A Travellerspoint blog

stuff to do in xian...

after you've gotten the obligatory cold from all the pollution

day one of xian: already got sick. dana warned me about this upon arrival there cause the air is so bad. several of the other volunteers had been sick when they first arrived too. it's like a xian welcoming package! i should have bought one of those michael jackson surgical masks.

i stayed home the second day of volunteering, which would have been my first day at the kindergarten, cause i was sick. i did end up venturing out to an area of town called the muslim quarter. it's a couple small streets filled with street vendors selling chinese crafts/souvenirs and interesting street food. and yes, there really are muslims in the muslim quarter so it's not just a clever name. i only went cause one of the texan girls wanted to go to wal-mart (yep, wal-mart in china) to get some supplies for cooking a birthday breakfast for the other texan girl the next morning. wal-mart in china, or wei-mart as they call it, is nothing like wal-mart back home. it really didn't feel that different from many of the supermarkets here. just lots and lots of chinese branded stuff and local fruits. i stocked up on milk teas of all flavors to try back at the apartment. just add hot water! i was blown away by the chinese dairy section - they have like 20 feet of yogurts or "fermented milk" as they call them, and only about 2 feet of both cheese and butter. the regular milk is also difficult to find. we only found about 3 different cartons. they like their yogurts though, especially in drinkable format.

the next night i attended the water fountain show with music at the big goose pagoda with the texans and claire. we met up with this guy lee from middleburg, va who i had met on my great wall tour. he was now traveling in xian. he brought some friends he'd met at the hostel and we all had a great time. we even walked onto these narrow paths between the water fountains so we felt like we were in the show. even got a little wet.
fountain show!

fountain show!

the rest of the week consisted of volunteering during the days and just hanging out with volunteers in the evenings. we went out for hot pot one night for the one texan girl's birthday. this hot pot was similar to the one i went to in shanghai, except that we were at a HUGE table for all 15 or more of us with a lazy susan in the middle. the broth was something standard and not spicy. i made a delicious sauce with mostly sesame paste and cilantro mmm. and got to try some new yummy things like winter melon, some delicious thinly sliced beef, bean curd skin, spinach noodles and such.
fancy hot pot

fancy hot pot

on friday night, it was the the man from scotland's 70th birthday. we had some cake at the apartment, then went out to dinner at pizza hut. and once again, pizza hut is nothing like pizza hut back home. in fact, it's a fancy restaurant with marble floors and shiny chandeliers! they sell lots of things other than pizza too (escargot, calamari, clam chowder anyone?) we got some stuffed crust pizza to share which wasn't the best pizza or anything, but being western food-deprived for so long, it tasted pretty darn good to me.

zinzan (yep, that is his real name!), a funny 18 year old from australia, was wanting to go to this place he frequents and has dubbed "the local." he was looking for a companion, so i decided to join him. "the local" serves some really cheap and actually pretty tasty food too. we had some fried eggplant in a dark sauce (almost tasted like french fries) and some fried mushrooms with some super spicy tongue tingling powder on it. the restaurant owner knows zin now so it's like his cheers pub ha. we had a good night sharing life stories and discussing volunteering. we ended up going here another time with one of the texans and the girl from boston for some snacks and drinks and then again for my last night for dinner with one of the texans.

the next day i went to see the terra cotta warriors with claire. after taking a bus to the train station (like an hour long ride yuck) we hopped on another bus to the terra cotta warriors, which took another hour and a half i believe. only cost 8 yuan for both these trips, but pretty annoyingly long bleh. we had a hard time getting to the entrance from the bus stop. then there is an extremely long entrance path. there are 3 buildings housing different excavation pits. we were told to start in reverse order with number 3, and finish with number 1 because then the last one is the best. the first 2 pits are a bit underwhelming. there is still lots of excavation going on, so it's really mostly just big pits of dirt and mounds and scraps and things. the best is in pit 3 which houses all the warriors standing up like an army as you've probably seen in pictures. now, that was more like it. though you can't get up close to them and the place lacked an area where they really describe the making of these items. the national geographic exhibition i saw in dc was way more interesting to me than seeing these actual warriors in the excavation pits sadly...
the most impressive of the 3 pits at the terra cotta warriors

the most impressive of the 3 pits at the terra cotta warriors

i did visit the drum and bell towers, but didn't go in them. they weren't anything to write home about. i didn't have time to ride a bike along the city wall, another popular activity in xian, and that probably would have been fun. but i think i'll survive my life without it.

