough, they scooped up that lady within minutes of her displaying the sign! I wonder what it said?! Can you even imagine this? Oooh, I could rant here, but I really don't want to get political. This is just a travel blog.
Boat on Qianhai lake.
Plus my heart rate is becoming dangerously elevated just thinking about it... so I am going to move on to the next subject now.

From there we decided to check out a place listed in Fodor's which was a bar with no name in an area called Houhai.  Since the place doesn't have a name it was hard to instruct the cab driver. We do like a challenge! I just gave him the phone number and he had a lengthy conversation that resulted in us being let off in the general vicinity of the bar, in a very quaint and cute neighborhood on a lake. It was obviously Tourist Central, as the hawkers were everywhere, selling tours and pedicab rides. The setting was so pretty, with willows over the lake, and old wooden buildings. 

We finally found our bar, a ramshackle place and none too clean.
No name bar. Better go now, before it falls down.
The floor hadn't been swept since the Qing Dynasty, and as we sat drinking our beers a man walked in, hacked up a loogie, and expelled it right there on the floor! Nice. (And typical, unfortunately). Oh well. We sat on our little benches and enjoyed our overpriced beers and peanuts in well worn ambiance.

From there we walked around the area. There were some quaint little shops, fancier restaurants, and lots more people than our neighborhood. Pricing levels are completely different here, too.

The cab ride home took a very long time and was astronomically expensive -- over $5! We steamed up our newly purchased bao, and discovered it all contained meat. Dang. Lisa dissected hers and removed the meat, but I stuck with broccoli, left over rice, and a salad. For dessert she and I had peanut butter sandwiches. Good thing Steve likes bao, because he now has nine of them to eat...


mga_galang_paa says:
Thanks! I enjoyed reading it.
Posted on: Apr 18, 2008
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Me and Lisa at Ballys Beijing.
Me and Lisa at Bally's Beijing.
Self portrait at Ballys Beijing. …
Self portrait at Bally's Beijing.…
Ballys Beijing.
Bally's Beijing.
Me at Carrefour.
Me at Carrefour.
Unwrapping the noodle surprise f…
Unwrapping the "noodle surprise" …
Steve admires the National Theater.
Steve admires the National Theater.
Lisa poses with her new friend.
Lisa poses with her new friend.
Boat on Qianhai lake.
Boat on Qianhai lake.
No name bar. Better go now, before…
No name bar. Better go now, befor…
Grocery shopping, again.
Grocery shopping, again.
Fresh vegetables put our for lunch…
Fresh vegetables put our for lunc…
Watch out for the poison parts!
Watch out for the poison parts!
Lisa is (somewhat) happy with the …
Lisa is (somewhat) happy with the…
Cleaning the moat of The Nationa…
Cleaning the "moat" of The Nation…
Mao (and lots of soldiers) look ov…
Mao (and lots of soldiers) look o…
Guard at Tiananmen Square.
Guard at Tiananmen Square.
Flag seller at Tiananmen Square.
Flag seller at Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Square.
Monument plaque at Tiananmen Squar…
Monument plaque at Tiananmen Squa…
Guard at Tiananmen Square.
Guard at Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Square.
I think the uniform is rather fetc…
I think the uniform is rather fet…
Lisa acts as a photo prop.
Lisa acts as a photo prop.
Tiananmen lion.
Tiananmen lion.
We thought they were doing some so…
We thought they were doing some s…
Local brew. Good stuff.
Local brew. Good stuff.
Steve opts for a Chimay at no nam…
Steve opts for a Chimay at "no na…
Me and Lisa being tourists.
Me and Lisa being tourists.
Steve at no name bar.
Steve at "no name bar."
What remains of our afternoon.
What remains of our afternoon.
You can kind of see the sun set th…
You can kind of see the sun set t…
Street scene in Houhai area.
Street scene in Houhai area.
Beijing
photo by: Deats