Great Wall, Forbidden City, Beijing pharmacy tour
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 5 of 8 › view all entries
Beijing is an amazing city. I'm told it's a bit cleaner and prettier for the Oympics, but this city is huge, spotless, full of flowers and trees, and completely modern (except for the narrow hutong neighborhoods). Yes, the smog is awful. Worse than Pomona, CA in the late 80's. My photos of all the sites will be gray, and I've arrived at the best time possible...they've already started limiting the cars on the road (alternating by license plate #), and 70 or 80% of factories stopped production.
Olympics fever is everywhere...the 5 cutesy Olympic mascot characters are everywhere, and billboards with Beijing Welcomes You, or We Are Ready! are all over. Signs in English are everywhere, and instructions and maps are everywhere.
My first few days I checked into a charming courtyard hotel in a hutong (the Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel)...walking by the scallion pancake cooking guys in the morning, trying to get thru the crush of bikes, street sweepers and old folks sitting on buckets playing Chinese chess. The hotel was all carved wood, red lanterns, embroidered silk bedspreads and flowers, and thoroughly modern...flat screen TV, fancy new bathroom with water pressure.
My big adventure here has been touring the pharmacies of Beijing. I got a bladder infection (yay, fun) the last day in Mongolia. I had an antibiotic with me, but wanted to know if it was the right one to take, how much to take, etc. It was a comedy trying to explain my predicament...my dictionary didn't have 'bladder' in it, so I was trying to pronounce 'urine infection' and they showed me some diarrhea medicine (it had English on the back), so I pointed to my butt and said, "Not here...HERE," (pointing to my front). I'm sure the entire pharmaceutical community here thinks I'm syphilitic or something.
I finally found a Chinese hospital--the dr. gave me a prescription for an antibiotic without any tests. I later looked it up in the Internet and it said it's not effective for this type of infection.
My tour started a few days ago...I'm the only one in the group! Private tour. Apparently, very few visas were issued to make sure the athletes got theirs. My tour leader is Jackie--26 years old from Yangshuo. We went to Tianan'men Square (big - the biggest main square in the world...fits half a million people in it...reminds me of an oversized Washington, DC), Forbidden City (amazing...it just goes on and on), Summer Palace (beautiful), Bei Hai Park (lovely), The Temple of Heaven (ok, but the temples are starting to look alike) and climbed the Great Wall at Mutianu (surprisingly uncrowded, but it was so hot that day my face was turning purple and I was sweating bullets - could only post the photo of me before I started the climb to the top!).
Jackie, my tour leader, is a former chef from the cooking school I'll be going to in Yangshuo, so she's taking me to the real Chinese places and I let her order. Last night we went to a famous Beijing restaurant...they had wacky entertainment, like a dough-twisting guy and a caramelized-sugar-sculpting guy, plus a local tv celebrity singing traditional songs. Everyone clapped and yelled things back (the Chinese version of dueling pianos?).
I also grabbed dinner one night at Wangfujing Street...the famous food street with all those vendors selling fried scorpions, starfish, etc. I got some grilled octopus on a stick...the Chinese were lined up for that, so it seemed like a good bet. And it was good...looks funny with the tentacles sticking out though. No one really eats the scorpions and seahorses unless it's a dare. But it's fun to watch folks do it. Got some caramelized grapes on a stick too. Everything's on a stick! Also had some buns with spring onions - another line for those, and they were good too.
Found a musical instrument store on Wangfujing Street - the guy who worked there knew how to play everything in the store! It was amazing. I wanted to buy something I could bring home and I finally found a reed instrument made out of a gourd that I could put in my backpack, and actually get a few sounds of out it.