A Travellerspoint blog

Classic Beijing

Last day in Beijing! The tour today only had 2 of us. Luckily for me, it was a nice Filipino man on a stopover from the Philippines. We headed to Tianenmen Square and the Forbidden City. There was some monthly government official conference going on so we encountered A TON of military men and bodyguards. There was absolutely no access to the square, so we took pics from afar and headed to the Forbidden City. We learned about this history and how when Chairman Mao came into power the palace was no longer a Forbidden City and everyone was allowed to visit it. There are about 8700 rooms in the palace and the emperor sleeps in a different room each night so that by the time he is 27 he should have slept in every room. The vast number of rooms seems a bit excessive to me. Haha. Anyways, it's pretty impressive how grand and huge the palace is. I walked through the middle gates as the emperor would and the second I walk into the living quarters section I notice a white guy in a plaid shirt who looked awfully familiar....It was Chris and Nicolette! What the. What are the chances. I knew they were going to the Great Wall today but somehow we managed to cross paths. So hilarious. We took a picture to commemorate the moment but it's on Chris' camera. Future Facebook friends it is. We finished up in the forbidden city looking at all the gold that only the emperor could wear and have as well as the huge spacious rooms for his wedding night and working quarters. It all really reminded me of those last scenes in Mulan where she gets her recognition from the emperor and fights Genghis Khan on the roofs of the Forbidden City. Haha

We headed onto a silk factory which this time around I actually got to see how they get the silk and make it into a quilt. It is really sad because they boil the pupa within the cocoon until it's dead. Morbid. But man is silk super soft. Anyways, I was looking at the clothing when I hear someone yell my name....and what do you know I see Nicolette and Chris yet again! Geez. Small world. We parted ways one last time because they were headed to the Great Wall and I had gone yesterday. Glad I got to see them one last time for good times sake.

We headed to the Temple of Heaven after this and it was awesome. It's kind of like a Beijing version of Central Park. There were a ton of Chinese people dancing, singing, tai chiing, playing cards, crocheting, whatever you could imagine. It was a very fun place to walk through. The Temple of Heaven itself is quite amazing. It's 3 circular layers and in this square they made sacrifices to the gods for wealth and prosperity and grain, etc. They typically burned calves but one emperor used human sacrifices. Different times. I can see why superstition is so ingrained into my grandparents and parents now. There is a lot of Chinese history and a lot of stories behind those superstitions. We ate lunch after this and it was really delicious despite only having 2 dishes since there were only 2 of us on the tour. Haha it was some eggplant dish with potatoes and Kung pao chicken.

We left for the Summer Palace and you could see how cool and breezy it would have been there. It was burned down many times and the last to rebuild it was the only empress known as the Dragon Lady. It also has the longest painted corridor in the world. I wish we were visiting in the summer because the huge dragon boats go out onto Longevity Lake. It's pretty crazy how big the palaces are and how much influence Dragon Lady had despite not being very loved by her people. This was the last stop of the day and we headed to another pearl place where this time we were pressured a lot to the point that we just walked straight out to the car after being lectured at for an hour. The one good thing was that this shop was located in the Olympic stadium so I got to see very nice views of it.

Moos chose this delicious restuarant in a shopping mall. We had things I've never had before and it did not disappoint. Because she's training for a triathlon, moos was still hungry. We decided to look for a jenbing but couldn't find any so we decided to get a drink at the Local Bar. I got a Sanlitun sunrise that tasted deliciously of lychee, moos got a mule punch, and we shared a very thick sangria. The combo of being very tired and buzzed made me ptfo when we got back. Luckily I was living pretty well outta my luggage. Tomorrow is my travel day back to the states!

