Thursday, April 30, 2009

Silkworms, Oysters, and acrobats! Oh my!

Candace's Blog:

Beijing is a gorgeous city. I've established that they must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to keep up with the aesthetic beauty on the streets. There are rows of different colored hedges with designs along the highways, flower beds all over the place (some form designs as well), plus the streets are clean of any litter. It's incredible. The sights are also amazing. We woke up at the crack of dawn again so we could get a tour of the city. As the rest of the tours we took with the hostel we were the only ones going on the tour so we got our own private guide. Which was awesome. It made me feel rather special. The guide took us to several different places, it was awesome.

We started our tour by seeing the Temple of Heaven. It is gorgeous and huge! It's also mostly used as a recreational park by the older citizens. We were there before any of the tourists began to arrive so I'm pretty sure we were the only 2 non-Asians in the entire place. We got plenty of looks as our tour guide showed us the various sights. As we were going through one of the sections I got stopped by this lady that wanted to take my picture. I was getting used to this so I agreed, which seemed to make her happy and then moments later 6 other ladies joined us. Apparently her and her sisters all wanted a picture with me and as Kevin was laughing at me and trying to escape he got caught up in a photo with one of the locals. I'm beginning to feel somewhat like a celebrity. Being paranoid I kept a firm grasp on my items and made sure I wasn't being pick pocketed while I was being swarmed for photographs.

On the way to our next location our guide asked if he didn't mind if we switched guides because the other one had lost his group. We agreed and we were off to see the silk museum/factory/shop. The new guide, Leo (I actually remembered his name) spoke great English. It had an odd mixture of accents which turned out to be neat. At times it sounded really Asian, Australian, English, and American. It was awesome. He was also our age which was cool. As we walked through attractions he told us jokes and riddles. It was great. Back to the silk museum, we saw the life cycle of the silk worm and then saw how silk was made (Leo also stole a dried up worm in the cocoon and gave it to me a little later). After we saw how the different silks were made we were shown how they make quilts and even got a chance to stretch some of the silk.

The next location was the Forbidden city. One word. Incredible. Okay it's also amazing and stunning. We went through the entire thing while Leo gave us plenty of history on the building with occasional pop quizzes to make sure we were paying attention. After the Forbidden City we went off for lunch. He took us to a local restaurant and ordered some food for us. It was pretty good. I finally got to try Kung Pow Chicken, it's awesome. After lunch we went to the Beijing oyster manufacturing place. We were briefly shown how they clean out the oysters (and were given a couple of the pearls). There was a lot of really nice jewelry there.

We eventually ventured back to the Summer Palace and Leo gave us a history again on the location. We walked around the lake and took a boat ride to what I believe was the Nine Gate Bridge and walked over it before heading out towards a tea house. On the way we got to see the Olympic stadium. That thing is huge! At the tea place we were able to sample some different teas (which tasted amazing). I ended up buying some tea there, it was too good.

In the evening we had the acrobatics show. Our guide was a little late due to traffic and to make up for it he bought us some really good seats that were really close to the stage. The acrobatics show was amazing. I'm not sure if it was better than last nights or not, they both rocked. Some of the stuff that they did was simply incredible. If you're ever in Beijing go to the acrobatics show. It's worth it.

Kev's Blog:

Another day done in Beijing. The tours were not bad. I definitely enjoyed the Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City. The size of the ancient buildings and areas is mind blowing. Regretfully, there were some less enjoyable parts to the show.

First, we were taken to silk factory, where we learned the process of silk making, very interesting. After there was the pearl factory and lastly a tea house. Had it stopped at those, it would have been great, however, after each exhibition, we were guided like sheep to the store area. Once there, a vendor was assigned to us to try and get us to buy, whether it was silken quilts and bed covers, pearl jewelry or pats of tea. The pressure to buy was palpable. They would go on about a product, if they saw you weren’t interested, they moved to the next product in hope of better luck. Our first tour guide told us that China wasn't affected much by the economic recession but after seeing and feeling the desperation coming from those vendors, I doubt it.

I for one, do not take being pressured into things very well and did not like the feeling of being forced to buy something that I don't want. No means no doesn't it? The concept hasn't reached this country yet it would seem.

