Published: July 13th 2012July 11th 2012
I am going to open with an appology – apparently the Zach’s spell their names with an ‘h’. They have become fans of this blog and were quite upset by my spelling error. So I appologize.
Monday, July 2, the Zach’s agreed to join me in what used to be a Monday night tradition – Trivia Night at The Bookworm! We actually did the best I’ve ever done so clearly these two are good partners.
Tuesday evening was Zach 1’s birthday so we headed to Houhai to a place called Hutong Pizza which apparently has the second-best pizza in town. It was really, really good. The cheese was amazing. Wow. So good. We then wandered around Houhai a bit and Zach 1 bought himself a panda trucker hat as a birthday present to himself.
Wednesday was July 4th
and, as promised, I agreed to celebrate with the Americans in exchange for their coming to Canada Day. But I told them we HAD to go to frisbee. I need exercise! So after work, I joined the Zach’s for “American video” time which included videos of the hot dog-eating contest on Coney Island (which
I didn’t realize was an American tradition but apparently happens every July 4th
), Michael Phelps winning his 8th
gold medal, “Miracle on Ice” 1980 hockey game (which featured a VERY young Ken Dryden on commentary…repping Canada!), and the most American video of all – a military choir singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl while Bill Clinton and Bush Sr watch. Like actually that was the most American thing I’d ever seen.
We then headed out to frisbee. The Zach’s aren’t fans of the subway and wanted to take a cab but I don’t really know the name of the field – just that it’s right next to this subway station. So we took a cab to the station. But we were on the wrong side of the station and wandered around a bunch trying to find the field. We did come across a Wal-Mart which was funny. Though funnier was that before we found it, Zach 2 got asked if he knew where the Wal-Mart was. “He’s American! He must know where the Wal-Mart is!” We eventually went into the subway station and found the proper exit and came out to the field.
It was less busy at frisbee, likely because Americans were out celebrating. But it was suuuper fun. The Zach’s really enjoyed themselves too, though Zach 1 got a bit too into things and ended up scraping up his knee. It’s healing now but it still looks pretty gross.
We then had plans to go to a bar that was playing bluegrass music in honour of July 4th
(ya I’m still spelling honour the Canadian way, deal with it!) But Zach 1 had lost the directions. So we got on the subway and went to Sanlitun to just see what was going on on that side of town. Turns out, not much. We used bathrooms at the fanciest Comfort Inn I’ve ever seen and I tried my best to make myself not look nasty and sweaty after 2 hours of running in the heat. We walked around and the best we could find was one guy with a tiny flag and a hooker bar that had some American flags. So we just went to a place that looked hopping, albeit non-American. It was full of Euros which kinda sucked. But they had American beer on the menu
and they were still serving food which we needed. In the end, the conclusion that I made was that Canada Day was way, way better than Independence Day.
After 4 nights in a row of going out, not to mention our Great Wall hike the night before that, I needed a rest. So Thursday I spent the night in my hotel which was awesome. I was craving salad like crazy so I went to the mall and bought some veggies and made a salad in my hotel room. It was sooo good. I watched The Simpons on youku, Chinese youtube. Such a good evening.
Friday after work, me, Fernanda, Liz, and Zach 1 went out for dinner to a local place. It was really good. That night I was back hanging out with the Zach’s because it seems like they’re the only ones interested in having a social life. We played some cards and Zach 2 kept going on and on about how he wanted to go to Pizza Hut. So finally we decided to shut him up. It was HILARIOUS. Pizza Hut is WAY fancier here than back home. They even have escargots
on the menu! And they have a prix fixe menu hahaha. The beer was absurdly over-priced but it was quite possibly the coldest beverage in all of China. See the Chinese like their drinks room temperature. EVEN THEIR BEER. But Pizza Hut knows how to treat us laowai’s (non-Chinese folk). The cans were so cold we were rubbing them all over our faces.
Anyways the food was actually really delicious. I’d go back.
Saturday, me, Fernanda, and the Zach’s headed to Tiannemen Square. We were hoping to see Mao but apparently he’s only open in the morning! (We slept in of course so it was afternoon by the time we got there.) So instead we just walked around the square. I got very depressed when Zach 2 had a bunch of people taking pictures with him and no one asking me for a picture. I’ve been replaced L damn tall, blonde guy.
After Tiannemen, we found lunch in a hutong just south of the square. It was pretty delicious. The Zach’s for some absurd reason decided to drink 1.25L of Coke each. They felt sick after.
and I had plans to go to a Beijing Goan soccer game that evening but they wanted to get there super early, which I didn’t think was necessary. So they left us after lunch to head to the stadium. Fernanda and I went to a market instead which was super-legit and local. Fernanda bought some kitchen supplies and I browsed around. I wanted to buy a suitcase but I couldn’t take it with me to the soccer game. It was such a good price!! I love non-touristy places.
After the market, I headed to the stadium. Now here’s the thing about soccer tickets – the scalpers buy up all the tickets so you HAVE to buy scalped tickets. Unless you have a season pass this is your only option. The Zach’s had been talking to scalpers but no one would go under our agreed price (150 kuai). They decided it was worth the extra money and bought two tickets for 450 kuai total. Liz was going to be joining me later so I decided to wait and get tickets for less with her.
Fernanda came with me to the stadium to see the atmosphere
The view from Fuchingmen
our new favourite subway station
and get a jersey for her brother. I started talking to scalpers as soon as we arrived and everyone was at 200 kuai for tickets. Too much! A really kind Chinese girl heard me negotiating and came over and told me to wait until 7pm – prices would drop the closer it was to game time. She then helped Fernanda and I buy jerseys. They were only 40 kuai - $7. And they looked real! Though the tag specifically says it’s a replica hahaha. The Chinese girl, who called herself Cici, and her sister kept talking to scalpers while Fernanda and I stayed back cause prices go up when white people are around.
