Grasshoppers on Sticks
Mmmm... you gotta love 'em. People walk around chomping on these things like they were big chupachups.
Rule number one. Husbands - do NOT let your wife enter the clothes shops in Beijing. Why? Because stuff is incredibly cheap. Thus, once they enter, you're in for a day of wandering the streets stopping in every shop, and watching your wallet get thinner and thinner as the day goes on.
You can guess what we did today. Shop shop shop!! It started out with good intentions - we had to get some presents to take back for our families. Alas, it turned into a major shopping spree, and we ended up with so many shopping bags that we had to buy a litttle mini suitcase to put it all in since it definately wouldn't have fit in our other luggage.
China is dirt cheap for clothes, since this is where the majority of the clothes you buy overseas comes from. And just because its made in China doesn't mean its 20 years behind in the fashion trends either. Every second store was some fancy boutique with a pseudo-parisien name. Yup fashion is big in China, and they love their clothes shops. And the best part is you can buy it all for a lot cheaper than you
The Appetisers Menu
An all you can eat goat buffet. And it really is 'all-you-can-eat', thats is to say, you can eat all of the goat.
can get it anywhere else.
We did the majority of our shopping at a shopping district just south of Tian'anmen square. I stocked up on a few shirts and t-shirts while Melenie went crazy buying a dozen dresses, skirts and tops. We also managed to pick up quite a few nifty little souvernirs such as big chinese scrolls and those shirts that Bruce Lee used to wear (Melenie's brothers had requested these). The best thing is that you can bargain in many of the shops, which makes purchasing stuff all the more satisfying.
My greatest triumph was when I made one of the shop ladies cry. She was selling a set of 4 scrolls (spring, autumn, winter and summer), but we only wanted the summer one. After a bit of haggling we agreed on a price, however shortly after, the lady realised that it probably wasn't a good idea to sell only one scroll since they go together in a set of 4 and nobody wants to buy an incomplete set. So thus, she started following us begging us to buy the other 3. We didn't really want another 3 so kept telling her to go away. But
Yummy cheap dumplings
According to the menu this was the special 'three delicacies' dumpling set. What delicacies you ask? Don't know, and don't want to know. Tasted pretty nice, and you can't argue with the price.
she was persistent, offering all three scrolls for 300 yuan but finally grudgingly agreeing to sell it to us for 60 yuan. I felt kind of bad because she really looked extremely sad, but couldn't help feeling happy that I'd actually scored a bargain. Yes, she probably was now going to have to go home and tell her kids that they would be eating grass for dinner that night, but ....
Apart from shopping, the only other thing we did that day was eat. We found this place that specialised in dumplings, and so we ate about 24 dumplings all for the wonderful price of $3AUD. You gotta love China! Thankfully the menu was in English but we couldn't help feeling a bit suspicious of the 'Three Meats' dumping - you never know what kind of meat they're talking about here.
That night we headed to a street food market where apparently they sell all kinds of gross things. We were greeted by a bunch of tidy stalls that all very clean and tidy, and at first we found it hard to believe that such a nice little market could sell gross things. It was only till we looked a little bit closer at the stuff they had on display that we realised just how disgusting some of the stuff was. We saw people wandering around eating snake meat on a stick, grasshoppers by the bag full and even fried starfish. The most ironic thing we saw was a menu that read as follows: Appetisers
- Boiled goats head in sauce
- Fresh goat bowels
Yummy. Now thats an appetiser! After being suitably disgusted we decided we were in no mood for dinner. So we wandered further down to a major shopping district called Wanfujing and proceeded to be suitably surprised at the exhorbitant prices. Obviously, the place we had shopped in earlier had been the cheaper part of Beijing, because here, the prices were .... well, I guess they were just like back in Australia.
Finally, after a long day, we headed to the Beijing West train station to take the overnight train to Zheng Zhou. We unfortunately hadn't been able to secure a sleeper ticket and hence had to travel on a hard seat ticket that night. According to the lonely planet, the hard seat carriages are 'full of smoke and spitting chinese men, with peanut shells scattered in every corner'. We weren't looking forward to that night as you may suspect.
However, we were strangely surprised upon getting to the platform to find a very modern and clean looking train. Surely this couldn't be so bad, right? Wrong. The train was actually very nice and clean, and it would have been a rather comfortable journey. Unfortunately, today was also the Friday of one of only two long weekends in China, and so the train was packed. In china, once the seated tickets run out, they sell unreserved standing tickets. And obviously, the guy who sold the standing tickets for this train overestimated the capacity of the train. Suffice to say, I spent the night seated on a comfortable seat with the bottom of some chinese guy bashing my face every few seconds. To make things worse, some idiotic mental chinese guy standing next to me decided that it would be fun to just shout at the top of his voice every few minutes, so between the smelly bottomed guy and the insane mental patient I had little chance of sleeping. Oh yeah, there also wasn't enough space for our luggage in the luggage racks, so my suitcase was stashed under my feet, so my legs were sticking up in the air. Didn't sleep too well that night as you may guess.
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