Friday, May 1, 2009
We just wanted a box...
After getting up early 2 days in a row it was rather nice to sleep in and eat some actual food for breakfast. We ventured out of the hostel at around 11 this morning and made our way to the subway. I love the subway system here. The map is easy to follow and everything's clearly marked. Once you're in the train there's little lights that indicate where you are and where the train's been. Red is for the stations that it already passed by, green are the ones that it still has to go to and yellow is for the current station. The current station also blinks. It's also really cheap to take the subway. Which is quite nice. As fun as it was to catch cabs and get dropped off next to the place this was a good change. The only other cabs I plan on taking will be to and from a hostel when I get to Shanghai, Suzhou, and then back to Beijing. The subway also gets insane at certain times of the day. Our first trip wasn't bad, it was pretty empty and easy to reach our location. The second time we took it, it was insane. There was a sea of people all merging and moving together. We actually saw those people who's job it is to stuff people into the subway. It was insane to see. Luckily we didn't get stuffed into one of the trains like a sardine, although we did get onto a stuffed train (Kev got pushed into it, he was used as a barricade).
This morning we went to the lama temple. It's supposedly one of the bigger tourist temples. There were plenty of people praying with their incents at the various locations to do so while it was rather busy. I'm not sure if this is because it's Labor Day (yes, it's a holiday here today) or if it's because it's always this busy. Either way, it was pretty cool to see. The temple grounds are rather tiny in comparison to the Temple of Heaven but I have noticed that the architecture and illustrations are very similar. If I hadn't been marking down what's on what card I'd easily get them confused with each other. There were also several monks in the temple cleaning and basically just maintaining the place. I hadn't noticed any the other day at the other temple we've been to. It was pretty neat to see. I'm thinking of returning here on my last week.
Kev had a little bit of shopping left so we boldly went out in search of the Pearl market but somehow ended up at the Silk market again. As we came upstairs from the subway and noticed the silk market I asked some locals which market it was (luckily I had my little translated paper) and while I was doing this her friend took a picture of us talking. I had my phrasebook out and everything. It was rather amusing. I believe this makes at least a dozen or two pictures by now that I've noticed someone take without asking me first. It's odd to be getting this much attention. We've also mastered the art of crossing the street. It reminds me a lot of Naples, thank-god I've had practice from there. After we got back from the Silk Market we stopped by a local grocery store to pick up some ice cream, it was probably the best ice cream I've had in my life, next to the cones I got in Brasov. It was really soft and tasted a bit like whipped cream. After we bought our treat I decided to ask for an empty box (we're wanting to mail some things back home so it doesn't weigh down our bags). Anyways, as I'm searching my phrasebook the store clerk kept pointing out random items, they kept insisting we buy beer and cigarettes. After we finally ask for the empty box the store clerk ran outside and grabbed an empty box from the dumpster/recycle bin and taped the bottom of it for us. Kevin gave her some money in thanks and she looked at us like we were crazy. Oh well, at least we got our box. We'll be venturing off to the post office in the morning since we were too late tonight.
I've also come to realize that you can buy anything fried and on a stick here. We've ventured towards the Night Market and ran into tons of street vendors that was selling fried meats, vegetables, and fruits on a stick. There was fried chicken, chicken hearts, eel, silk worms, sheep stomach, squid, prawns, beef, pork, and so much more! We couldn't even recognize some of the stuff that they sold. We eventually found one that had chicken pieces so we got one of the sticks and went off. It was amazing. The vendor put some kind of barbecue sauce with these spices that really made the chicken taste great. Unfortunately it made us realize that we were rather hungry so we went back to the hostel to drop off our bags and then went off in search of a restaurant. We ended up at a Japanese restaurant across the street from our hostel. The waitresses all wore beautiful pink kimono's while they spoke some Japanese (I think she greeted us in Japanese). The food was amazing there and we got some free tea!
All in all, today was a great day. I'm also eager to get my laundry back. I want to finish my packing but I guess it'll have to wait until tomorrow.
So we started the day by sleeping in a bit until I got woken up by new arrivals at the hostel who were North American and extremely loud. After that I had to go to the washroom so I decided to call the sleeping in over and wake up for a shower. Once we were shiny and no longer smelly, we went downstairs where we enjoyed some very yummy pancakes (I with chocolate sauce, Candace with Strawberry) and my first cup of coffee since I left Ottawa.
We grabbed our things and off we went to the subway. A bit confusing at first, trying to figure out these passes. The ones you buy at the station are only good at that station and so on. Their subway system is very well constructed and easy to use and in no time at all we were at the Lama Temple. The temple was very nice, same architectural style as most other places we visited but all filled with statues of Buddha and other monk figures. No photos were allowed inside the building with the statues as we were told by one of the monks that worked there, however we did manage to sneak in a few shots, especially of the 3-4 story tall Buddha (holy Buddha!) It rained a bit but not enough to get us drenched.
We went back to our hostel for lunch (the kitchen had no fire so we ate a sandwich) and then we were off on the subway again to go find the "Pearl Market". The second time around, the subways was a lot more like the ones we see on TV, with the throngs of people. I felt like a fish swimming in a river of Asian people (don't try going upstream). I'm sure what we experienced was mild compared to what it could have been (it is Labor Day today and so less people possible). Once we got out, we found ourselves of the Silk Street Market… Apparently the Pearl and Silk markets are the same. It worked out in the end, we knew what we wanted and only stayed there for 20-30 minutes. Strangely, we were less hassled this time than last time. Maybe it was the look of assurance and our steady confident pace that made us look like less of a prey to these hound dog sellers.
Once we made it back to the hostel we hit the streets again and found ourselves in the "Night Market". It sounds bad but really it's an over crowded sidewalk with a bunch of grill stands where you can buy any kind of food…on a stick (quite literally, sheep guts, chicken hearts or fried silkworms anyone?). Me and Candace took our courage with both hands and decided to try out something, so we went with some chicken. It was very tasty.
We got ourselves a box to send home all the knick knacks we bought since there was no way it was fitting in our bags and we'll go try and find the post office again tomorrow.
My last night in Beijing and I have to say that it is an amazing city filled with character and life. You need a few days to get used to it but once you do, there's not quite anything like it. Although I'm happy that I'll be able to see my family, friends, cats and bed, I'm sad that I'll be leaving behind this beautiful city. One week is not nearly enough to experience the richness of Beijing, even less China but I tried my best to make the most of it and I don't regret a moment of it.
This will be my last blog entry and after today Candace will be carrying it on without me. I want to thank all those of you who read and commented, we looked forward to reading the comments everyday.
So to end it
Ciao X O
Pictures from the Lama Temple;