Posted by E.M.N 03/13/2014 00:36 Archived in China Comments (0)

Full Beijing Experience

Today started off with a frightening event. My bus for the tour was supposed to pick me up at 7:50 and had called to tell me to come down so when I went down the first bus I saw was this rinky dink yellow one and I hopped on thinking this was my bus. 5 minutes later, my phone rings and I know instantly that I was on the wrong bus and that these people next to me were locals. Luckily, the lady next to me spoke enough English to shout out that I wanted to get off right this second. I threw 2 RMB at the driver and frantically ran in the reverse direction. Drowning in fear and anxiety, I got a hold of MooMoo who directed me back to her place and finally found my actual bus. This time there was the English speaking tour guide and a van full of non Chinese people. How embarrassing and sweaty....lesson learned: do a better job of checking the car I get into.
I settled into the bus after my tour guide, Eva, showed her massive disappointment for my being Chinese and not being able to speak Mandarin. Good times. Why is it that mandarin speakers automatically assume as a Chinese person I know mandarin? If only Cantonese was the national language. Haha We headed first to the Ming Tombs where the 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty are buried. There are only 3 open to the public and we visited the Dingling Tomb (sounds like what we call Jason sometimes haha). It is the tomb of the last Ming dynasty emperor, Zhu Yijun or Emperor Wanli. He rule for 48 years, the longest period in the Ming era. It is also the only tomb with 2 empresses because the first empress never bore children and the emperor fell in love with a maid who bore him the next future emperor. We went down 27km into the underground palace which was impressive considering the entire palace was made of stone and marble 300 years ago.
We left the tombs for a jade factory but this time I actually got to see them carve it. It's funny going to these places with non-Chinese people because it seems to be a very different atmosphere. No one bought anything but we weren't trapped in a room like the previous tour. I hope the tour guide didn't have a quota to meet. We ate lunch and it seems that my tour group hadn't had a lot of experience with different Chinese food because the family from Dallas loved all the food and the German family hated it. The food was neither bad nor good. Definitely an upgrade from jinzhaigou though.
Finally, we headed to the main attraction, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. We paid 80¥ for a chair lift ride and return ticket. I rode with the Dallas family member who was afraid of heights. I was worried when we got off we would pull a Mel and just faceplant but it actually slowed enough to walk to the side. The Great Wall is amazing. The manpower it took to build this wall is insane. It just spans and spans and I'm sure on a less polluted day you could see it run for miles. The steps on the Great Wall are extremely steep and it was exhausting climbing them. Coming down from them was even worse. You could easily slip and break your head. So it was slow and steady all the way through the 3 towers we were able to walk to. I don't know how soldiers ran along this wall warning each other of the Huns or other things. Maybe I just need to exercise more haha. The Dallas family was nice enough to take pictures of me and vice versa. We reached the end and headed back to TOBOGGAN down the Great Wall! The man at the top of the slide decided to still my Kitkat from my backpack and eat it. So strange but I let him have eat it. The ride itself was SO FUN. I thought it would be terrifying but The toboggans don't let you go incredibly fast. It was really exhilarating and the breeze was so pleasant after heating up from the hike. I can see why Olympians love doing the luge, skeleton, and bobsled. I definitely wanted to go again.
We saw the water cube and bird's best in the distance on our car ride to Dr. Tea's. The tour guide said there'd be no doctor inside an all I could think was technically I'm 3/4 of one! Haha. Anyways the lychee black tea was the best flavor. But let this be a warning that you never take Colombians to a tea house. Haha not a successful sales day for anyone.
I headed back to Moo's and I got the full Beijing experience tonight. We decided to bike over to Dayali to get some delicious Peking duck. My legs aren't quite long enough to brake gracefully or easily on her bike considering the inches she has on me but I managed to ride the 1km away. We ordered a whole duck in true fatty fashion and I learned how much moo's can eat. I tried to keep up and did a pretty decent job but regretted it afterwards. The Peking duck here is normally served with the meat and ours came with egg roll wrappers. It was delicious but I don't feel like it was any more special then in the states. The side dishes we ate were really good and we basically killed most of it by the time the duck came. We had a spinach dish, a tofu and black fungus dish, and a fried potato dish. We killed almost all of it including the WHOLE DUCK. All in all a very good meal despite feeling like a 50 ton pig.
We then headed to Carrefour market on our bikes. This is where the real fun started. Moos normally bikes at triple the speed and I haven't rode a bike in years so I was just trying not to die in the streets of Beijing. She turned to cross a street but I was still some feet behind her. Thinking I could catch up and make up the difference I attempted to turn right with the green crosswalk sign in my favor but it being Beijing a car decide to turn right and my incompetency did not help me maneuver around it so my life flashed before my eyes and I tried to figure out what to do. I decided I would try to stop and avoid the car but instead my short legs didn't allow for a quick brake. I braced myself for the impact imagining myself flipping onto the hood of the car. BANG! I hit the side of the car. But luckily came out relatively unscathed minus losing my pride and scrambling some of the leftovers in my bike basket. True Beijing experience I am told by moos after she realized that I had been hit at all. She says the car hit me not the other way around. I value my life too much to bike anymore in Beijing. Anyways we made it to Carrefour and I bought a ton of snacks and goodies to bing back. :) pretty worth it I think. I survive the bike ride back and I thank moos for the experience whole heartedly. Haha I still find it pretty hilarious that I ran into a car with a bike.
I think my trip has been filled with enough of my incredible stupidity. At least, it's kept me entertained and learning from life. Last day tomorrow in Beijing. Both sad and happy about this. Glad I've gotten to hang out with moos though!
(Apparently blogs are illegal in china and Beijing is the strictest so no photos until I'm back in the states)