as for volunteering at the kindergarten, the days consist of an english class or two in the morning (with the younger kids ages 3 or 4), morning exercises outside on the quad for the entire school where they do specific dance moves to different songs sometimes involving the use of a hula hoop or baton, lunch, and then siesta for 2 hours (where claire and i can leave the school and walk around town for a bit - we found a cool street market in the alleyways nearby), then two more english classes in the afternoon with the older kids (aged 5 and 6). the english classes are taught by one of the english speaking chinese teachers, but often their pronunciation is a bit off ("airplan" instead of airplane) and they simply follow a silly book with cartoon characters, accompanying catchy songs they drill into their heads with hand motions or dance moves. sometimes we play games with the kids to help them learn a phrase of the song, like "watch out! watch out! here comes the ball!" and we'd throw a little ball at them playing catch. or the part that says "ouch! ouch! oh my head!" which is when the ball would have hit the kid in the song, the teacher would have us use a giant chuppa chup lollipop to bonk their heads lightly to demonstrate the "ouch" part. interesting...mostly their schooling is very old-fashioned, with lots of repeating after the teacher, rote memorization, and learning things like a song, but not really understanding what they are learning. the teachers have ingrained various catchphrases into them to get them to respond to them, like "attention!" to which the kids respond, "1, 2! 1, 2!" or the teacher will say, "look at me!" and the kids will respond, "look at you!" it's a bit drill seargeant-esque. claire and my roll was to just jump in and learn these songs and act them out and teach them to the kids, so it wasn't like we had any real lesson planning to do. thus and so, after a week, claire decided to leave early, and so did i. i bought a ticket to yangshuo for a few days before i was heading to chengdu, my last stop in china. but i am grateful to have had the experience of volunteering for a little bit in china, it was an intriguing glimpse into their world of education and the teachers were all very welcoming (one of them kept inviting us to play badminton with her and wanted to find me a chinese boyfriend).
morning exercises

morning exercises


  • *sorry the pics are lame in this post...but they take forever to load here, so i got a bit lazy...

Posted by shlee 04:38 Archived in China Comments (0)

xian..and on and on

off to a bit of a wonky start in volunteering

so after this random bus picked me up from the mysterious bus stop in the middle of nowhere pingyao, (on a sketchiness scale of 1 to 10, it was only about a 5 because there was some, albeit, random chinese dude reading a newspaper who was in charge of watching out for me) i was on my merry way to xian. i was feeling good, like all my to-ing and fro-ing would be coming to an end for a bit and I would get to experience living in china as a local, even if only for 2 weeks. i was looking forward to being whisked away from the bus station in the safety of my volunteer coordinator who told me to simply call him when i arrived so he could pick me up. that is what i thought anyway, dum dum dum...(look at that foreshadowing).

after another ramen noodle meal (only option at the bus stop) and trying to fit in with the other passengers by slurping obscenely and after enjoying a wonderful kung fu film on the bus involving an emperor with an impossibly long, murderous tongue, i arrived in lots of traffic and smog...welcome to xian! at the bus station, i found a phone in a little shop (luckily cause my sim card was not working) and dialed his number. he told me to take a taxi since there are (only psh) 5 bus stations in xian and i wasn't sure which one i was at. so i asked a man nearby to speak to him and write down the address for me. that same man seemed so nice and took me to a taxi...au contraire. it was a gypsy cab painted green to match the real ones and lacked a meter. no dice! so i continued asking other taxi drivers nearby, pointing to the address. they wanted ridiculous amounts like 100 yuan (david, the volunteer coordinator told me it should only be around 20 yuan!). so instead of bursting out into frustrated tears, which was tempting, i stood and flagged taxi after taxi, until finally after about 10 mins I got one who agreed to use the meter. only problem was, partway in, he got lost. he had to call david and ask for directions. finally (40 yuan later) he dropped me off and pointed in a vague direction. when i walked that way, i soon realized i had no clue where to go. after asking several people on the street, one guy was nice enough to walk me down towards the guardhouse of an apartment complex. as i was confirming the address with them, david saw me and helped me up the stairs. thank goodness. after surprisingly easy transportation dealings in china thus far, i was surprised that this one was such a disaster.