After our day long tour, we went back to our hostel, ate and waited to get picked up for the acrobatics show. Turns out the bus was late (because of traffic and possibly difficulty in finding our hostel) and we did miss the first act of the show. To compensate however, Tony (the company manager), got us 2nd row seats! We could see those acrobats and contortionists in all their glory. Even better, when it was time to pay, it cost us almost half as what it said on the internet. More cash for us!

Well, now it's time to rest to new muscles I'm developing in my legs, tomorrow we go see the Lama Temple (I sure want to see a lama), and we're going to try the subway, yeehaa!

Ciao X O

Caligraphy painting in the streets. It's for artists to show their skills when they have no other means to do it. They paint with water.

Inside the Forbidden City, in the gardens

Us in the Temple of Heaven.

One of the buildings in the Temple of Heaven.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We're even too ghetto for hot ear wax...

Kev's blog:

So after our tour at the Great wall, we headed back to our Hostel. After a bit of resting in our room, we hit the Beijing streets. As we're walking and collecting glares we found ourselves inside a mall. Now, this mall puts to shame all malls that we could find in Ottawa. Floors so sparkly you could shave with, enough advertisements and flashing lights to give a blind man a seizures and 6 floors! It felt like entering the mall for rich. We ended up exploring all the floors and checking out the shops. Was a very fun experience, living the culture you know? For some reason though, they had the heat going, and it's warmer here than it is in Ottawa.

We went back to our hostel for some food and quickly caught our ride to the kungfu show. The driver was very friendly, asked us to teach him some English and even gave us some money for the cab ride back! What more could we ask for? We get there, he gives us our tickets and we enjoy the show (no pictures allowed, sorry folks). We finished our shopping as well while at the show, good thing too seeing as funds are getting low. Then it was time to catch a cab. First one we approach doesn't want to take us…. Fine we'll take the next one, he asks for 100 yuan before ride (Yea right) so we leave the crowded theatre and try to get a cab further away, possibly with more luck (Yea right).

I suppose I did something bad and karma caught up with me (although I prefer blaming Candace, my karma's impeccable!) because now it was raining, and all the cabs were full. Even those that weren’t didn't stop, one slowed down, took a look at us and drove away (I never thought we'd have so much problems getting a taxi as 2 white folks). After 30 minutes in the rain (thank goodness it was light rain) someone finally stopped and let us in their cab. The 20 yuan covered the whole ride at least. Walked passed the foot massage place (man that'd be nice about now) which also offers ear candle treatments (what ever that is) in any case, after tonight we probably can't afford it anyways and now we're back here, in the bar writing this note while eating unsalted French fries (can't find the salt and the ketchup tastes like…well not ketchup).

Other than this minor, unfortunate incident which I am taking lightly (I'll laugh about it I the future) it was a great day. The Great Wall is a Must. I how now accomplished 2 of the 3 things I wanted to do while in Chine, Eat Roast Duck, go to the Great Wall and meet Mao (I'm still hopeful).

Bed time, tomorrow we're touring half the city in 1 day and our legs ach in places we didn't know existed so we're off to snore.

Ciao X O

Here's some more of the Great Wall photos. Unfortunately we couldn't take any at the Kungfu show. Sorry guys!

Turns out that what you think may be an easier route isn't always that easy of a route.

