I made it to China!
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 2 of 14 › view all entries
A few tidbits from the hotel. I had read that the hotel design was supposed to look like a lantern. I got to see it today in the light and I don’t think the analogy works. It’s pretty ugly. The room is fairly normal except the bathroom. It is walled in clear glass everywhere ��" the shower, the toilet and the sink. This is a room for one person or a very close couple! Although, someone decided to put a big curtain around it all for a little privacy. I had to pull the curtain in the shower because that someone also put a full length mirror just across from the showerhead. Great. Bad enough to see the reflection in all the glass, I don’t need a mirror! Not to mention it’s rather dangerous to go to the bathroom in the dark of night! I went to fall into bed last night and thunk! It was the hardest bed I’ve ever slept on! Maybe half an inch of give to it.
I woke up this morning before dawn. I had the day on my own so I was planning on going to the Summer Palace, which had some natural areas to look for birds and see a little of the culture too. I started out walking and quickly discovered that the distances on my map were much farther than they looked! I thought I’d walk over to take a look at the infamous Tiannemen Square and glance at the Forbidden City before I hailed a taxi and headed the short distance out of town.
So I tried to hail a cab. No luck. Either the main roads did not let taxis pick up people or they were full. Maybe they just didn’t want to take me, I don’t know. Finally I stopped on a small road where a doorman for a hotel that looked like it was mostly for Chinese visitors was out front getting cabs for people coming out. After about 15 minutes, he asked a guy, I don’t even think he was a legal taxi, if he would take me to the Summer Palace.
I walked around the grounds for about 4 hours or so, looking at the buildings and the birds. The Palace was full of places with names like the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity and the Hall of Happiness and Longevity, the Garden of Harmonious Pleasures, the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, the Temple of the Sea of Wisdom, and…well, you get the idea.
I caught a taxi back to town, or rather a taxi caught me! I decided to have a Peking duck lunch/dinner since this is where Peking duck got its name. Sadly, I was disappointed. I was trying to get to a renowned restaurant that was only a “few blocks” from where the taxi let me out. So I walked and walked and walked. I was going to give up when a nice lady took pity on me after she saw my map and my lost look. She pointed me in the right direction, well more like she told me to keep going.
I walked the “few blocks” back towards my hotel and wandered up Wangfujing St, a shopping tourist mecca, just to see what it was like. I happened onto a little side market that was packed with people. The market sucked money out of my pocket faster than a pickpocket. I have holes in the elbows of my coat from people pulling on it to come look at their stuff. And I hate bargaining so I’m sure I paid way too much for everything. Oh well, such is life. I made it out of there with some money left in my pockets (although I am missing some and I’m not sure where it went!). Further up the street, I came upon the infamous night market. It was very crowded but I finally braved it for a while, just to see.
It was a lovely day, a little cool but not rainy. My impressions of Beijing are that it is very clean and the people are friendly and basically cheerful. It is a very civil place. Not many people smoking, which surprised me. Everyone was polite, no pushing or rudeness which I had heard was the norm in some Asian cultures. I do feel that the language barrier is huge but we all just shrug and shake our heads. I’ve had to trust people to do the right thing as far as taking my money appropriately.
Tomorrow I head to the train station to get the high speed bullet train to the coast to board the cruise ship. Hopefully!