The Chop Sticks

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April 7th 2011
Published: April 7th 2011
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Forbidden City viewForbidden City viewForbidden City view

View of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Park
So I made it to Beijing, China! I sat next to one of the hottest Chinese girls i have ever seen for the 13 hour flight, and I lucked out cause in the 3 person row, nobody sat between us. I swear half way into the flight are feet and arms bumped and their was magic. The bad side is she only knew about 10 words in English but I was saved by the powerful chop sticks. She started laughing at my unorthodox style of using chopsticks (I taught myself how to use them for the first time about a month ago) and she tried to show me but was unsuccessful so she hinted at the Scoop and Slurp style for me. Besides having what seemed like thirty 3-5 year olds on the plane, the rest of the flight was pretty uneventful. Lots of good movies I can cross off my Netflix when i'm back like True Grit, Little Fockers, The King's Speech, Black Swan, Burlesque and a few episodes of the Office were the ones I caught, needless to say i didn't get much sleep. My biggest mistake was not printing out my hostel's address in Chinese. My computer only
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A three-story pavilion on the top of one of the peaks at Jingshan
printed the address in Chinese using English letters, so it took me four tries before finding a cab that new where I was talking about. Normally i will try to figure out subways and trains and stuff but after such a long day I know i wasnt thinking clearly enough to figure them out here and since everything is much cheaper here, I just went with the cab (about $23 for a 30 minute cab ride). My hostel, the Happy Dragon, had a free duck dinner which did a great job at getting everyone to meet each other. Right now there are 14 people staying at the hostel: 3 americans, 1 swiss, 1 italian, 1 canadian, 1 brit, 1 aussie were the ones i met. Out of the 8 eight of us, 2 are girls and 6 of us are technically traveling solo. We ended up drinkin and chillin for awhile.

I spent the next morning sleeping in and then just walking around Beijing by myself. I start a tour of China soon through Gap Adventures so instead of seeing all the main sights I just started walking wherever i felt looked interesting. Until you get close to the Forbidden City, there are not many westerners walking around so I stuck out, but never really felt uncomfortable, except when i try to order something, my only option right now is to point to pictures. Beijing isnt the cleanest city in the world but its not as bad as Egypt. It seems like the only ones that speak English are people that work at hotels or scam artists. If your cab driver speaks English, don't take it, they charge you 3 times the normal rate. I also had 3 guys come up to me today and start talking English to build a conversation and try to convince you to go to a art gallery where their paintings are being shown (i have to look up this scam cause my fellow travelers said their is something more to this), and i also had 2 groups of women start a conversation and ask if i want to have coffee or tea with them, which i was warned ahead of time about because this is a popular scam where you order 2-3 drinks but they stick you with a tab for like 20-30 other people in the shop. Well i'm back to rest
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Stairs to the top
up real quick cause its kinda hot to be walking around as much as i did.

Met up with some people from the hostel and several more joined the "click" for a few drinks. I wanted to take the 45 min walk to the Forbidden City to see if they light the place up at night. Since the entrance to the Forbidden City closes at around 4pm, I thought I might get a view from a large hill which overlooks the place that was created from the dirt that was dug out to create the moat. So I started to climb, and climb, and climb, which was a great reminder of just how out of shape I am. Finally made it to the top but no special lights or anything but it did have some great views to the size of the forbidden city. I guess i lucked out that it wasn't that smoggy, which is a huge problem here. Afterwards, i went back to the hostel and a bunch of us went out to eat at some noodle shop, which ended up costing around $1.30 for a full meal.

I heard that there is a flag raising
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view from the bottom
ceremony at Tian'anmen Square at sunrise that is popular, but you have to get there about an hour before. Since i'm not much of a sleeper, I looked up that the sunrise was at 5:48am so I got up at 4:30am and caught a cab (basically one end of the city to the other and it only costs about $1.10). When i jumped out, there were LONG lines already, however, i was the only westerner there. It was me surrounded by about 3,000 Chinese, none of whom looked tired. After going through security, i was nowhere close to being able to see anything. I basically watched through other peoples cameras cause everyone in front of me kept putting their kids on their shoulders. Either way, the ceremony was exaggerated, they basically had 15 soldiers march straight out, raise the flag, and marched back. Afterwards, about 40-50 groups of people came up to take pictures with me. A few spoke a little English, but most would just walk up behind me and their friend would just snap away. I said they must have mistaken me for Brad Pitt or something. Now i'm heading back to check out of the hostel and
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The outside walls of the Forbidden City
say goodbye to my new friends

Now I checked into the hotel right outside the Forbidden city but they have the worst internet connection ever, so my updates might be a little late the next few days. Ive still been able to avoid the squatter toilets but eventually i will have no choice. This morning i walked 45 mins to the Temple of Heaven and was pretty impressed. The temple looks like every other one i saw so far but the park and grounds around it were pretty social with people playing music all over. Ive lucked out with the weather here so far, its been sunny and 70 each day but i have yet to experience the smog i keep hearing about. Tonight i start the organized trip through China with Gap Adventures. Oh and it ends up that one of the girls that was staying with me at the hostel is on the Gap trip with me the next 3 weeks. We head to some great wall tomorrow. It's supposed to be pretty big and old and popular but i've never heard of it. After that they take us back around the forbidden city and some markets in beijing before heading on an overnight train to Shanghai, where i hope to have better internet connections and could post some more pics.

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