Ming Tombs
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Underground Palace
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Mutianyu section of the Great Wall
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Tobogganing down!
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Dayali Peking Duck
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MooMoo!
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Bicycle of death.
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Posted by E.M.N 10:35 Archived in China Tagged great beijing wall duck peking Comments (0)

Chengdu to Beijing

Tamara and Ami headed back home today and I headed to Beijing. It was sad and I miss them already.

So one of the simple joys I get now in China is being able to go on a Western toilet. Chengdu and Beijing airport both get gold stars on this front. I decided to have KFC at the airport and I think fried chicken in China is made with a spicy kick. My food was delicious but I ordered way too much because I had no idea how to order just popcorn chicken and French fries so I had to point at a meal so that I could get both. The chicken wings were sweet and not at all what I expected but delicious nonetheless. I then caved to urinating even though I was terrified of the thought of bringing my stuff into a stall with a squatting toilet, but I quickly found out there were western toilets! Simple joys I tell you. You have no idea. Anyways, I flew to Beijing and headed to a taxi queue. I knew I was in Beijing when I struggled to comprehend something and the employee responded with English. The taxi driver however did not speak English and I once again I had to pray about making it to my final destination. I successfully made it to MooMoo's apartment. It was good to see her again and catch up. We decided to go eat dinner in the hunting areas where the buildings are little older and remind you of what old Beijing looked like. The street was vibrant full of locals, foreigners, food stalls, and shops. Moos gave me the option between 2 small dinners or one dinner so naturally I chose 2. We went to Mr. Shi's for fried dumplings first. It was a cool little spot that apparently a lot of foreigners go to and it always startles me to see non Chinese people speaking Mandarin so well. The dumplings were delicious but not as good as people seem to think. We got a shiitake based one, a pork and leek, and a chicken and chives. We then left and headed to a yunan restaurant. We had a yunan cheese dish, eggs and jasmine flower, and an eggplant dish. The food was delicious and I'm glad this was my first experience with yunan food. I love having friends that are fatties.

MooMoo's tip of the day: You have to be a bitch in China otherwise they'll run all over you. (gonna try to remember that and figure out a way to yell at people in mandarin I guess. Haha)

Tomorrow should be pretty busy at the Great Wall!

Mr. Shi's Dumplings
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Yunan Cheese (like Chinese cheese curds)
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Eggs with Jasmine Flowers
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Eggplant
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Posted by E.M.N 03/10/2014 12:05 Archived in China Comments (0)

PANDAS

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding & Paradise Ethos

As the tour has now come to a close, it is funny how entertaining the people on this tour were. Each person had a unique hilarious quality about them. There were couples that saw their own children in Tamara, Ami, and I and treated us as such making sure we knew what was going on and helping us take pictures. We also made new found friends in our other American youngsters. It's interesting that being on a bus together for 7 days straight has brought us all together. I think I noticed this the most today perhaps because I'm sentimental and perhaps because it was the last day and people didn't care about these "sales" anymore. Honestly, I won't miss being stuck on the bus or starving or sleeping in a crappy hotel, but I will miss spending time with the tour group and laughing hysterically at whatever the tour threw at us.

