Beijing and flying away
I arrived in Beijing on Tuesday. We had a 7:40 am flight from Kunming to Beijing. The time I spent in the Kunming airport was a complete mess. Most flights allow you to have 50 lbs (about 23 kg) but this airline of course only allowed 20 kg so I had to pay a baggage fee. In Chinese airports, you are supposed to take out battery packs so I decided to put it in my suitcase that I was checking in. I assumed this would not be a problem then. Of course not. I had to go through a full security check of my bag and tore everything apart for them to tell me it should have been put into my carry-on. Wouldn’t you think putting it in your checked bag would be OK? Apparently not. What is my life.
Anyway, the flight was fine. I found out on all Chinese airlines you get a meal. My friend was shocked when I told her that on US airlines you only really do if it is like 8 hours or longer. Her longest flight ever was 3.5 hours. The flight went well otherwise.
As you may have seen on the news, Beijing was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2 and “China’s triumph over Japan”. As you may not know, during WW2, Japan invaded China and killed many Chinese people. When Japan surrendered, it was a big deal for the Chinese. As far as I know, this is really the only time (ignoring ancient times) that China was invaded and had many, many people killed. The point of me telling this story is they basically blocked half the roads for a huge military parade on the 3rd. My hotel is next to a large shopping street. All the stores were closed and it was deserted. It was really weird but actually kind of nice.
So once I got here, it was around lunch time. I decided to go on a walk to look for food. I walked for 2 hours without finding anything. I was kind of delirious and starving at this point. It was like 85 degrees Fahrenheit out so naturally I was dying of thirst. This all could have been avoided if I had turned LEFT instead of RIGHT out of my hotel, but what can you do about it? I eventually found a 7-11 and got some steamed buns. I came back to my room with blistered feet and watched television. This hotel has English shows! It made me so happy. They have HBO, Cinemax, National Geographic, and BBC. I like all of these. I have been watching many nature documentaries which are some of my favorite shows to watch.
On my crazy walk, I was able to walk near the Forbidden City. I was unable to go in, but it is beautiful in this area! I know some of it is kind of staged to look old, but I like this area of Beijing for the reason I like DC. There are no skyscrapers and it feels kind of like “home”. It doesn’t feel like a big city. It actually feels like you are just walking down a street in some town. I guess part of this may have been because there was no one there, but I will take what I can get.
Later that night, my friend invited me to have Beijing duck. Beijing is famous for their speciality duck, and it was delicious! We even wrapped it in some tortilla type thing which made me really happy, because I miss tacos like crazy. I am really happy I had it. But due to the holiday, I was locked in my hotel and not legally allowed to leave on September 2nd 10pm to 1pm on September 3rd. I got back to my hotel just in time. I was mad at first that I would be locked away for so long, but I am really happy I was. I need to relax and take it easy. Being unable to leave was actually really good. I woke up without an alarm. I rolled out of bed. Went to breakfast. I had my first waffle in 2 months. It was such a beautiful moment I almost cried (not literally). I had orange juice as well. I knew I loved breakfast food, but I was not quite sure I loved it this much. Leslie Knope sums it all below.
After that, I went to my room and laid on my bed as I watched Nat Geo. I worked on some things I needed to get done that were relatively easy. While I was lying in bed, I hear some strange noises. I knew the parade was going to pass on the street over, but I did not know they would have helicopters and planes as well! Below are some pictures from my hotel window. I am not quite sure how I got so lucky to get a corner room facing the direction of Tiananmen. How cool!
By the time 1pm rolled around, I was just about ready to leave. I left around 1:45pm. My friend had said that all the historical sites would be closed all day, but she was wrong! I decided to go look if they were even if she said they would be. I figured if all fails I would get some walking in. I wanted to go to Jingshan Park. Jingshan Park is also known as Coal Hill. It costs 2 Yuan to get in (about 35 cents). It clearly has a giant hill. People enjoy this park because the hill allows you to see the entire city. Below is a few pictures from the top. There is not much in the park otherwise, but the few is totally worth 35 cents. During the spring, there is a peony garden but it was closed when I went. There was also the tree in which an old Chinese leader hung himself. I don't remember the full story, honestly. I just remember he was ashamed of his actions so he hung himself. I am really glad I went to the park because it was not crowded. I think many people were avoiding the center city due to the parade.
After this, I went to Houhai Lake. Houhai is an absolutely beautiful lake. There are many over-priced shops, restaurants, and bars around it. I enjoyed just walking around and people watching. I genuinely enjoy just walking anywhere so this was right up my alley. Below are a few pictures from my walk along the lake. I am not quite sure what the tower is because it was closed when I was there. It makes for good photos though. This was the type of location and scenery I had been wanting to see while in China. People are fishing, swimming, playing ping-pong, and more. After this, I walked a few hutongs. Hutongs are small alleys. There are many mom and pop stores there. I would recommend just taking a stroll if you ever come to Beijing.
The next day I had a cooking class! I have never taken a cooking class before. I walked down a small hutong to get there. It was at a Chinese woman’s house. Most of the Chinese houses I have been to (which is actually a lot since I did so many surveys) are sort of like small compounds. They have concrete walls that block their house from the others. They have small concrete patios with a few steps up to their house. Hers was very similar. It was very cozy! It felt like I was home (but clearly in China). There was 1 English woman, an English family of 5, and a Belgium couple in the class as well. Making dumplings is HARD. Rolling the dough into a perfect circle is near impossible. Below are my “circles”. Anyway, I really enjoyed the class! It was nice to be around other travelers and to discuss their experiences. It also was one of the only home cooked meals I had my entire trip. It was nice to be doing something different!
It rained for the rest of the day after my cooking class. I relaxed in my room. After a little while, I went out to Wangfujing. It is a high-end shopping area about 2 blocks from me. I window shopped and drank a coffee. It was pretty relaxing. At night, I went to the Wangfujing street food area. It was very interesting! Below are a few pictures of what they have. They have the usual dumplings and steamed buns. They ALSO have some very intriguing BBQ’d things such as scorpions, starfish, and seahorses. I did not try any while I was there because my stomach had not been in good shape the past week.
The next day I spent shopping. I went to the infamous Silk Street. This is a six story shopping palace. This is the place where they have the fake goods that require you to be an expert bargainer. I was pretty good at bargaining. I just learned you say no repeatedly until you give a price and they say OK. One lady even complemented me on my skills! I then went to Panjiayuan Antique market. I did not buy any antiques (it is illegal to bring antiques from China back to the US). It was cool though. I really enjoy looking at markets of all kinds. I guess it is the economist in me.
I fly to America tomorrow. It truly has been an adventure of a lifetime: the bad and the good. I have learned more than I ever thought was imaginable. It has been good, China. I cannot lie though. I am ready to return. I am happy I spent some time in Beijing. It gave me a little time to relax and enjoy China from a different perspective. China is a marvelous country with very kind people who want people to love their country as much as they do. Thank you for the good time, China.
Stay classy, China. This is not goodbye. This is see you later. Literally. I will be back in a month.
Xiao xiao (Stephanie)