feeling a bit out of sorts, i arrived in the volunteer house. it was full of people, ranging in ages from 18 to 70 and from all over (australia, texas, scotland, singapore and canada). the house was an apartment actually, but two levels. david's mom and dad cooked and cleaned for us and handled all the house stuff. the girls' room i was to sleep in was upstairs - a dorm room with bunk beds housing 6 of us on what felt like wood slash cardboard beds and bean bag pillows. the girls seemed nice though. two are just out of high school from texas on a "gap year," one is in transition between jobs in singapore, and one is a stay at home mom in australia looking for a volunteering holiday, and the last one is doing basically a study abroad during college up in boston. there was a family of 5 from canada across the hall that we were sharing our bathroom with. more fun. downstairs, the older retired couple from scotland, mama, papa and david and the boys all reside. there are only two boys, both from australia. but one was just about to leave. the other was doing a gap year after high school as well before starting college.

the dorm bed room. i'm the only one with a top bunk<img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

the dorm bed room. i'm the only one with a top bunk:(


the common area

the common area


tiny bathroom for 11 people, no?

tiny bathroom for 11 people, no?

so quite a mixed bag of nuts:). and have to admit, it wasn't what i was expecting. i quickly learned the internet there was horrid, there wasn't always hot water or you have to ask for them to turn the heater on, and xian wasn't really that great of a city per the other volunteers. in my mind i was already planning my exit strategy, but figured at least the volunteering part would be redeeming. we had a short orientation and got prepped to go the next morning (the australian mom and i) to the special needs center.

the morning consisted of a quick shower, a bite to eat (mama cooks breakfast and dinner) leaving a half hour earlier than i was told because the lady from the center came to pick us up, and rushing with her to catch the most packed bus i've ever seen before. we crammed ourselves on, and claire got her hand caught in the door. things were not shaping out very smoothly at all, no sir. once we got to the center, we were led inside and met a few of the teachers and then no one really told us what to do. they spoke hardly any english as well. so claire and i stood around looking dumb mostly. trying to join the kids in games or songs when appropriate. we sat in on some of the classes - one was coloring, one was music (percussion instruments played to loud recorded music) and one was putting together little flag lego-type pieces. the rest of the time, we sat around while the kids ran around to music, stood up and talked in chinese obvi, and just kinda hung around. it was a bit of organized chaos. after lunch there, they had a 2 hour break for siesta. no really. they take naps at schools here. so claire and i walked around the neighborhood, but didn't really find too much going on. it was the longest 2 hours of my life, also because talking to claire was a bit like talking to a wall. oy vey.

the kids at the special needs center were really great. most of them were older - teens and even in their 20's. their special needs ranged from autism, to downs syndrome, to other physical (and i guess mental?) disabilities. some of them spoke some english words and would come up and talk to me. they were all really fun to see interacting and having a good time at their school. a couple of them would randomly hug me. one kid had a thing where he wanted to touch your face either with his hand or his cheek. so he would run up to you and do this. it was great to see them all in their own worlds, but getting along (for the most part ha). at the end of the day was time for recess and they played with volleyballs and basketballs. yet again, weren't sure what our role was but tried to play catch and bounce balls with the kids. although it was somewhat fun to be there, i felt really useless and with no direction on what to do, i felt like such a voyeur the whole time.

claire and i discussed with david about possibly switching to a different volunteer program where we could feel of more use. claire wanted to work with little kids, so we were scheduled to start teaching english at the kindergarten the next day. so the adventure continues!

Posted by shlee 04:51 Archived in China Comments (0)

pingyao

historic china, equals touristy china

the train i rode from beijing was overnight, but only stopped through pingyao on the way to xian. they told me my arrival time would be around 5:18 am, so i was pretty paranoid i would oversleep and miss the stop. it was a likely possibility since the train stopped often and no announcements were made and no signs outside on the platform gave any hint of which stop it was (well maybe in chinese...). so i basically woke up around 4:25 am and paranoidly asked some people waiting to get off if it was pingyao yet. they assured me no. but that didn't mean it couldn't be the next stop right? so i continued to ask at every stop until finally the conductor signaled to me that it would be the next stop (arriving approx 5:30 am). i was greeted in the cold (much colder than beijing) darkness by a man with a piece of paper with ASHLEY written in green magic marker and a cigarette dangling out of his mouth a la james dean, but a lot less cool. we looked at each other, said "hello" and he led me to a motorbike with a golf cart attached on the back with 2 benches of seats. off we went chug-chugging through some empty dark alleyways, entering what i presumed was the gate to the city wall, and past some ancient style buildings all sealed up for the night. it's quite possible i was being led to my death, but i was too tired to imagine worst case scenario. luckily, he dropped me at my hostel and i was let in by a sleepy girl, paid my fee, and was led to my room up some narrow wooden stairs in an outdoor courtyard. the bathroom i was told was downstairs in the courtyard. fun fun...but the building was definitely an ancient wooden one with lots of character.

