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I made it to China!

Beijing Travel Blog

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The glass bathroom

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.

Chairman Mao
Then I tried to turn on the air conditioner but somehow ended up heating the room to 80 degrees. Tonight I think I’ll just turn it off and open the window!    

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.

Guard duty at the Forbidden City
It looked like I was only about a block or two away from the Square. I walked for an hour or so until I finally got to the other side. The Square itself is the size of 90 football fields. I looked in through the gate to the Forbidden City but that was all I got to do today. Hopefully I will see that in the morning tomorrow.

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.

The Summer Palace
He agreed and I was off. Again, no small talk. I kind of miss it, asking about life here and what not. Not many people speak English and my Chinese is limited to Hello and Thanks. I probably didn’t see two dozen Caucasians all day long. And I saw thousands and thousands of people today! Even at 8 AM, the crowds were starting to stream into the Forbidden City and by the time I walked back by it around 4 PM, it was a flood of people. Even the Summer Palace filled up, with lots of tour groups, mostly Chinese tourists.

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.

The Summer Palace
All was Peace and Tranquility. It would have been relaxing if not for the hundreds of steps! Overall it was a pleasant place to relax. I didn’t see all that many birds.  It is the middle of winter after all, and the birds just aren’t here. I did add nine birds to my lifelist.

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.

A beautiful Blue Magpie
I found a restaurant named “Roast Duck”. That was it. I pointed to the map and asked if this was the place. They said no, they weren’t open anymore but the duck here was good. So I stayed. One young waiter was happy to practice his English on me. The duck came out thinly sliced with thin “pancake” wrappers and cucumbers, onions and sauce. This is the typical way of serving Peking Duck. I think I had a whole duck because they then brought out a dish that must have been the rest of the carcass, chopped up and in a sauce. I didn’t realize that it was the bones until I put one in my mouth ��" and spit it out. A waitress saw me using my chopsticks and for some reason brought me a knife and fork. What was she trying to say? I diligently kept on but I got increasingly worse at it instead of better. I didn’t cave into the fork temptation though! But the duck itself was a bit greasy, without crisp skin, and rather bland.
And expensive.

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.

Seahorses on a stick - ick
Sure enough, there was everything and anything on a deep fried stick. Scorpions, crickets, silk moth cocoons, starfish, sea urchins, seahorses, snakes and then the mundane things like squid, octopus, fruit, mushrooms and meat. Thank a duck, I wasn’t hungry.

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.

The market - made in China
Sometimes I just wave it in front of them and let them take what they need. Wandering around all day, I never felt that I was in the wrong part of town or that there was ever anything threatening. There was a large police presence but I don’t know if that is a deterrent or a necessity. I did find it odd that there were at least 3 men to every woman. I don’t know if this is because the women are somewhere else or there aren’t any more women. I did hear that the Chinese rule of only one child per family has skewed the proportion of men and women so much so that men now have trouble finding wives.  So even though there were plenty of women and girls around, they were noticeably outnumbered. And there were huge numbers of people, even though this is a weekday in the middle of winter. I cannot even imagine what it is like during the busy season.

Tomorrow I head to the train station to get the high speed bullet train to the coast to board the cruise ship. Hopefully!

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The glass bathroom
The glass bathroom
Chairman Mao
Chairman Mao
Guard duty at the Forbidden City
Guard duty at the Forbidden City
The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace
A beautiful Blue Magpie
A beautiful Blue Magpie
Seahorses on a stick - ick
Seahorses on a stick - ick
The market - made in China
The market - made in China
The Stone Boat
The Stone Boat
Market goods
Market goods
Beijing
photo by: Deats