A weekend trip to Beijing from the ever so tiny city of Dalian (only 6 million or so). We only had a few days, so we took full advantage of the night train sleeper both ways just after class on the way and just before class on the way back. The night train isn't bad, left Dalian at 850pm and arrived in Beijing around 7am. The train is like royalty compared to the fantastically dirty and smelly trans siberian third class, so we opted for the soft sleeper. A little pricey, but worth especially because I wasn't feeling well in the stomach area for a while.
We arrived that morning and grabbed a cab to Leo Courtyard Hostel. Very nice, great location, and the staff turned out to be great as well. The cab driver dropped us off not near the hostel, so we just walked and walked until we eventually found it. Multiple people tried to help us, but they were taking us in the wrong direction in the Hutong... so it worked out better for us to just look ourselves and ask around. We arrived and it initially seemed the girls behind the desk were useless; no map,
no room, and no answers to a couple of general questions we had, but she redeemed herself quickly by offering us breakfast.
Out the hostel and to the sites. Tienamen Square and the Forbidden City were among our first stops. I was told everything cost money in China and it is true, you will pay for every little thing you look at. So, of course this holds true for the sites with the highest reputation (student discounts are great). Both of these places had more people then are probably in my home city of 750,000 people... so it was annoying for the most part. Taking a picture became a project, looking around a corner and seeing an empty area was such a relief, and pushing old ladies and small children is expected by everyone. Exhausted, sweaty, and slightly annoyed, we headed out the back gate of the forbidden city to go up to Jingshan Park. This was a million times better. There were many less people, a breeze, and the sights were still nice. We continued in the same direction to the Winter Palace, enjoying some of the local bakery snacks along the way to our eventual destination of
a relaxing paddle boat ride of limited paddling and more drifting. We had one accident and about six near misses, it was like people aim at you, but its all fun in games. We walked through the Xiaoshiqiao Hutong and a couple others near by on the way back towards Qingdao Lake. Afterwards we made a quick pitstop in the Bell and Drum Towers. We actually ran into some people from Dalian in the Bell Tower and then caught the final drum show next door. The drum show is cool, they do it every few hours and last about five minutes in total. Afterwards we just headed back to the main street for a taxi back to our Hutong neighborhood.
We were all pretty exhausted from the lack of sleep over the past nights, so we were looking forward to an early night. Delay one occurred at a shirt store, where I some "good" fakes for what I consider a good price. I was mainly in the market for a new travel backpack, since mine has seen better days. I was able to talk to the shirt lady for a while and she told me what I should pay
and what she used to buy them for a couple years ago. She was even nice enough to go to a shop for me and help to get a better price, super nice lady, I wish I remember the name of her shop. Shirts and backpack down, pearls for mother dearest tomorrow! Oh, wait a second... it's the World Cup... and the US was playing this night. Great night to get some rest (230am game time). It all starts with the 2 for 1's at the hostel bar and led to a very annoying, angry, Quebec hating Canadian man giving everyone baijiu (one of the worst liquors ever). Regardless of this situation, I went to sleep with my alarm set for the US vs Ghana game. I woke up... well I was told I woke up mumbled some things... and then laid back down in a different bed with my girlfriend... so more or less, I failed to watch the US lose.
Summer Palace time, this place is HUGE and much nicer than the Forbidden City in my mind as well. It has that more peaceful charm, with more things to see. Then onto the Olympic area that was
ok, I would have preferred to be there at night, but the day time was still cool and the subway here is probably the nicest and cleanest one I have ever seen. Temple of Heaven afterwards. Probably my favorite Temple in Beijing, it was a relaxed park with a large ceremonial sacrifice area next to the Temple of Heaven that is in a open area unlike many of the others. Praying to heaven is important!! Pearl Market time! Took the walk around, realized I had no idea what any of it meant and didn't want to get taken, so I found our resident expert Kristin. I would have went downstairs with her to the cheaper pearls, but she was busy spending a large sum of money on the real deal up stairs at a really nice jewelry store. This place had pictures of all kinds of presidents, prime ministers, and the wife's of anyone/ everyone important all over it. By the time downstairs was up, all the other stores were closed... need to get back here tomorrow.
Oh, Germany vs England is tonight... terrible excuse to go to a pub and have a beer with our resident German and
meet some others. Franzi and I decided it was a good idea to take the 3L beers (tower) each time, so the drinking and domination of the English went on and on. Great game if you are a German fan!!
Taxi ride to the Mutianyu Great Wall section at 6am... we got back to the hostel at 5am... we didn't sleep. This makes the wall more or less fun? Well more fun until many others joined us out there. It was great to be on the wall when no one else was there! The visibility wasn't good, but the terrain around it was still visible and absolutely amazing. We also enjoyed calling all the invaders on our section of the wall Mongolian's in good spirit. After our wall walk, we got to take a toboggan sled thing down. This had so much potential to be awesome, however there were to many people going incredibly slow. So a German gal and myself just stopped in the middle of the track and waited until we were yelled at very fiercely by the guys until we thought we had enough room to go fast. We did, but two turns later back in
USA!!! to bad they just lost to Ghana for the second straight World Cup
traffic. Oh well, still fun. Then we ate Subway and I bought a shirt for a dollar after the original price was 180 rmb. We stopped at the Lama Temple for about 30 mins afterwards and... yeah, don't need to see this one if you are not a Buddhist.
Back to the Pearl market. Kristin and I wondered around a bit, I was trying to find out what makes a good pearl and what makes a bad pearl. She did a good job, I caught on and was on my way to getting something for the mother. We went into June Jewelry and headed coming out with two quality necklaces for 150RMB with that connecter thing as a Chinese symbol. It was originally 160RMB each without the latch thing, so I consider this to be good... I think... I don't know. Probably the most important part of this is that I picked up a 3000RMB horse and broke it... The Chinese girls didn't seem to care, but when I tried to leave they wanted me to pay for it, well not 3000, but 450RMB (the cost). I have been claiming the poor student (which I am) for the last
A non crowded area
hour, but now I needed to slightly exaggerate. I have no credit card, no debit card, no more money, on and on... I borrowed money from a friend to give them a grand total of 200RMB. I personally thought it was maybe 50% my fault, because the thing was on a pedestal that wasn't sturdy. Still felt kind of bad, because the three girls said they needed to pay for it themselves now.
A few hours later, we headed back to Dalian on our luxury sleeper box. First we needed to get there, but our taxi driver to the train station might have been drunk, because he was all over the place and driving extremely slow the entire time, we hated him, because we were running late. Fell asleep at about 9pm and woke up in Dalian, that is awesome though... only to go right back to sleep over the next six ours of class... whoops
Can't forget to mention that I left the pearls in the hostel... Karma? Well at this point I will have them in a couple days... I have a friend picking them up after the hostel told me they had them. Leo Hostel
is good people!!
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