I woke up nice and early this morning to the sound of my alarm. It's one of those annoying beeping sounds that quickly turns into an annoying buzz. I wanted to let it go longer so Kev could hear it too but it was driving me nuts. I pressed the snooze button and closed my eyes and then woke up seconds later in a panic. I had remembered something about possibly clicking snooze in Madrid and not hearing the second alarm. I stayed awake for a few more minutes before waking Kev up so we could start our day.
I'm pleased to announce that the showers are getting better. I've brought my options from freezing cold, cold, or scalding hot to really hot or scalding hot. The showers are still quite refreshing even with those options. It just sometimes take a little longer since it's hard to stay under the water for so long.
Last night we bought ourselves some random food to have for breakfast (and lunch) and turns out that it wasn't much of a breakfast. I bought this premade strawberry jam (I think) sandwich with some crackers and cheese flavored sticks. I had the sandwich and stole a part of Kev's chocolate and vanilla cake. It pretty much looked like the cake thing that I bought with Robynne in Italy, only it wasn't covered in chocolate. It was good tasting.
After eating our "breakfast" we went down to the reception/tourist desk area to see about our tour. To the Great Wall! It turns out that we were the only ones who booked that tour so we got the bus all to ourselves. That was awesome. It was like our own private tour, but not since the wall was covered with other tourists. On the way to the wall I noticed that some of the street signs are rather amusing. They have signs that remind drivers to keep a safe distance between vehicles, don't drink and drive, don't drive while drowsy, watch out for heavy loads on certain roads. What makes this signs so amusing to me is the illustrations on them. It's not the simple stick figure that I'm used to. They're mini cartoons with some details. They grab your attention, which is awesome.
Bicycles here still fascinate me. Rather, it's what people put on the bicycles. I've seen this one man with a huge pile of balloons. Its amazing the balloons were making the guy float away. While another man has a back filled with huge water bottles, some carry huge pieces of wood while others have large bags. This one lady had her child in a basket behind her (the child looked to be 5-6, so she could hold on). There's also a large number of bicycles on the streets. There are almost as many bikes are there are cars, which is saying a lot. It's crazy!
The ride up to the wall took about 2 hours, it wasn't that bad of a trip since the scenery was amazing. We drove up into mountains and passed by a huge lake and I got to see some fishermen on the lake. It was pretty neat. When we got to the bottom of the wall it was pretty exciting. Our tour guide had given us some information on the history of the wall before we arrived so we were eager to get onto the wall. We went to a map to decide which tower we wanted to go up. We could either hike up the mountain to get to the wall. That clearly went away. We wanted the easy option of getting a lift up there. There were two options; cable car or chair lift. We chose the cable car (it was slightly cheaper) and were on our way. There are several mini stalls along the way of to get to the cable car. There's also a hill. A steep enough hill that left me exhausted by the time I got to the top and then I had to climb some stairs to access the cable car! Half way up Kevin commented on our choice for an "easy way up the mountain". I kept telling myself that it was going to get better. It eventually did and it was worth it. The view of the town below is absolutely amazing and the wall is gorgeous! I can't think of any words to truly describe the wall. It's pretty high up, I could feel the pressure on my ears as we were going up. We walked along the wall for a bit and Kevin pulled out his cell phone with the hopes that it would dial out. We thought it'd be fun to call and say "Hey, guess where we are? The Great Wall. Yeah, that's right. I'm talking to you while standing on the wall" or something like that… he settled on taking some photos with his cell to use as a background. After walking past a few towers we decided to make our way back so we could check out some of the stalls. I bought myself the game Mah Jong, it's a traditional Chinese board game, it looks pretty neat. Kevin bought himself a cone hat with some pretty designs on it. It's awesome looking.
Our lunch was also included in the tour. That was a pleasant surprise. Our tour guide preordered us some chicken and peanuts for lunch and asked if we had any specific vegetable that we'd want to eat. We told her no and she seemed rather pleased. We ended up having tomatoes and eggs. It was different but good. There were little pieces of chives in there which really added to the flavor of it. The chicken and peanuts was great as well. We got little bowls of rice to eat it with, so it was rather nice. It was also different to eat the entire thing with chopsticks. We sat a table with a spinning thing in the middle and there were two plates (one with the tomatoes and eggs, the other with the chicken and peanuts) while we each got our own bowl of rice. We had to grab the food from the plates in the middle and bring them to our rice bowls with the chopsticks. It was fun.
We also played a Chinese version of hacky sac before lunch with the tour guide. It's a bunch of little metals disks put together with some feathers and you have to hit it with your feet to each other. We started to play it because I had asked what they were, I'm glad I did. We had tons of fun. Although I have to admit that I was quite surprised to see how much energy I had to be able to play it in the first place. I was horrible at it, but I did managed to hit it once or twice. I'm not sure who had more fun, us or the tour guide.
After lunch we headed back to the hostel so we could take a quick power nap for the Kungfu show tonight! I also typed this up now because I'm sure I'll have a bunch of pictures of the show as well.

