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The Night Market

Beijing Travel Blog

 › entry 19 of 22 › view all entries
Jason and I are standing outside of the Forbidden City.

        My traveler's clock read 6:30 a.m. when I decided to sit up in my soft-sleeper bunk after a miserable night on the train. Thanks to the man in the bunk across from me, who snored at a truly unfathomable magnitude throughout the night's entirety, I estimated that I had no more than three uncomfortable hours of sleep. I wanted to glare at the man who woke refreshed and cheerful as the rest of us were made to suffer throughout the long night. However, there was no time for glaring or ill feelings since our train was due to arrive in Beijing a bit after seven o'clock.

       My first impression of the hosting city of the 2008 Olympics, which will commence in one week from today, was that the Chinese managed to somehow pull it off.

Jason is standing inside of the Forbidden City.
The train station was fairly tidy and easy to manuever around. We entered into a line to catch a taxi and the taxi was much cleaner than the ones we rode in the previous cities, since they seemed to have recently been dressed in new slipcovers. However, all of the traffic problems had not been alleviated. Our driver practically crawled all the way to 9 Dragons Hostel, where we would be spending the next four nights.

       Following breakfast and refreshing showers, we easily mastered the Beijing subways and were soon standing in the Forbidden City, the symbolic center of the Chinese Universe and huge palace compendium of imperial architecture. The Palace Museum, as the Chinese call it, was constructed in 1420 and covers over 1,000,000 square meters.

Jason stands near the homes of the emperor's concubines.
We walked through the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Preserving Harmony, the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, six Eastern Palaces, and the Imperial Gardens, all while listening in earpieces to an audio guide attempting to simplify the ever-so-complex Chinese history for the Western tourist. It was still much too confusing for me to grasp. As we strolled from one courtyard to the next, we snapped a few photos and honored three seperate requests for people to have their photo taken with me.

        Exhausted from all of the walking, on top of the uncomfortable Beijing heat, we began our walk back to the entrance of the Forbidden City, and we continued on in the same direction until we arrived at the famous Ming dynasty gate where Chairman Mao's gigantic portrait still hangs.

Mao's portrait still hangs on the gate.
We snapped a few photos of the gate where Mao Zedong stood on October 1, 1949 to proclaim the founding of the People's Republic of China.

         By this time it was two o'clock and I was starving since we had yet to eat lunch. With no restaurants in sight, and Tiananmen Square sitting across a busy street from us, we decided to push aside our hunger and take the underground tunnel over to the notorious square associated with the student protests of 1989 and its gory climax. We posed for another picture in front of a "Beijing Olympics" display with a Chinese family who spotted us and eagarly made a photo request. Since there really wasn't much to do at Tiananmen Square (it is just one of those places that you feel obligated to see and visit), we left after a few minutes and were soon on the subway and heading back to our hostel, anxious to eat lunch.

I am samping a stick of grapes wrapped in a sugary substance at the Night Market.

        Upon arriving at 9 Dragons Hostel, I dashed off to the restaurant only to discover that it was closed for lunch and would not reopen for dinner until another two hours had passed. Suddenly feeling exhausted and disappointed, we sulkily returned to our room, where I spent those two hours sleeping in an attempt to compensate for my sleepless night.

        After finally getting some food in my stomach, we were back on the subway and on our way to Wanfujing Street, Beijing's main shopping street and home to the Night Market. Our first stop on the densely populated street was a six-story book store that had a fairly decent imported book selection. I was eager to purchase another book for the plane ride home since we were both close to completing our second book of the trip and had no more to read.

Now I am eating fried creme balls at the Night Market.

         We then walked the length of the street, peering in the stalls and doing a bit of window shopping , before turning towards the well-known Night Market, which is an endless row of stalls selling a variety of traditional Chinese snacks, including skewers of beef, grasshoppers, squid, fruit, dough balls, scorpions, and much more. Since I had seen Anthony Bourdain sample the morsels of this street on his traveling food program, entitled "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," I was anxious to try the exotic food as well, even though Jason wasn't too fond of the idea.

         I began with what I thought was a fairly safe choice - grapes on a stick. The green grapes were liberally covered with a hard outer shell of some type of sugary substance, which made the grapes taske a bit odd and lose some of its desirable flavor.

Jason decides to experiment with a chicken and vegetable wrap.
Next, my eyes caught sight of  a fried creme ball, so I excitedly ordered two of them. After seeing that I was pleased with the flavor of my first bite, Jason enjoyed the second creme ball, even though we weren't quite sure of what ingredients composed the filling. Now that Jason was feeling a bit more experimental with the street food, we ordered a chicken and vegetable wrap from a third vendor, which was not incredibly tastey. By this point, our stomachs were sufficiently stuffed, so we turned around and headed towards the beginning of the chaotic street, passing by a film crew on the way, who was capturing footage of Olympic committee members (we think) sampling some of the exotic snacks.

        Upon arriving back at our hostel, we headed down to use the internet because it was 9:30, meaning the stock market was opening and Jason wanted to make some trades. As I was sitting in the room, patiently waiting for Jason, I began to question whether or not I should have been so experimental with the street food because I was starting to feel ill and nauseated. I excused myself from the internet room, headed upstairs, and hung my head over the toilet. Yet, I still want to return to the Night Market to sample some other morsels of food that caught my eye!

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Jason and I are standing outside o…
Jason and I are standing outside …
Jason is standing inside of the Fo…
Jason is standing inside of the F…
Jason stands near the homes of the…
Jason stands near the homes of th…
Maos portrait still hangs on the …
Mao's portrait still hangs on the…
I am samping a stick of grapes wra…
I am samping a stick of grapes wr…
Now I am eating fried creme balls …
Now I am eating fried creme balls…
Jason decides to experiment with a…
Jason decides to experiment with …
Beijing
photo by: Deats