(As an aside, Fernanda has noticed that she isn’t getting stared at the way I am. She does have white skin and black hair so she doesn’t look that weird. But she now thinks that Chinese people think she is a Chinese person who’s had this weird eye surgery to give you eyelids. Apparently this surgery is really popular in Korea. Anyways that’s just an aside, back to the story).
The prices did start to drop as promised – 170, 160…finally
they went down to 150 and we bought tickets. Apparently tickets are normally much less but this was a really important game so that was about as good as we were gonna do. A highlight was definitely when I was talking to a scalper and threw out enough Chinese that he thought I was fluent and started talking to me. I think he was trying to explain that this was an important game, hence the high price. I just brushed him aside.
Anyways, Liz was making her way to the stadium so I waited outside for her. Fernanda left, so I was with Cici and her sister. Though they eventually went inside because the game was starting. Liz got horribly lost and somehow snuck into the stadium without her ticket which was pretty funny. We finally re-connected. We’d missed about half of the first half which kinda sucked but it was still SO WORTH IT. OMG the atmosphere in that stadium was amazing. Everyone on their feet, countless cheers. Too bad the next home game isn’t until after I’ve left Beijing cause I’d DEFINITELY go again. And the great news is Beijing won 1-0! GO GOAN!!!
Liz, the Zach’s and I were starving when we came out so we went to a local restaurant, The Den. The boys wanted to go to Hooters, where they’d been before the game. But Liz was adamantly against it. I didn’t care tooo much but I wanted good food and the Zach’s kept telling me the food at Hooters was bad. Anyways, The Den was a pretty damn random place. The menu had this mish-mash of different types of food which is NEVER a good sign. Mexican, Indian, eastern European, American…I ordered shnitzel because I thought that sounded good.
As another aside, I’ve realized I really miss other cultures. In Beijing you can get Chinese and you can get Western but it’s hard to find anything else. It kind of sucks.
Anyways, the shnitzel was just flat out not shnitzel. It was meat in cream of mushrooms soup and potato latke. I was starving so I just ate it anyways. It was pretty good. But NOT shnitzel. We also watched the women’s finals of Wimbledon which was fun. Go Serena!
So after food, the evening got more random. We
Escargots on the menu
only at China Pizza Hut
were at a table for 8 and 3 men came over and asked if they could take over the other half of the table. There’d been people sitting there when we arrived so we didn’t care. There was one 30-something Canadian and two old British men. I started talking to the Canadian and quickly realized he falls squarely into the category of “lame, lame ex-pat.” He teaches high school and seems to be quite happy to be as distant from Chinese culture as possible. He’s also from Dundas, ON and thinks that’s really cool. YAWN. But he was nothing. The British man sitting next to me was just plain creepy. He started going on about Canada and then somehow linked that to Swaziland. He also kept saying he thought we were Australian because our Goan jerseys are green and yello, which also happen to be Australian colours. Anyone with any hearing at all could tell we weren’t Australian but whatever. Anyways he wouldn’t shut up and I didn’t understand 90% of what he was saying so I finally leaned over to Liz and said “DISTRACT ME” so we looked at pictures on her camera. Anyways, the icing on the rather
awkward situation came when the Canadian guy informed us that the two old, creepy British men had come to this bar to find hookers. We then realized the front of the bar was full of hookers. Oh god. It wasn’t a full-on hooker bar because there were lots of other people like us, just there to have some food and drinks. But it definitely had the option. As soon as the tennis game ended, we bolted.
Sunday, Fernanda, Liz and I decided to be good little tourists and visit the Summer Palace, one of Beijing’s must-see tourist attractions that we had thus far not visited. The day wasn’t ideal but seeing as Fernanda and I are leaving soon, it was really our only chance to go. As soon as we arrived we were surrounded by just a mass of humanity. People everywhere. It was just suffocating. The haze also made the views completely useless. Finally, we gave up on life and decided to rent a boat to just get away from everyone. While waiting in line for the boat, a boy of about 5 or 6 (aka old enough to know better) pulled down his pants and
started peeing. I noticed and warned Liz, who was right in his path. It didn’t stop her from being splashed. Did the parents do anything? Nope. The future of China!
We finally got in our boat and life improved immediately. It was a peddle boat so we got some exercise and we got to see the sites of the summer palace without having people in our personal space. We cruised around the whole lake. A highlight was a boat of about 20 people, all staring at us. We waved and made their faces light up. They even head-turn stared, my favourite. It’s one thing to stare at someone in your line of vision but when you go out of your way to stare, you’re really dedicated.
When we passed the main attractions, I decided that I had to climb up the temple and palace. Ferananda and Liz weren’t interested so they dropped me off and went to return the boat. I’m really glad I got out because the palace and temple were really cool. Plus the view was improving a bit so it was cool being up high. Great views of the lake. I
then met up with the girls at the front entrance.
We found a restaurant near the summer palace. When we got there the only other customers were these two guys drinking tons of beer. The place was massively over-staffed, so we got LOTS of attention. I mean, we would anyways but this was funny. There were also some kids just staring at us. It was really cute. And this one girl seemed really proud that she could say a few words in English. So cute. Anyways, the food was actually AMAZING. We mostly ordered dishes we’d had before but they were better than when we’d had them before. So good!
We were all really full and tired so we went back to the hotel and had a relaxing evening. Definitely needed.
This was our third-last week and second-last weekend in Beijing – so time is quickly coming to an end!
There are more photos below