There's still plenty of pictures to come...Internet's slow and we have Kungfu!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The name of a place may hint at a single building but that doesn't mean there's only one...

Candace's Blog:

I am exhausted. I pretty much slept a full 12 hours and felt great. I think this was the first time jet lag's ever really affected me this much. I usually just get into the swing of things right away. We ended up sticking around the hostel last night instead of finding our way to the Forbidden city, which was rather nice due to my jet lag issue.

After lazing around (again) this morning we decided to check out the bar downstairs for some breakfast and ended up going for a Western Style breakfast. It was pretty decent if I ignore the slightly runny eggs and odd tasting sausage. I'm not going to be writing much since Kev pretty much commandeered my laptop earlier and pre-wrote stuffs. :shakefish: (for those of you who get it, I'm such a loser at times) Anyways, I was expecting today to be chilly since this morning was rather cold and overcast. I wore my more shoe-like sandals and hooked my jacket to my camera bag to head on out to the Summer Palace (which by the way, I assumed was a single building. Why do I not remember the research I did on it?). I also stupidly forgot to put on some sunscreen so I may have a bit of a burn, but it's not too bad right now so I should be burn less tomorrow.

The Summer Palace was gorgeous. It was massive to take in at once (it felt much bigger than Pompeii) and we didn't even get to finish it! We're planning on going back later in the week. I'll probably end up swinging by on my last week here too for photos. Assuming of course that I have time since I plan on going to the zoo, the aquarium, back to the wall, see some of those pretty lakes, and so on. I swear I'll need a vacation when I get back from my vacation (it's always like that for me). I also found myself the subject of two tourists photos. Some of the other tourists seemed to enjoy getting their pictures taken with the traveling white girl. I think I may have had more than the two come up to me if I were still blond. Kev got a shot of the second woman getting her photo taken with me. It was rather amusing. I suppose I wasn't too shocked by it since my host mother used to force me next to locals when I was in Spain for the same reasons and I had a group of Asians get their picture taken with Pati, myself and our friends while we were wandering the palace. I've just realized I've gone completely off track.

I should also point out that walking around as a tourist with a normal point and shoot camera is one thing, but walking around and climbing hills/stairs/rocks with a huge camera bag, a small purse, and the DSLR out is something else entirely! I also had another smaller point and shoot out so I could take some snapshots for this blog, otherwise everyone would have to wait until June to see some stuff. I can now see that if I want to become a traveling photographer, I need to get into better shape. Which fortunately, will probably happen on this trip. Go me!

Another (mis)adventure, tour bookings! We hopped into a cab to get to a hotel for a tour group to meet up with us and ended up waiting nearly 40 minutes before we left and thought we were pretty much scammed. The staff was rather friendly after they realized what we were waiting for (I'm pretty sure the manager dude came up to us to tell us to scram since we were unsightly (where has that happened to me before?) but once he understood why we were there, he was so helpful!) When we got back to our hostel and rebooked some trips the hostel owners sent up this girl with a walky talky. She knocked on the door and when I answered she looked at me and then started to speak in the walky talky in Mandarin. I was like "uh… " and wondered if I should shut the door or not. She eventually put the walky talky to my face so I could talk to the reception. I couldn't quite understand what they were saying so I went downstairs wih Kev to figure things out. Turns out that initial tour where we thought we were being scammed. They changed companies and this company kept trying to contact us by e-mail but we had originally typed in the wrong one (being the idiots that we are). We canceled one of the shows and got new and updated information on the second show. There hasn't been too much bad out of it.
We also went out at night to explore the streets (and possibly find a super market) to buy some breakfast type foods for tomorrow, as well as lunch to take with us for the tour. We've got a long day tomorrow so I shall pass this to Keviloo so he may finished typing up his part (I commandeered my laptop back for photos and this) and then we can head on downstairs to post it! Then it's bedtime.

A small sidenote: There are several foot massage places nearby, as the days go by, they seem more and more inviting. I think I'll be desperately wanting one by the end of my trip.