Today was another long day and I'm exhausted but this was the day that we had been looking forward to! We started the day at a Latex Foam factory and learned that apparently poor sleep causes brain cancer so basically without a latex foam on your bed, you'll get brain cancer. I stopped behaving and listening after that point of the presentation. This latex foam stuff ironically touted how quickly their foam returned to shape versus memory foam but it was not sturdy and felt extremely flimsy. I'd stick with the memory foam. Our tour group as mentioned above has really banded together by the end of this tour in that everyone was determined not to buy A SINGLE THING until they had knocked down the price to something more reasonable. It is like a game of sales chicken. I think because we have had so many sale stops thus far, not many people bought into this one.

We left this place and headed to Chengdu Jinli Ancient Street. We only had an hour (which is what I really don't like about this tour despite it's price. We never get enough time at places we want to spend more time at but stay at the sponsorship seller places for at least 2 hours), so we had to make the time count. The street is crowded with locals and tourists alike and if I had had my wish, we would have been able to eat lunch on this street. We were on a mission to bargain for cute trinkets to take home, but no one took bargains. Luckily, everything was pretty cheap. I caved and bought a bbq squid skewer. It was delicious and spicy and I wish I could have tried all the skewers. We made our rounds to each store and then on the way back made our purchases. We easily ran out of time and wanted to spend more but it was lunch time. At lunch, we basically had 4 different kinds of soup and various other dishes. It was really tasty and I tried frog for the first time. It was like a sweeter version of chicken. Not bad. But as always there was not enough beef in one of the dishes, so no beef for me. :(

After lunch, we finally headed to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. All the youngsters had really really wanted to cradle a baby panda but that was $350 USD and had planned to pay money to see the giant pandas up close but for some reason our tour guide didn't really give us that option and we didn't know how to ask. :( Anyways, this research base is HUGE and they have around 200 pandas, 20 of which are displayed each day. We loved the pandas and the young cubs were so cute. The adult pandas were all in individual enclosures, so the cubs were fun to watch because they wrestled with each other and everyone oohed and aahed when they would tumble down the hill. We were lucky that it was around feeding time so many of them were eating bamboo. I still wish we could have touched and fed them apples but instead we headed to another peddler, PAERLS this time (that's how they spelled it). Never enough time at places I want to stay the whole day at. Our tour group was pretty much done at this point and with our tour guide having exceeded his quota, no longer cared to buy expensive things. I've never seen our tour be more inattentive. It was pretty sad and hilarious how this lady was trying to catch our attention. This was when the true power of our group tried to come into play. There was a gold pearl necklace that the older people were interested in and before doing anything they circled around each other and decided what they would bargain for. It apparently was originally 320K RMB but the boss said he'd sell it for 18K. Our group wanted it for 6K and the boss got fed up and sent us on our way. It was the shortest sales pitch of the whole trip. haha

We headed to what was supposed to be the best meal of the trip but it was basically mushroom hot pot. Literally had 10 different kinds of mushrooms and just basically mushrooms to eat for dinner. It was not the best meal of the trip but it was still good. There's some kind of spice or herb that they use here that tastes almost like a lemon garlic weird mix that I don't like or dislike. It seems to be signature to Sichuan cooking here. We were all rooting for He's BBQ next door instead. haha. It's funny that they only gave us like 15 vermicelli noodles.

We then went to OCT which is basically an entertainment area and went to see Paradise Ethos, which is this awesome show about the history of Chengdu that was directed by Zhang Yimou who was the 2008 Beijing Opening Ceremony Director. Our tour guide got us the best seats in the house and many times the actors and actresses were right in front of our faces. Ami almost got hit in the face by a guy changing his mask. The show is nothing like I've seen before and it was basically super overstimulation for my brain and eyes. The way they do the lights and effects was very unique and made it all the more interesting. Our tour group with no hesitation threw Chris under the bus and volunteered him to go up on stage. The MC asked him where he was from in Mandarin and Chris assumed he said what is your name, so the MC was left wondering where exactly Chris was located. haha Poor Chris again. I'm not entirely sure it was worth the high price of the ticket but it was a fun and entertaining show nonetheless. Afterwards, the youngsters were trying to run to McDonald's and KFC but they were both closed so we reluctantly headed back to our hotel for our last night as a tour group. Sad to say goodbye, but I AM SUPER EXCITED to see MooMoo and Beijing and to be one step closer to returning home!