after sleeping a couple more hours, i decided to get going with a nice swiss breakfast at the hostel (the same as at my hostel in beijing). the streets were bustling with mostly chinese tourists, street vendors and historic pagodas and buildings, pedestrians, cars, bikes, rickshaws and stray dogs. i tried a couple hollow corn pancakes with semi-sweet sugar stuff inside (things are never as sweet as what we have back home though). i stumbled upon a temple that looked interesting and learned that i could pay one flat fee (with a student discount cha ching) to get into all the historic sites in pingyao. so this temple was my first stop, and it was alright. some interesting statues, a bell tower, and some scary looking statues of figures inside the temple itself. as i entered the temple, some men inside that worked there immediately swooped in, offered me a small bundle of incense, took me to the flame to light it, then led me to the pillows in front of the statues to kneel before them, which i didn't do. but then they immediately led me over to a little table on the side and had me sit down. as i held my hands together in a prayer position, the man held the incense over them and said a blessing. they pointed to some flag hanging nearby and gave me a print out with the same characters written on it, which i think meant something like good luck or what have you. the whole time i kept thinking, this has got to be one of those moments where they demand money at the end, but it all happened so fast i didn't really have time to say no. but of course after the blessing, he pulled out a ledger where he pointed to the next available line and told me to write my name, where i was from, and how much i wanted to donate. he pointed out that all the other people had given at least 100-200 rmb. i was not happy about this. i wrote 100 because at first i didn't quite make the connection that that was what they expected me to actually pay. then he led me to a money box below one of the statues and stood over my shoulder waiting for me to put the money in. i pretended like i didn't have that much in my wallet and only put in a 50, which is maybe like $7.50, but still. $7.50 that i wish i hadn't given away. those gods owe me some serious good luck now. i saw that several chinese tourists were being pulled into the same charade, so that made me feel somewhat better.
pingyao streets

pingyao streets


old wooden buildings in pingyao

old wooden buildings in pingyao

pingyao from city wall

pingyao from city wall


temples with incense

temples with incense

i did end up following the map though and stopped at many of the historic buildings along the streets there. pingyao was a big commercial and financial center for china way back in the day, so although many of the buildings were set up in similar manners with narrow staircases, little rooms off of small intimate courtyards. many of the buildings were hard to distingsuish from the other buildings, except for the entrance turnstiles. i spent several hours exploring these little courtyards which gave me a small glimpse into old china. there were some interesting artifacts on display like the sedan chairs and phonographs and abacus(es?) used by the people of pingyao in olden days. one courtyard was an arms center, and they had an area in the back with life-size weapons for anyone to try out. like huge spears and spiky mallets of death. oh, china and your lack of safety regulations.
courtyard in pingyao - they were all very similar to this

courtyard in pingyao - they were all very similar to this


how to kung fu

how to kung fu

i walked on the city wall, then was pooped after all my touring of umpteen historic buildings/courtyards. so i just hung out at the hostel for a bit, had a nice dinner of kao lao lao noodles, a local spicy speciality of looped thick noodles with peppers and brown sauce. pingyao was interesting, and i'd like to say a nice change of pace from the busy-ness of beijing, but there were herds of mostly chinese tourists following their loud-speaker talking, flag-yielding guides, so not as serene as i hoped. is there anywhere in china that isn't crawling with tourists and/or people??

