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Ahhh welcome to da China club

sunny 32 °C

My first day in China! How exciting and yet with my day yesterday and the language barrier, also a bit worrying.
But onwards and upwards. I wasn't going to do any of the big sights that Michelle wanted to see as I knew we'd do them together on Sunday. Michelle is coming out to China for a 2 week belter of a trip that will take in Beijing, the Great Wall, Xian, Yangzi and Avatar world.

So today I availed of the hostel's top notch breakfast of muesli/fruit/eggs/toast and coffee all for only 28 yen! This was to be my breakfast most days at the red lantern. The staff there were so cute and friendly and helpful. And the place was really cool. There were a few lads in residence there who seemed to have been there for a long time. 1 Spanish guy was living there. Another NZ guy seemed to be constantly awaiting clearance of his package (Wahey!), and one other dude just seemed to be there all the time. There was also a grumpy Israeli girl who never smiled, an Israeli family with a tiny blonde haired boy who liked to drag a chair across the floor, a gang of moustachioed German lads who liked their beer, and a load of Swiss lads who just went round the place in their tiny underwear a lot. :D
The waiter there was so smiley and polite Michelle dubbed him Mr Glee! Great Craic.

For My first day I wanted to go to Beijing's leading art district 798, so I headed out to take the subway to the bus stop. I was surprised and impressed at Beijing in the daylight. The streets were clean, developed, busy and full of funky shops and restaurants. There were actual pavements, traffic lights (that no one heeded) and tons of buses, cyclists and cars zipping up and down the road. People looked efficient yet funky, with all sorts of whopper schtyles on them. (Eg fluffy pink crocs, and panda pjs with toy panda heads stuck on them - they are well proud of their pandas here. Can you imagine if the Irish started wearing leprechaun paraphernalia or pjs in the street. Jaysus we'd get lynched. ).

Anywho, nobody was really interested in me. It was brilliant. I felt safe and ignored. :) the subway was ace and got me to the bus stop in 15 mins. My problem then was which side of the road to be on for the bus to the 798 district. I stood and waited on one side for 15 mins, only to be told by the bus driver that I should be on the other side of the road. Oops. So waited aggges on the other side before the bus came along and I embarrassingly tried to pay the bus driver himself. What a tourist! There's a little woman with a microphone shouting at you on the bus who you have to pay.
They have these tiny little women shouting into microphones everywhere ye go, I presume just to keep everyone in jobs as I can't see the point of them really. Some of them stand at the bottom of the escalator in the subway station just shouting at everyone to "stand into the right" :/ odd.

Anyway, the bus ride was pleasant with cool views along the way to 798. 798 itself was amazing. It was originally an electronics factory built by the East Germans. Now It's a huge outdoor artisty area made up of former factories, tree lined roads, artists workshops and galleries, cafes, restaurants and tons of amazing outdoor sculptures. I was immediately impressed and spent the day here pottering, buying small pieces of art and admiring the great sculptures dotted all over the gaff.


I had a cheapo delicious lunch of "chicken" cury and lemon ginger tea and then hit the shops for some new clothes to spruce myself up for Michelle's arrival! ;) I desperately needed some clothes that weren't balled or stretched or stinky or clown pants stylee.

Next day it was a rare blue-skied beautiful day in Beijing, so i rented a bike and cycled up north to explore the 2008 Olympic stadium area. It was a pretty nice cycle, the roads were busy but as long as you're paying attention to the traffic and not taking photos as you cycle, (ahem!) you'll be grand.


The stadium itself was very quiet with not much going on. The buildings are impressive though and the area is huge.

Most of it was closed to the public though so after a couple of hours, I cycled back and treated myself to a mini pizza and beer in Pizza Hut. (In my defence, the menu had pictures!) it's very difficult to order food here. I obv can't read Chinese and you never know when a "goose intestine"or "braised Enema" is going to be lurking on a menu here....even when I try and speak MAndarin, the staff look at me like I'm bonkers and laugh away at my attempts. One party usually gives up after a few mins.

I headed back to my hostel to meet up with my latest roomies who had arrived last night - Nathan from Califiornia and Margot from South Africa. They were both in a laureate programme and were meeting up with a group of 20 other selected students to meet and greet some Chinese officials and get a tour of china into the bargain.

We had signed up to do the "cookery class" in our hostel at 6pm. We assumed the family who lived there were hosting it and it was supposed to consist of dumpling making, curry making, bread roll making etc so we were all hungry and excited.
Alas either they forgot about us or they couldn't be arsed doing a class. One lady of the house appeared with a big bowl of minced pork and onion, and round circles of dough. She showed us how to wrap the dumplings as she watched her soap operas behind us. We made about 30 dumplings and that was it! That was the whole class!

She directed us to the table to sit down and have a beer as she cooked the dumplings and then gave them to us to eat. Awww. They were delicious, but it wasn't much of a class to be honest! I hadn't eaten meat for three months in India and Nepal, but here in China, there's meat in everything - it's quite weird. And not just the good meat, but all weird meat. Like intestines, gizzards, throat, pig trotters, pigs faces?!, pig snouts, chicken feet etc. Luckily I'm not a vegetarian anymore or half as fussy as I used to be but I'm still not going to eat an animals face...well yet....
These are some examples of English translations we saw on some menus in Beijing.
- ducks spicy gizzard, mountain fragrance donkey meals, coke gut bomb, paste of a collapse of a son, mushroom rape package,
And my personal favourite - braised enema. yum!

After our "class" we sat around and had a few beers with the German lads and another young lovely lady from OZ - Fiona. Fiona turned out to be on the same laureate programme and trip as Nathan and Margot. Small world!

Posted by squeakylee 22:03 Archived in China Tagged beijing

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