Kevin's blog:

Another day in China, whew, and a long one at that. Ended up unable to sleep last night. Candace wasn't feeling so well and went to bed a 8. I stayed up longer and did some reading, turns out "Hitchhiker's Guide to he Galaxy" book one is very short and fast to read, in about 1 hour I had gone through half of the book! Anyways, around 10 I decided to catch some ZzZs myself only it wouldn't happen. I was lying in bed eyes wide humming a tune from my preschool class. After many hours or listening to the hostel's diverse sounds (snoring, talking, walking, coupling) I fell asleep at around 2 am.

We were up a 8, showered, and downstairs for a much wanted western style breakfast of bacon and eggs. I still have no clue where they hide their cook and kitchen… Anyways, then we had to figure out where we were going. Forbidden city or Summer Palace. Since it was overcast, we decided to go visit the palace, thinking that if it did rain, at least we would be inside the palace….that was a mistake. Now the Summer Palace is more of a small city than an actual garden. It consists of many large buildings, a very elusive temple (no matter which way we too, we didn't find the way in until we were leaving). The garden span for a kilometer or more and it has it's own, humungous lake right in the middle of it. Although the name is misleading for the size, it comes nowhere near to describing the beauty of it. It is sincerely the most serene place I have ever been in. Some parts of it are were like walking back in time. I won't eternalize myself on describing it, I don't think I could do it justice anyways. After 4 hours of exploring, we have possibly seen only 1/3rd of it. It was decided, we were coming back this week to see it all since we had to leave to see our kung-fu show.

Back to the hotel, with a cab, in middle of downtown Beijing rush-hour traffic, I can't get over the way people drive here. They make reckless driving an art, I am surprised there I have not seen a single accident so far. Anyways, back to the story. At the hotel we ate some rather tasty pizza (yes I know, here we are in China and we're eating western food. What can I say, the stomach wants what the stomach wants). After that it was the kung-fu show.

It was all very disappointing. We had booked our show online, same site where we booked our hostel. The receipt told us that the pickup would be at another hotel. So once again, back in the cab and off we were ( I am getting tired of taking these cabs). We got there and had a few minutes to wait before pickup time. Only thing is, there was no one else…but it was still early enough. Time past by and a hotel host came to see what we were up to and when we showed him our papers to the show, he seemed quite confused, so he offered to call the number that was on our receipt but no answer. As Candace has explained, it was all a bunch of unfortunate coincidences.

Tomorrow, Great Wall and Kung Fu!

Ciao X O


The first few are of things taken while wandering around the Summer Palace. I'm not 100% sure what each building is or where we were.

Some pretty bridge....

Part of one of the several pretty lakes (I think there were 3-5 of them)

Me and that second random asian woman.

Kevin's elusive temple....

I think this is a part of a palace or temple or.. something.

Our hostel room. this was taken from the mini entrance hall.
I swear I've been taking pictures of Kevin. I just keep taking them with my good camera instead. I shall try to remember to take some with him with my smaller one tomorrow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Never trust an art student

Candace's Blog:

Our first official full day in Beijing! I have to wonder how many dogs there are nearby. Our hostel is located next to some apartment buildings and many restaurants and we can hear dogs barking quite often. We hope they don't belong to the restaurants.
We started our day by sleeping in. It was nice! We explored the showers which turned out to be interesting. Trying to find hot water proved to be fun. Kev managed to get his at a nice temperature but I had some issues. It was very reminiscent of Rome… the water was either cold, freezing, or scalding hot. I'm hoping for better luck tomorrow. I think I'll try taking a shower earlier in the day.

Once we were ready we decided to hit the streets. Not even 10 minutes after we left the hostel we ran into… art students! Oh my! He was a friendly guy and chatted with us for a bit and eventually asked if we wanted to go see his exhibition and we were like "uh…. Thanks but no thanks. We're on our way back to the hotel" (lucky for us our hostel is located behind a large hotel).