after a day in pingyao, the hostel drove me to the middle of nowhere near a highway and then when a pretty full bus rolled up, i was told to get on for the 6 ish hour ride to xian for my next adventure in volunteering.
leaving pingyao for the bus to xian in a tuk tuk

leaving pingyao for the bus to xian in a tuk tuk

Posted by shlee 18:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

beijing in 4 days: part deux

days 3-4

==DAY 3==
Summer Palace roberto and i met up to go to the summer palace. we swapped stories of our great wall experiences since he had gone to another section of the great wall the day before as well. the summer palace was further north in the gigantic city of beijing, so took about an hour on the subway (this time only partially smashed in during rush hours and not so bad without a huge backpack on). we walked around the perimeter of the mainland, passing the boat docks and some pagodas, then took a ferry over to an islet with a pagoda and crossed a big arched bridge back toward the mainland. on the mainland but along the edge of a big lake we had great views under some weeping willows of the islet, the bridge and the big palace/temple atop a hill. i decided i need a camera that can do a panoramic function for instances like this. we bought giant bowls of ramen-type noodles where they added boiling water to it for us. then you add the little packets of dried onions and mysterious brownish spicy paste and some other spicy powder that was most likely msg ("ow my stomach lining!"). and maybe it was the msg, but it really tasted pretty yummy. we took our giant bowls of noodles out on the water, renting a paddle boat with poor steering capabilities, which made for some entertaining battles with the wind and other nearby boats. finally, we meandered through some gallery that displayed some nice pieces of jade sculpture and ceramics, then made our way up through the main parts of the palace. there was a small temple behind the big one on the top that housed some really neat old buddha statues and fresco paintings. alas no photos were allowed:(
roberto and i on the ferry

roberto and i on the ferry


boat on the lake

boat on the lake


bridge at the summer palace

bridge at the summer palace


chinese explorers! look at those handkerchiefs awww.

chinese explorers! look at those handkerchiefs awww.


eating ramen on the pedal boat. my legs were so short, i had to sit awkwardly like that to reach the pedals. i thought chinese people were generally short like me?!

eating ramen on the pedal boat. my legs were so short, i had to sit awkwardly like that to reach the pedals. i thought chinese people were generally short like me?!


roberto in the long corridor. wonder why they call it that...

roberto in the long corridor. wonder why they call it that...

798 Art District roberto and i managed to find our way to this trendy artsy area in the northeastern part of beijing. it's not super easy to find either - we just hopped on a bus and got off where we though seemed right per our semi-helpful map, although when everything on the bus/bus stop is in chinese, it doesn't help too much. after walking a bit, we did find it. it's this industrial area of old factories and warehouses that now house modern art galleries and boutique shops with unique outer displays like radiator pipes and nailed planks of wood instead of just a normal store front. there are also lots of modern interesting sculptures all over. there is a little train station with an old steamer train out front where a woman was taking wedding pictures. the galleries and cafes resemble something other than the typical china you think of, and i could have easily spent a day here. it's also a bit less hectic than other parts of beijing which is always nice. just so i don't forget, we got this delicious street food that was a crepe with egg and cheese and onion in it i think. she must have added something else to it, but it was so delicious. i hope i can find it again.
modern sculptures amidst graffitti-laden urban, industrial-turned-art-district background

modern sculptures amidst graffitti-laden urban, industrial-turned-art-district background


i fit right in at the 798 district

i fit right in at the 798 district


some of the graffiti is even behind protective glass

some of the graffiti is even behind protective glass

one of the art galleries

one of the art galleries


a tunnel made of chairs. one example of the sculptures here.

a tunnel made of chairs. one example of the sculptures here.


a photo shoot going on on every corner basically

a photo shoot going on on every corner basically


a store front decorated with pipes

a store front decorated with pipes


how roberto felt after such a long day of traveling<img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

how roberto felt after such a long day of traveling:(


even dilapidation is artsy here

even dilapidation is artsy here

Peking Duck it was roberto's last night in beijing and he really wanted to get some official peking duck. i wasn't as keen on it, since i find duck pretty greasy. but i gave in the touristy "when in rome" attitude. we took a taxi to this area near tiananmen called qiamen. there's another popular shopping street here with fancy stuff like rolex and some expensive chopstick maker, but also small typical chinese vendor shops. he asked a chinese woman at this one restaurant who said that particular place was out of duck, but she led us to its sister restaurant nearby. we only ordered one thing of duck, cause it was a bit pricey, and i got "old beijing noodles" which arrived with some strange brown sauce you are supposed to mix in...and i found it kinda gross. roberto's duck came out pre-sliced and with little thin tortillas and sliced cucumber. the waitress showed us how to make it by dipping the duck in the sauce, addin some cucumber and wrapping it up. they were pretty tasty! they also brought some sauteed veggies which were good. but we never received the purported duck soup that was supposed to round out his 3 course meal, hmm...
qiamen, on a quest for peking duck

