China Day 3

Try to avoid looking like this man

Our Third Day in Beijing was all about adventure and exploration. Unfortunately, it was also about lessons learned. The above picture is of Cliff after he realized that the taxi driver from this morning had given him 5.10RMBs (RMB is Renminbi the Chinese currency) instead of 15RMBs for change. The wrong bills were tucked underneath the appropriate 5RMB bill on top, and Cliff didn’t realize until later that afternoon that he had been had. When dealing with foreign currency and people you never know what you might get so be careful.

798

Our day started with said driver taking us to the 798 district about 20-30 minutes drive away from our hotel. We had heard it was this amazing place with a real artsy vibe and wanted to check it out. It did not disappoint. Especially for someone like me who likes to take goofy photographs of people. Here are a few that I took in the area:

Big Tiny

Right after I took this picture, a group of touring Koreans walked by and took pictures of each other grabbing the sculpture’s balls. My propensity for “artsy” photos must be a Korean thing.

Running Man

You gotta love anyone who is willing to let you do this to them. This whole area is surrounded by cute shops and museums. Art students and locals enjoying the scene. Every few blocks there would be models and photographers doing photo shoots.

In the Alley

I found myself walking along the streets, and looking down different alleys, there would be great setting like this to just enjoy. It really is a great place to explore.

After enjoying the morning at 798, Cliff, Chase and I headed back to make a 12:30pm reservation at Da Dong Restaurant. A few people had recommended the place as being great for Peking/Beijing Duck.

Da Dong Duck

I don’t know why, but looking at this photo, I feel like it’s so “chinky”. The restaurant itself is actually really awesome. Very contemporary and chic. Evening would be dressy code but lunch was definitely more casual. We ordered the half duck, but I must admit, I don’t think it was enough. I’m a flexatarian and 1/2 duck did not seem sufficient for Cliff and Chase (10-year-old boy). They actually ended up going to another local restaurant for more duck that evening to satisfy their fix. The food was terrific, but I swear, the waitress we had was either slow, or “slow”, if you get what I mean.

Afterwards, Chase wanted to chillax (Chill + Relax) and Cliff and I decided to explore more of the city around us.

Communist Street

When you turn off the main shopping street you can find yourself in the local bazaar, or I we call it the “bizarre”:

Can you find the tourist in this picture?

After we walked through, we headed to the street food section of town. I was not disappointed:

Yum

Word of advice: Eat a good breakfast because you might not be in the mood for Sheep Penis later in the day.

IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA

  • Style & Money: I want to revisit my impressions on my first day. I cannot say the Chinese are necessarily as stylish as the Koreans, or Japanese, but it’s not like they don’t have the goods. There were plenty of people wearing jeans and no one was waiting for their toilet paper ration. In fact, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, within a 6 block radius there were 3 Rolex and 3 Cartier boutiques! Looks like heaven to me. Just kidding. Not really. ;) but you get my point. It was all so disorienting to me. Our guide Lilly had also mentioned that residents of Beijing who lived in the old neighborhoods in run down old-style homes (hutongs) could all wake up tomorrow and be multi millionaires if they chose because the property value within Beijing was so high.
  • Babies: Everyone knows about the 1 baby rule in China, but even that isn’t absolute. If you are an only child and happen to marry another only child, you can ask the government for a waiver and have another baby! Of course you have to pay a fee, but according to Lilly, you can turn a profit at the baby’s birth day when guests will bring you money as gifts.
  • Cars: Since rationing births worked so great for the population, the government thought it might work controlling traffic. You are only allowed 1 Car per household and you have to enter a lottery to be granted that privilege. Sometimes, people who don’t even want to drive enter the lottery just so they can have the grant, then they turn their “license plate” around and sell it to someone who is dying to have their own car but didn’t win the lottery.
  • Men & Women: I was thinking all this time that China was full of men because girls are so worthless (not me talking). But according to Lilly, Men:Women is 49:51 percent! That whole thing about killing girls babies just applies to country folk. Just like in the US.
  • Human Rights: I don’t know if Hillary knew about our plans or if it was just coincidence, but she happened to be visiting the same time we were there. When I saw her on TV talking about all the suffering Chinese and their oppression and that blind Chinese man being persecuted I wanted to gag. I don’t know who I hate more, liberals or journalists. I didn’t see 1 riot or 1 unhappy Chinese person the whole time I was here. What I did see was a LOT of entrepreneurialism, people wearing Rolexes and people eating tasty duck.

