Tuesday, June 27, 2006

First Day In Beijing

Impression of the day: The Chinese seem to be the least self conscious people we have encountered thus far in our travels. (Unlike myself who agonizes over every word put to page. So I urge you to be kind when reading. In order to get this out to you there is little time to edit and since I am working, Confucious say…sleep is prudent.)

After a huge breakfast at 6 A.M we walked over to the park next door. Entrance is free with a room card and we were amazed at how many people were awake and doing their thing in the very large gardens. Most of the people were older. Most were engaged in some sort of exercise program…exercising their bodies, exercising their vocal cords, exercising their creativity, or exercising their minds. We wanted to jump right in. It seemed that every corner, on the hill, under the water falls, in the pagodas, in the BUSHES, on the rocks, was being utilized.
Plan: Return early tomorrow morning and take pics!

This being our only free day in Beijing, without the tour guide, we decided to do a little sightseeing of our own. I knew it was going to be hot, and that we would be walking, and being from Miami, I am quite used to the sun. Yes, most of the time we do get a breeze from the ocean, but we go to NY in the summer too and know how the buildings trap the heat. Nothing however, could have prepared me to hit the center of a frying pan in the oven with the broiler turned on, this afternoon. I should have known when we reached the Yonghe Gong, the largest Tibetan Buddhist Lama Temple in Beijing, after a 35 minute taxi ride($9) on a bumper to bumper expressway, with no air conditioning, completely drenched from head to toe, what was to come.

In the temple there were Buddhas everywhere and they grew in size the further back in the complex we got until the last which was several stories high. Incense burning everywhere and many people praying. We saw a large tour of Spanish people, with Chinese babies, praying as well.
Taking off on foot, without realizing how far everything really is, we headed to Wangfujing Street. I heard someone mention shopping and a big mall which sounded like an oasis in this insufferable heat and smog. Soccer ads everywhere and an Olympic sculpture exhibit on the street, produced by the fine art students from Beijing University. People were following us on the streets, to practice their English and to try to lure us down various alleys to see their artwork. Although their speaking skills are not too bad, we often found that many people really didn’t understand what we were saying. After a brief respite at Starbucks (cold drinks of course but now I think I prefer the cold bottled tea on the streets) we decided to venture out on the streets once again. Thinking we could walk to Xidan street (looked close on the map) the heat really started to affect us. This walk was to take us through Tiananmen Square, a huge hot city street where we later found out that cabs could not stop. Finally on some corner somewhere before we fell we jumped in a taxi (air conditioned of course) and took that cold shower and a nap

Mona recommended a local restaurant "JIU TOU NIAO", AND THIS MEANS "NINE HEADED BIRD" near the hotel that specializes in Hubei flavors, a spicy cuisine. We asked the concierge to point us in the right direction, and didn’t realize we were in the wrong place until we were seated and no one could communicate. We were informed that the restaurant would have English menus. Headed next door, the right place which specialized in pigs hoofs but even Raf couldn’t do it…yet. We settled on a spicy eggplant dish(truly amazing), some kind of roll with duck(pretty good), a chicken dish, which contained bones and the tips of the wings(not for me but Raf loved it, very spicy), and 2 very large Tsingao beers.

People in China get their foot massages late and most places are open till 3 in the morning, some later. We opted for the hotel spa for our first experience. A little more expensive ($15/person including tip lol) but it seemed clean and was well worth it with a private room and big screen TV (we didn’t turn it on) for the two of us.

Back at the room and Raf is watching Brazil vs. Ghana. 2 – 0 at half time and he decides to get a few hours of sleep before the France vs Spain game at 3 AM. WooHoo France wins 3 to 1!!!!!!