qiamen, on a quest for peking duck


peking duck tacos

peking duck tacos


i love the random lanterns around the city

i love the random lanterns around the city

Worker's Stadium we didn't really go to the stadium, but right near it there are some bars. we met up with two german girls who live/work in beijing that roberto had met in shanghai. they were both super nice and funny. we had a good time discussing the craziness that is china and differences in cultures and such. roberto had to catch a taxi to the airport and head back to germany. we said our goodbyes and back to the hostel i went. which i'm pretty sure the taxi driver ripped me off, but i think it was only 2-3 rmb, so like 50 cents. pssh.

==DAY 4==
Temple of Heaven i slept in a little since the previous days were all early and long days for me. i repacked by stuff, had a nice swiss breakfast at the hostel (mmm museli) and booked my train ticket to the next destination, pingyao. i left my bags at the hostel and confirmed i would need to be back by 3 pm to get the bus to the west railway station for my 5 pm overnight train. so i only had time for 1 jaunt, so i went to the temple of heaven. i must say it was my least favorite so far. it's a big complex of walkways, an unimpressive rose garden, and dried up fountain, one bridge that inclines toward the temple itself, so it's supposed to resemble a stairway to heaven i guess (shheeahh, right). the design of the temple and it's surrounding pagodas and corridors is the exact same colors/paint job as the forbidden city and the summer palace and every other temple i went to in beijing. so after awhile it just seems more the same. i ran into this girl saskia from belgium who was on my great wall tour. she was headed back to hong kong in a few hours and then back home. she mentioned that a girl at her hostel was headed to pingyao as well, but was told if she took a bus an hour outside beijing, she could then catch a bullet train to pingyao for only 3 hours! and for less than i paid for my overnight train which was going to be 12 hours...always nice to find these things out after the fact, womp womp.
walking to the temple of heaven

walking to the temple of heaven

thar she blows

thar she blows


temple of heaven. these pictures make it look cooler than it actually was.

temple of heaven. these pictures make it look cooler than it actually was.


beijing west railway station

beijing west railway station


how to find your train listing: find the numbers. thank the lord for numbers.

how to find your train listing: find the numbers. thank the lord for numbers.

Posted by shlee 06:01 Archived in China Comments (1)

beijing in 4 days

days 1-2

==DAY 1==
Forbidden City (now called the Palace Museum. yawn.) i think this would be a cool place to go in the winter with snow on the ground. there are just so, so many tourists there all fighting to take photos of the same dusty artifacts that you can only see through cloudy plexiglass inside the temples and halls. but the sprawling complex with its big open plazas and bridges and pagodas would feel cooler and more crouching tiger, hidden dragon-like with snow on it and about eleventy billion fewer tourists. the nicest japanese boy and i became friends without even being able to communicate - he took pictures of me and i took one of him and his friend. then he gave me his guidebook since he didn't want it anymore. awww precious human kindness.
forbidden city...not so forbidden anymore

forbidden city...not so forbidden anymore


IMG_4932.jpg catption=i love the part, "which gives rise the now humorous saying 'being pushed out of Wu men for execution.'" what does it mean!?!
view of forbidden city from jingshan park

view of forbidden city from jingshan park

Jingshan Park bonsai trees, the site where some emperor hanged himself, old ladies doing tai chi, people playing the accordion and saxophone (for practice/fun, not money) and 3 pagodas reached by climbing many-a-stair which give awesome views of the forbidden city which is just across the street.
jingshan park

jingshan park


looking up to the pagoda at jingshan park

looking up to the pagoda at jingshan park

Beihai Park a big weeping willow-lined lake where you can take a ferry across for only 5 rmb, arched bridges, a big white pointy pagoda atop a big hill, people practicing ballroom dancing and singing, red tassels tied to trees outside temples. i quite liked this place.
beihai park

beihai park


beihai park

beihai park


people write messages on these and hang them on trees and things outside the temple

people write messages on these and hang them on trees and things outside the temple