After a bit of wandering we realized that we didn't know what we were doing or where we were going so we went back to the hostel and asked about a place to eat. We eventually found a nice restaurant and ordered. Kev got some fruit salad which turned out to be either pears or apples in a sauce and I got some fried sweet and sour pork (I hope it was pork). We got ourselves some ice tea and juice to go with it. It was good and then we remembered that we weren't really supposed to drink the water here. Hopefully we won't get sick from it! As we were leaving the restaurant I managed to embarrass myself by tripping down a step and nearly falling flat on my face. Go me! The waitress had to catch me from falling. We quickly made our getaway as I limped from a sore ankle (it's fine now).

We found our way back to our hostel and got ready for some shopping at the Silk Street market. It turns out it's a lot easier than anticipated to catch a cab. There are probably as many cabs (if not more) than regular vehicles on the road. It's seriously a sea of them. They're pretty cool looking, either yellow and green, yellow and blue, yellow and red, and yellow and purple ones. I don't know if they're for different things or not but it's interesting. We also got some random guy ask us if he could drive us some place. We quickly refused that one.

Silk street market wasn't what I was expecting at all. It's a massive building with 6 floors, each one with a different set of items to be bought. It's also very confusing to get from floor to floor and to figure out your way around each floor. We must have passed certain vendors several times. Which was odd since almost every time we passed by these same vendors we had to tell them again that we weren't interested. Then they'd ask what you were looking for and point you in that direction. It was also strange to have to haggle for prices. It's nice to pay a different price than the price (lower) but it really makes you wonder how much profit they're actually making with the lower price that they offer since they settle with it. If you say that you aren't interested and start the leave they lower it some more for you. Here's how the haggling works (it was a little different in Mexico from what I could remember of it). They grab a calculator and write out a price. Usually it's already slightly discounted because you're "a nice person", or "the first customer of the day", or even "it's Monday, hardly no business". That was odd when they already start off from 20-50% off the marked price. After this they hand you the calculator for you to write in what you want to pay. It basically goes back and forth until a price is agreed on. Sometimes, they'd tell us half price and then put in the price in a 1.5% higher rate. That was quite funny to see. I've also never been yelled at by more vendors to buy underwear. That was a new experience. There was also the lady wanting to sell me children's clothing and when I told her I didn't have any children she told me that I looked young enough to fit into the clothing! After telling her no and walking away I burst into laughter at that with Kev. It was a rather fun experience. I may return shortly before I leave to buy the game of Go and this traditional Chinese board game (that people actually do play in the hutongs) I can't quite remember the name of it, but it looks fun and there is English instructions.

Kevin's Blog:

It's currently 4pm on Monday (or 4 am back in Ottawa)
Now I know it's day 2 but I'll write my experience of day 1 and 2 for my few followers (Allo Mom!). First piece of advice to anyone travelling…don't skip sleeping…even for early morning flights. From 4-7 am was the longest 3 hours of my life. I didn't want to sleep incase we missed the flight so we stayed up.

The plane was pretty neat. I didn't feel very well during the first flight (mix of lack of sleep and my
cold) so I didn't eat anything during that 5 hour trip. By the time we got to Vancouver, I was feeling a lot better and I can tell you I was really hungry. Not only that but my cold, which started as a sore throat, attacked my vocal cords and completely destroyed them. So here I was, going to China unable to say a word. I guess it doesn't matter much considering they wouldn't understand half of what I'm saying anyways. The trip to Beijing was long and squished, not a lot of room (the people in front of us weren’t very conscious of their surroundings). However, the attendants kept feeding us (probably to distract us) and for all I've heard of airplane food, I quite enjoyed it. The had really good hot sauce you could put on the chicken and it was yummy. Each seat had it's own little tv where you could watch some movies and shows or listen to music of all kinds ( I hope it's different movies on trip back). All in all, it was an ok experience. Didn't get to sleep much, probably 2-3 hours during the whole Ottawa - Beijing trip.

Finally arrived in Beijing, the airport building is a huge open space, very nice. I wanted to take pictured but I didn't know if we were allowed and didn't want a security guard chasing me because of snap shots. Taking a train to get our baggage was interesting. It was all very easy to do (even in the sleep deprived state of mind). All I have to say is thank goodness for english sub-texts on all the signs.