Noods for breakfast
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Nicolette drowning in Latex Foam
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Indulging on some delicious BBQ squid. :)
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Cheers with our baby goblets.
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Now some PANDAS!
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And we're the 3 best friends that anyone could have.
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"American" Panda haha he looks like a fatty.
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Can you find the cute little cub?
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Fobby Youngsters. I'll miss these guys.
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Mushrooms Galore Hot Pot
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The weirdest ad for Chengdu ever. Those are people in those square holes.
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All of the lights! Lights. Lights
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Posted by E.M.N 16:53 Archived in China Tagged pandas paradise chengdu ethos yimou Comments (1)

Mount Emei and Chengdu

Happy International Women's Day!!! Apparently, China is one of the few countries that makes this a national holiday. Good job, China!

Today, we headed to a Jade "Factory". I was instructed not to buy any jade so this was a very long 2 hours of watching other people buy jade and standing around with Tamara and Ami who were also not allowed to buy jade. haha We did get to touch the jade dragon for wealth. We left here and went to eat lunch where we had one of my parents' favorite, fish and tofu soup. The meals are getting a lot better. After this, we headed to Mount Emei which is known for having the first Buddhist temple in China. We did not have time or the capability to go all the way to the summit to visit the largest 4 faced Buddha in the world but we did take a shuttle to another temple. There were many Buddhas and deities to pay respects to and we snuck pictures of them accordingly. At the first temple, Tamara, Ami, and I bought a placard to make a wish on and hung it for good luck. We were told that on our way up the mountain we would encounter monkeys that would jump on you and you had to basically pray silently while other people brushed them off. We didn't see any monkeys at all. As we took the shuttle up, we noticed that every person walking on the trail turned around and stared at us. We were guessing it was uncommon to not use your own 2 feet. The temples seemed very peaceful and monks were around doing tai chi and cleaning. It was interesting to see how they lived. We left this place for downtown Chengdu. We were determined after dinner to pursue snacks and soda like crazy since China has unique flavors and snacks. We went to 7-11 and bought a plethora of goods. Then we decided to see what a McDonald's was like in Chengdu. We bought some chicken wings and fries but wanted to buy pork nuggets which they had ran out of. These chicken wings were DELICIOUS and spicy. The fries didn't taste the same as the states but more like potato chips. We saw a pizza hut and apparently international chains are sit down restaurants. WEIRD. We then walked around the shopping street stopping at places like Uniqlo and a Disney store that almost seemed like a knock off store. We only had about an hour and had to head back for the Shufeng Sichuan Opera.
Interestingly enough, I have taken a Chinese Opera class at UCSD but remember nothing about it except that all the songs sound the same to me. This Sichuan Opera however is famous for changing faces and spitting fire. The plot line of the show was vague and not interesting but I was entirely entertained the whole time. They have a sign that translates in English for you, even if it is very poor translations. I didn't imagine this tour would take us to such a high tech and fancy opera show. When we first sat down, we decided to indulge in some of our treats and drink the tapioca tea we had bought. The couple from NY that sat next to me thought we didn't like our dinner but we just explained we were pigs and continued to eat our new found goods. The acts performed were very impressive. The theater has screens with lights, lasers, a waterfall, acrobatics, puppet shows, spitting fire, and most awesome of all changing of masks. We think we've figured out how they do but you'll have to watch for yourself to see.

I AM SO EXCITED FOR TOMORROW! It is also our last full day on the tour.

Flowers we got for the holiday.
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Mount Emei ("The mountain that looks like a lady brow")
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Hanging our wish placard up.
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One of the many Buddhas we saw
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Elephant (I don't really know the significance but it was at the bottom of Mount Emei)
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Dinner where they popped balloons the entire time making me startle.
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Chinese McDonald's!!!!
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Shufeng Sichuan Opera House
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Waiting for the show with our snacks and huge ass drink.
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All the fortunes from the day. I think the older people and our tour guide think we are crazy for spending so much time in convenience stores. Those are wasabi shrimp flavored Lay's down there!
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Posted by E.M.N 08:21 Archived in China Tagged mount buddha opera sichuan chengdu emei Comments (2)

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