Sweet & Sour

January 18, 2009

 

Beijing (January 12th – 19th)

Sweet:

1.Hutongs are the traditional communities in labyrinths of alleyways…they are considered to be the real heart of Beijing…and we are staying in one! Eddie booked us into a beautiful traditional home built round a courtyard with authentic furniture and decorations….. it’s so much cheaper than a hotel, it‘s very central and it‘s warm!

2.Walking…we needed it after the enforced rest on the train…as we explored the city (which is as flat as a blini …….just checking you are learning new words!), we discovered that along the side of many of the pavements is a kind of obstacle course of exercise machines – they look as if they belong in a children’s playground but they are for people to exercise on…we saw people stretching, stepping, rowing, doing sit ups – who needs gym membership? I’m going to set this up in Mossley.

3.Forbidden City – staggering in size and concept. Colossal walls, a maze of alleyways, Halls with wonderful titles; The Halls of;- Eternal and Earthly Tranquility; Peace and Longevity; Counselling; Harmony; Mental Cultivation!! Roof tiles and decorations are so colourful and individual; lots of dragons on ceilings to guard against fire. Parties of primary children and ‘Out of Towners’ stopped in their tracks when they saw us, pointed, giggled or just stared. Other children were encouraged by their parents to practise saying ‘Hello’ to us.

4.Meeting people…other travellers in restaurants and cafes…serendipity….Chris from Melbourne, we had such a good chat and may meet in Australia,; Ember Swift…check her myspace, she’s a good musician…listen to Pec ; aid workers who had been to Nepal.

5.Skating on a frozen lake. …as we rehearsed for Dancing on Ice, small children glided effortlessly past, an ice hockey game clattered to our right , we didn’t fall down and it was fun seeing the fish swim underneath. (Which of those comments was not true?)

6.Drum and Bell Tower…huge steps up to top – wasn’t exactly Kodo Drummers but it was a good performance.

7.Pandas….loved the Pandas and the work done to preserve them….some hilarious antics, They eat for 14 hours a day and then play and sleep. .The photos showing the work done to help them breed was fascinating…my favourite was the way they tried to make the male take more interest in his new son…they put him in an area where all he could do was watch CCTV of the mum looking after the baby! Loved the pandas, hated the zoo….once we had seen how they put magnificent tigers and other big cats in cages (these animals are soooo huge and powerful) we found it too hard to stay. Though the birds on the frozen lake were cool, hadn’t realized quite how prehistoric pelicans looked.

8.The Great Wall was…..yes, you guessed. Someone should make a Wii Fit game to help prepare for it though..the steps were steep and random, some 5 and some at least 15 inches high, not good for people with short legs. Views terrific.

9.Tianamen Square…..massive, concrete, must have been terrifying. Now there are cars driving on 3 sides and the memorial dominates. There’s a very strong police presence and we saw two family groups arrested and bundled into a police van. Despite passing through security checks several times and silently imploring, Eddie couldn’t get the extremely attractive policewoman to scan and search him. Mao had lots of visitors and there is lots of kitsch memorabilia.

10.Temple of Heaven – beautiful round building in huge park teeming with activities…tai chi, real sword practice, choirs singing, mah jong, chess, karaoke, dancing, line dancing, keep fit and a brilliant game with a feathered, weighted shuttlecock type thingy that you tried to keep in the air with your feet. We bought one and found a quiet place to try it out….an octogenarian wandered past and stopped to advise Eddie on how to kick it…can you imagine!!

Sour:

1.Accidents. There are zebra crossings and there are green lights to say ‘safe to go’. Sadly, pedestrians come third in importance after cars and bikes and no-one takes any notice of either the lights or the people crossing…its is really dangerous. We have seen several accidents including one where a car knocked a guy over, he got up, jumped on the bonnet of the car , pulled off the wipers while hitting the driver and refused to get off until a 12 year old policeman came to sort it.

2.Scams. We have to be so wary, there are scams everywhere and we have nearly been caught a few times. One very clever guy put on false uniform so he looked like a bus station official and because he could speak a little English and none of the real officials could, he persuaded us that the bus we wanted wasn’t running and we should take a taxi. We realized what he was up to so escaped getting into his mate’s taxi but we still believed that the bus wasn’t running, spent a lot more on an official taxi and then found that we had been conned, we had almost got on the right bus after all. Seems trivial but having to be so cautious is a strain.

3.Food. This really isn’t a problem…we knew it would be difficult for vegetarians (they do have veggie food but they make it look like and have the texture of meat, they even give it names like Drunken Duck and Exceptional Eel!)….anyway we are managing OK but we walked through a night market which you carnivores may have enjoyed……we were offered the following (all preceded by ‘Fr ied’…sheep kidneys, sleeve fish head, pig liver, chicken heart, chicken stomach, silk worm, scorpions, crickets, sea urchins, sea snake and even crispy fried seahorse…seahorse!!!

And now we are off to Hanoi…

 

beijing

 

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3 Responses to “Sweet & Sour”

  1. Rod Says:

    Crispy seahorse and chips – mmmmmmmm

  2. gill hartley Says:

    watch those bus officials!

  3. barbara Says:

    happy birthday to my big brother as she chinks a large vodka and tonic to your health and happiness nazdrowie bracie love from everyone had bab here today and i was at home as well as jessica is home for the weekend . bab is sooooo happy with her windows anyway enjoy your day!!love from me yan jess bab & max xxxx


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