First thing I noticed when we stepped out of the airport was that the air smelled different. I had always wondered and now I know. Wasn't bad, just different. Got into the taxi with the crazy memory and got ready for a ride of a lifetime. It has to be mentioned, drivers in Beijing are crazier than the ones in Montreal. The cab was weaving between cars, bikes, pedestrians without ever stopping. At one intersection, he went right into a pack of bicycles crossing and without slowing down, the bicycles just swerved around like ants going around an obstacle. Fun fact for all of you readers, Chinese drivers have a deep love for their car horns. If you don't hear a car horn while you're in downtown Beijing, you're deaf.

The hostel is pretty nice. The staff are friendly, speak decent english and the room was not too shabby. It's small but for our needs, it's enough. The toilets… that's a different story. You aren’t allowed to flush the toilet paper. I was like "really?!" and then tried how I could avoid pooing for a week. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, while in the plane, they kept feeding us and well, it had to come out sometime. It's not so bad I suppose, just got to be careful how you handle it once your done and throw it in a garbage can. Once settled, we went out for supper, which as Candace mentioned, was something else entirely. I am happy to say that I got to eat roasted duck, which was on my "to do list". After getting over the spoon feeding and staring, I got to eat about 1/4 of the plate before I was full. It was good, a lot of it is crispy fat and skin and little meat.

After our dinner, we went back to our room and crashed. I fell asleep at 6 pm Beijing time while Candace was typing out the blog between head nods. I woke up at 3 am, unable to fall asleep again. The walls are thin and I could hear the snoring from the next room…or maybe the one under us. Luckily I fell back asleep at 5 for another 3-4 hours of snooze. Showers! First shower since Friday night, felt good and woke me up a bit. We got ready after that and headed out. Now restaurants are not hard to find, they're everywhere just like public washrooms, however finding one with some english in it…that's a different story. We found one maybe 5-10 minutes away, very nice looking place, friendly and fast service. Culture shock #1, there are no actual breakfast food in China. All foods are good at any time, however, being the Canadian that I am, eating pork or fish at 9am isn't what I'm looking for. Luckily thay had fruit so I was able to enjoy that. Now fed and ready to face the first actual day in China, we headed back to the hostel, get all our gear and took a cab to our destination.

Today, on the itinerary, was shopping day! That's right folks, I got almost all the gifts for all of you. Spent a lot but that's ok, how many times am I going to be able t buy things in China for all of the people I love back home. Culture shock #2. Silk Street market has no comparison in Ottawa. It's like going to the downtown market but inside a huge building. Where is differs are the sellers. You can't go 2 steps without someone from a stall yelling "Sir, want underwear?!" or "Nice lady! Buy scarf? Good price fo you". Luckily, I was wearing a t-shirt and my tattoo was showing. I'm guessing they aren’t used to seeing tattoos in china cause a few just stopped talking and stared at my arm as I passed them. Did my ears some good. I have never seen so much clothing located in one spot, you can clearly see that China is the #1 producer of clothing. About 3 floors was clothing only. 1 floor for jewelry, 1 for various objects and memorabilia and 1 was the relaxation/food place. Culture shock #3, haggling. I hate haggling and probably got robbed because of my lack of skills at it. Trying to figure how much I was paying canadian was hard as well. My most expensive purchase was 600 yuan, which is equivalent to about 90-100$. After about 3 hours of shopping and 4 shopping bags full, we took an angry cab back to our hostel. We're chilling in our room for the afternoon. Tonight we're gonna go take a walk to the forbidden city to see how long it takes from our hostel.

As for myself, I am in a good mood. Not too worn out and in relatively good health. I think I managed to kill my cold but not before it destroyed my voice. Now I'm sounding like a teen going through puberty, my voice cutting every 5 words but I think it should be back fully tomorrow. I'll give Candace back her computer before she falls asleep. I'll also keep it shorter next entry….if I can. Ciao XXOO

Sweet and Sour fried pork (I hope)

Some kind of fruit salad....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We've made it into Beijing!

