Monday, September 13, 2010

China Day 2

Our second day in Beijing was also a good one. For breakfast Li Na made corn porridge and we ate left over meat pies from the night before. Then Mitch, Isaac and I headed out to Tian'anmen Square. we took the subway there and although it threatened to rain, it just stayed in that blissfully overcast breezy pre-rain state all day. Tian'anmen itself was interesting to see given the history, but otherwise it's just a large open square. the line to see Mao's tomb stretched over several blocks so we decided not to go in. Mitch said that he's actually never seen it in the 4 years he's lived here; the line is always crazy.
After walking through the square we ended up at the gate for the Forbidden City. we walked through a fair bit of the "city", and it was good to see but quite a bit of it looked the same, and we were pretty much only allowed in the courtyards and gardens rather than inside the rooms. The imperial garden itself was ok but nothing compared to any of the temple gardens in Japan. We actually had a hard time not comparing the aesthetics of the buildings, gates and gardens to those of Japan. In our opinion Japan is much more beautiful, but it was absolutely worth it to see for ourselves what these spaces actually look like, since previously we only had Chinese epic period movies to go by.

Two really funny things that I didn't get photos of: The restroom right outside the Forbidden City had a gigantic gift shop inside of it (didn't feel it was appropriate to take a photo) and the audio guides had a languages available section listed, one of which was Esperanto (didn't think to take a photo until it was too late). One other interesting detail was that there were some groups of Chinese domestic tourists who wanted and in some cases did, take photos either of us, or with us. That happened in Japan too, but it is always fun to observe fascinations with other nationalities and races.

We found a steamed bun place for lunch that was yummy, and once again Mitch saved the day by ordering for us; the menu was all in Chinese with no photos or display food, so it would have been really hard for us to order on our own. The meal for the 3 of us including 6 orders of dumpling plates, a cucumber salad, and 3 bottled waters was just under $3 total. Food in China is cheap!

After lunch Mitch took us to an area with department stores full of items for rich folks, and we had a beer and walked down an alley where several vendors were selling skewers of wriggling scorpions, dead starfish, spider, bugs, etc for grilling. After chilling for awhile we decided to catch a cab to head somewhere else for about an hour before Li Na got home. That's when things got weird.

For the next 1 1/2 hours, we could not get a cab. we saw tons of empty cabs that wouldn't pull over for us, and the 2 that did pull over asked where we were going and then dismissed us when we told them the university district (which was pretty far away, not a tiny fare). We also saw some Chinese people get turned away from cabs, so it didn't appear to be solely because we are foreigners. Mich said that hasn't happened ever before and he was completely baffled. We proceeded to walk (while attempting to hail cabs the entire way) for the 1 1/2 hours until we gave up and found a bus that took us somewhat in the right direction. Of course it was rush our at that point, so it took us almost another hour on the bus. Once we were off the bus we again attempted to hail a cab and had several empty ones pass us before one FINALLY stopped. Crazy! By the time we got home we were all like "what just happened? Is the US at war with China all of the sudden?" Soooooo weird.

The evening was redeemed by a delicious meal of Peking Duck (they call it Beijing duck here, hee hee), along with Sichuan green beans, Kung Pow chicken, Mao's favorite dish of pork belly, and duck soup. we waddled home and went to bed fat and happy. With sore feet.

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