Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ni Hao, Beijing

We almost missed the airport bus this morning and had to jump the fence and jaywalk across Tower Rd. You don't mess with Tower road, named by us due to the lack of street names in South Korea, but at six in the morning it's aiight.

So it's pretty damn cold in Beijing.

With faces plastered to the window on the busride from the airport to the area of our hostel (1 km from Tiananmen square) we noted the trees planted row after row after row, the grey skies, and children playing with fire.

We successfully found our hostel (Kiran, so far so good with Far East...) and hit the streets, heading North through the neighbourhood hutong towards the square. Along the way we hit up some shops and bought the necessary Mao gear before running into a young Chinese fellow who we named Dylan. Dylan is twenty and wants to practice English. This was fine with us because he showed us the way to the square and shared with us some interesting things.

I bought a plastic Chinese flag which I later gave to a small child after her mother caught me stealing her photograph.

We thought about the '89 massacre and asked Dylan how he felt about it. He confirmed for us that not too many, if any, people died then and what Westerners say is an exaggeration. We didn't press further. Somehow I think that all the tanks firing into the biggest public square in the world packed with protesters would result in at least SOME deaths, but who's to say what's what? He blew me away.

The people love Mao here. We asked a girl in a t-shirt shop. He's the Chairman!! Of course he's good!!! Ahh.

In the square a woman asked to take her picture with us because foreigners are cool. But we occasionally get that in Korea as well. There are many foreigners milling about here.

The city is relatively quiet right now because it's new years eve. In celebration, people generally visit with their families, eat dinner, and watch a new years eve program with dancing and singing and the like. Maybe a ball drops, but I don't know. Out on the street there are firecrackers being lit at random along the streets and hutongs. It is reminiscent of Patong beach but not quite as scary.

We tried also to go to the Forbidden City but it's closed today.

For dinner our hostel hosted a "learn how to make dumplings" event in the restaurant. It wasn't too busy or even too contrived feeling. We filled twenty dumplings with various ingredients: carrots, green onion, Chinese cabbage, etc. They steamed them and served it with soya sauce. We had a nice, cold Tsingtao (sp?!) beer on the side. Dad, you'd have loved it.

Tomorrow the alarm clock is ringing at 5:45 so we (and our new German friend Chris/Guss) can catch our 6:30 bus to the Great Wall of China. We'll be hiking from one part to another (their names currently escape me... well I know we end up at Simatai) which should take five hours over ten kilometers of steep and risky terrain. I heard it might snow.

Everything here is really cheap. The sales people are a million times pushier than in Thailand and a lot less friendly. The people also speak very little English. I could have sworn I knew how to say Happy New Year in Chinese thanks to my Chinese highschool population. I guess "Kung Hey Fat Choy" must be Cantonese instead of Mandarin, or vice versa...

This is a choppy post, I agree.

I am in China! It is pretty incredible.


At January 28, 2006 11:28 p.m. , Blogger p.p. said...

you must go to the Pearl market and to the ebassy district, which has a great market. Two very cool places. Have a great time; it's a fascinating place.

At January 29, 2006 6:59 p.m. , Blogger Christopher Olie's Dad said...

You can shop for a watch for me there. Nice and cheap.

At January 29, 2006 10:23 p.m. , Blogger Kiran said...

now get some fat bottles of tsingtao and go have a crazy time in the hutongs...find some old dudes playing ping pong and challenge them to a game...they'd be all for it...and go on the jinshanling to simatai great wall hike through the far east hostel...

At January 29, 2006 10:25 p.m. , Blogger Kiran said...

wait, you are going to simatai...these old chinese ladies will follow you the whole way trying to sell you books...they're crazy, they'll hike the whole wall if they had to just to sell you a book...and trust me, you'll regret not taking the cable ride across the frozen lake at the the it!!!

At January 31, 2006 4:52 a.m. , Blogger Jessica said...

I didn't go to the pearl market of the embassy district, though I did drive by the Canadian embassy coincidentally.

Dad, check the mailbox in a week or two...

No luck with the ping pong, but the hike I can check off. And it's too late - I didn't do the zipchord thing and I DO regret it! Boo hoo hoo


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