Until next time…

 

China Day 1

Beijing 2012

We arrived in China late Wednesday night May 2nd. Even at night, as we drove through the streets of Beijing, I couldn’t help but think, “This is Communism?” Someone forgot to tell the Chinese. Where are all the oppressed people wearing Mandarin collars and grey dentist tops? I actually asked one of the locals if China was still Communist because Beijing is nothing like Russia or North Korea. There were no long lines of people waiting for their toilet paper ration. In some ways, it took me back to college, when Communism sort of made sense.

Our first day in Beijing ended up being sunny and in the 90′s. So of course our plans included touring The Ming Tombs and the Great Wall. Strange how the first vacation I take after my mom’s death is visiting tombs everyday.

MING TOMBS

Front of Ming Tombs

This area is the preserved land of the Ming Dynasty Emperors. Our guide Lilly was a tremendous wealth of information. I’m not going to reiterate historical facts you all can Google yourselves. I’m just going to describe our journey. It is really amazing when you see in person all the amazing structures that the Chinese created without the help of internet. Chase drove us crazy with his constant desire to buy a rice paddy hat. You know, the large straw hats you always see in oriental paintings? I don’t know why, but he was obsessed. I finally told him if he asked one more time the final answer was going to be “no”. Walking the grounds and listening to Lilly talk to us about the afterlife, it was hard not to think about my mom. It was nice to talk with someone who was so convinced in an afterlife that was supposedly so beautiful and peaceful. She told me that after a person dies, you’re supposed to burn their favorite things so they can have them.

GREAT WALL

Great Wall

Our next stop was the Great Wall. I honestly should have turned around at this point, but you see, that’s how the Chinese are so smart…. They posted this sign halfway through the climb. I was stuck clutching the stone walls trying to catch my breath as senior citizens with canes hobbled past me.

I could barely hold the camera straight

We passed an interesting section of the Wall, popular amongst newlyweds. Evidently, it’s sort of a ritual to climb the wall, attach a lock together and literally throw the key over. Our guide said she brought 2 keys and threw the fake one over. I knew there was something I liked about Lilly. I call this picture “Wedlock”:

WedLock

In the end, we made it to 5 pagodas (which in Chinese must mean “pee in the corner”). 4,000 miles and no portoJohns, so plan your fluids. Chase ended up Christening the Wall at one point with Cliff’s blessing. I was still huffing and puffing a few flights back.

Made It!

After the Wall, we had lunch at a local restaurant and ate dumplings, a corn dish, bok choy, and crispy chicken dishes. When picking restaurants, high-end restaurants are easy. They are high-end. Outside of this, you have “local” restaurants and “local-local” restaurants. Local restaurants are good food, clean, and reasonable prices. Local-local restaurants may have tasty food, but are questionable in the clean department and are dirt cheap.

JADE MARKET

Once our bellies were full, our last stop for the day was at the Jade Market.

Lilly, Jade Market Manager, Chase

It was very eye-opening to see all the Jade and how it is produced and finished. The Olympic Medals from the Beijing Olympics are actually the only medals which had Jade incorporated into each medallion. We ended up picking several pieces which are amazing and had a lot of fun haggling. Piece of advice: try not to negotiate with a 10-year-old boy who thinks he has money, but, if he has to be around, make sure he knows to stay in the back and just look tough and not say anything.

CHINA CLUB

China Club

We ended our day at the China Club for dinner. Before we were seated the host showed us some of the accommodations also available. Cliff thought it was just a restaurant, but there are actually amazing rooms that you can stay in when you come visit. I highly recommend it.

We arrived in Tokyo Sunday Night and it is Tuesday. Every time I see a staircase now, I start to sweat and feel dizzy. I don’t think it is jet lag necessarily, maybe PTSD from the Great Wall. I swear, my legs get weak very quickly now. I am doing a lot of yoga, trying to find my breath again. But besides that, I am going to the grocery store and making “salad dinners” every night. Sometimes I feel guilty but it usually passes. Most of the time I just feel like I’m in one of those Public Service Announcements for Depression. Walking around in my robe aimlessly. Today on my way to yoga, I fell off my bike on a busy street and thank God there wasn’t a car behind me. I got up and looked at all the road rash on my butt and my bleeding feet and shoulders, but you know what? I just re-rolled that damn yoga mat and biked on. I probably grossed out the other people in the class with my bloody prints on my mat, but I don’t care. It felt good to hurt physically. Felt good to move forward.

Until next time…

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