After a long 16.5 hour (total) flying time we finally arrived safely in Beijing. The flight from Ottawa to Vancouver came up to a total of 5.5 hours and the flight from Vancouver to Beijing was a total of 11 hours. I was expecting them to be a whole lot worse. The first flight wasn't so bad but the second one was long. They had the same selection of movies/tv shows/music available. That got boring and fast but at least they were good movies. I also have to mention that the scenery when flying around BC is amazing! The mountains and frozen streams were gorgeous.

The wait at the Ottawa airport was excruciatingly long but we did manage to beat a band class through the security checkpoint. It was neat to see the sunrise from the airport. There was also the added bonus that the airline transferred our baggage in Vancouver for us! Which turned out to be fantastic since we only had an hour and a half of waiting time. It also turned out to be rather simple (and easy) to find the international departures. To get into the terminal there was a security guard waiting to see our boarding passes, naturally we gave it to him with our passports. He looked at it, nodded and checked some papers before telling us that the flight to Beijing is canceled. Kev and I both stared at him in shock and echoed "What?" together while the guard just nodded and repeated it. We stared silent for a moment before he smiled and told us that he was joking. After finding out which terminal we had to go to I was able to appreciate his joke. I believed him and I was ready to ask when the next flight would be because we were insured if this were to ever happen. We made it in 15 minutes and had plenty of time to grab some food before our next flight left.

The airport in Beijing is huge. We had to take a train to reach the luggage claims (that confused us at first but we decided to follow the crowd). Once we had our bags we were ready to find a taxi, which turned out to be another little hike (2 flights of stairs, sort of…) It was surprisingly easy since there was a man there delegating the taxis and new comers looking for taxis.
Traffic in Beijing is interesting. Our taxi driver kept driving into bike lines while the people riding the bikes would simply bike around him. If he wanted to pass a car on the express way and couldn't he simply drove between both cars. They also love to honk their horns, a lot. We did make it to the hostel safely with no problems or complications. The cab fare turned out to be cheaper than anticipated too! He was an awesome driver, he looked at the address once and didn't have to recheck it.

Our hostel is a decent place. A twin room with shared washrooms down the hall. The beds are rather comfortable (there's even a pillow and linen). When you first walk into the hostel, depending on the door you take there's either a bird with the bar or some goldfish with the reception. It's a really nice place with some really friendly staff. The halls all smell citrusy. Its awesome. The showers look great too.

Once we got ourselves settled into our room (which didn't take long) we went out to explore some of the nearby streets. Mostly we were hungry and wanted some food. We ended up going to this restaurant and ordered some traditional style Pekking roast duck. There were even goldfish on the table! The waitresses spoke very little English so there was a lot of pointing and phrasebook usage. Once we received the duck she explained how to eat it in Mandarin while pointing and demonstrating what to do. We tried dipping some of the skin in what appeared to be sugar (which tasted awesome). As we were eating those slices the chef was busy slicing up the rest of the duck for us. They brought out these mini pancake things, some thinly sliced cucumbers (we think) and onions. There were also two containers with some dark sauce. Kevin stared to dip the duck in the sauce and eat it like that while I frantically searched my phrasebook to ask about the pancakes. While we were doing this the entire staff kind of just stared at us eat and finally one of the waitresses grabbed my chopsticks and showed us how to properly eat the duck. They then went back to staring at us eat. After a bit I finally said that it was really good and they left us alone. They still found some reason to walk by and stare, it was pretty funny.

There was way too much duck for us to eat and it didn't help that we were both feeling queasy from the lack of sleep and proper nutrition. By that time it was almost 6 in the evening so we went back to the hostel to relax and gather energy for tomorrow. For those of you who are curious Beijing is 12 hours a head of Ottawa time. I plan on blogging at night while I'm here so you should expect updates in the morning for when I do update the blog.

All in all, everything's great. Beijing's a huge, gorgeous city. I can't wait to go explore some more.

Photo time!

Here's a picture of the hostel we're staying in. I found that I can get the best reception in the bar.

Pekking Duck. Kev and I had this for diner. The red shavings in the back is the shaved duck while the other longer dark thing is part of the duck's head. We didn't eat it, or even touch it.

The cute little goldfish on the table. They took ours away when they seated us.

This is just a pretty typical scene that you see here. Earlier we saw this one guy with tons and tons of bottles piled up in crates on the back of his bike.