painting at beihai park

painting at beihai park

beihai lake

beihai lake


people ballroom dancing at the park

people ballroom dancing at the park

Tiananmen Square although extremely crowded when i went because it was when the guards took down the flag, but it was really cool to see it at dusk when the lights all come on (spotlight on mao!) and the big white buildings on the square. there are some massive panoramic big screens that display chinese words...not sure what they say, but they look pretty cool.
i met a german guy name roberto (his parents just like exotic names i guess. as an aside i confirmed that the german names dieter and wolfgang are not very popular with the younger crowd, sadly) at a park near here. i was confused as to how to get to tiananmen from there, and we ended up accompanying each other - yay for a travel buddy:)
the march to tiananmen

the march to tiananmen


me and mao<img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

me and mao:)


taking down the flag in the evening ceremony

taking down the flag in the evening ceremony

i took i picture of the crowd taking pictures

i took i picture of the crowd taking pictures

the big screens at tiananmen

the big screens at tiananmen


tiananmen

tiananmen


a lonely job...

a lonely job...

Donghuamen Night Market and Wangfujing Street, a popular shopping street with big stores and lights. at the night market they have scorpions (alive until they fry them for you. talk about fresh) and bugs and all kinds of meats and meat-esque products and fishy/tentacle-y things on skewers ready to cook for your eating (or barfing in my case) pleasure. we weren't quite so adventurous with the foods, though we did try some interesting items, i.e. some cabbage crepe that was waaaay too salty; some veggies in a fried crepe that was also quite salty, but edible; some fried dumplings (not as good as yang's in shanghai); some chicken kabobs (or what they call "muslim food" in china ha) and fruit on a skewer covered in sticky, crystalized sugar (corn syrup perhaps?) negating any of the health benefits of eating fruit, so naturally it was delicious:) the kiwis were also practically the size of my head!
Wangfujing Street

Wangfujing Street


scorpions were still alive on these sticks. and poor seahorses<img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

scorpions were still alive on these sticks. and poor seahorses:(


blech

blech


the night market

the night market


sugar-coated fruit as-big-as-my-head on a stick = a happy shlee<img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

sugar-coated fruit as-big-as-my-head on a stick = a happy shlee:)


notice the tentacles hanging off the tray...

notice the tentacles hanging off the tray...

==DAY 2==
Great Wall i joined a tour that i booked through my hostel to go to the jinshanling section of the great wall. this section was a bit further away (3 hours by bus) than some of the other sections, but it's also more original than the other sections and less touristy. only a small portion of the wall here has been restored, so for the most part you get to walk on the original great wall out here and there are fewer tourists and touts trying to sell you stuff. the great wall is waaay more impressive than i imagined it would be. to see it from afar is impressive as it spans as far as your eye (or the haze) will allow, but to actually walk on it is even more impressive. it's more like hiking cause it's so hilly and steep in parts. it was really quite a workout. the people in my tour group were a lot of fun. one guy ran from the base of the hill up to the wall and was all red in the face when we caught up to him. i met an occupational therapist from perth, australia and got to hear some of her input on the profession. and 3 of the girls in the group were from dc and one of the guys was from middleburg, va - small world, eh? we had a little time to relax on the wall and enjoy the quiet and magnitude of it all before headingback down to our buffet lunch. oh, btw my tour included breakfast, which was mcdonald's and by the time the guide gave it to me it had been sitting out for an hour and was cold. it was some variation of the sausage mcmuffin, but the sausage tasted more like textured ham. but i was so starving, so i had to eat it, bleh. the buffet lunch we had was much better though.
i was so exhausted after all that trekking, i just grabbed dinner at the nearby night market and hit the sack early. this time i tried some fried banana puff, a bowl of some bizarre pink gelatinous material, "chinese cheese" on a stick which resembled asiago cheese crisps, but less yummy, and a basket of steamed pureed vegetables (sounds strange and it was, but really didn't taste too bad). i was again too scared to try the meat products on sticks...so these things seemed safer options.
the great wall at last!

the great wall at last!


where the original wall starts, not restored like the earlier portion

where the original wall starts, not restored like the earlier portion

just a few steps up the wall, no big deal.

just a few steps up the wall, no big deal.

i walked/hiked all that

i walked/hiked all that


taking a breather

taking a breather


impressive, no?

impressive, no?


i conquered the great wall!

i conquered the great wall!

Posted by shlee 03:21 Archived in China Comments (1)

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