Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day 2: Beijing (Great Wall of China, Donghuamen Night Market)

So, I reread my post from yesterday. Despite my disclaimer at the end, I am still a bit embarrassed by a couple of the funny typos (calling my hotel an airport, etc.). After not sleeping plus the time change and long day, it's amazing it wasn't worse!

Ah, but I slept like a rock last night. This morning, we were downstairs at 9:00 to meet Mary and her husband to drive to the Great Wall of China! Mary's husband is also a guide and was just as wonderful as Mary: friendly and very knowledgeable.

We went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which is slightly less touristy than Badaling section where the tour buses go. It's about a two hour drive from Beijing, so we had some time to chat with our friendly tour guides.

We arrived at about 11:00 a.m. and walked up past some souvenir stalls to the ticket desk. To get up to the top, you take a "cable car." Actually, it looked more like a ski lift to me.

I was not quick enough to hop on with Josh, so the lift scooped him up, and off he went!

So pretty, right?

Many of the Chinese people are so friendly! This nice couple passed me, waving, and exclaimed, "Hello! Welcome to China!" How sweet is that?

Approaching the Great Wall . . .

And, we made it to the bottom of the wall. Just a small flight of stairs left to go.

The "cable cars" coming up to the wall.

The Great Wall!

We started our walk . . .

Photo op!

More critters on rooftops! So pretty!

Chinese graffiti. Looks prettier than graffiti at home. Points for anyone who can translate.

More pictures. I took over 100 photos. Turns out I am turning into my mother with the camera. Sigh. :)

We went inside the rooms where the guards used to sleep. Here was someone's view back in the day. I guess it'll do.

The doorway out of the guards' quarters.

Josh and the Wall.

So, to get down from the wall, you take a toboggan. No pictures were allowed, but I managed to snap some photos of people whooshing down from my "cable car" on the way up.

After climbing all over the wall, we had worked up quite an appetite! Time for lunch!

I cannot remember what these things are called (even if I could, Lord knows I could not spell it), but I think they may be Josh's new favorite food. Made out of flour, they taste like white bread squished up into a firm ball and then boiled. Some are then deep fried. The dipping sauce in the middle tasted like butter and sugar. Josh ordered a second plate all for himself.

Pork dumplings (which tasted much better than this picture looks).

Beef stew.

This whole meal for three people was only about $11! Amazing!

Oh, and of course, Josh tried a new beer.

After lunch, we went to the supermarket to pick up some snacks and breakfast food. We haven't eaten breakfast the past few days because the hotel is so expensive ($4 for a croissant!) and we have slept too late to go to a restaurant or cafe.

Maybe this is weird, but I love grocery stores in foreign countries! So many fun new foods to try!

First thing's first: Diet Coke!!

Milk . . . in bags!

Fresh noodles.
How cute are these?

We managed to buy all of this for the price of 2 croissants in our hotel!

After the supermarket, we arrived back at the hotel so Josh could take a nap at about 5:00 p.m. By 7:00, we were back on our feet, headed out to Wangfujing and the Donghuamen Night Market.

The streets were pretty crowded. (Apparently, we were not the only people with this idea.)

We briefly set foot in the Oriental Square mall, the upscale mall in town. It looked like any old mall at home, so we turned around and headed back out to the street.

There is a KFC on almost every block in Beijing. It is more common than McDonald's.

Our next stop was Donghuamen Night Market for a little street food. The night market stretches down one side of the street for approximately two blocks. It was packed with mostly locals and is a place to hang out and get some interesting grub.

Candied fruits on a skewer. (Note: almost everything in the market is on a skewer!)

On the way to the Great Wall today, Mary's husband joked that "we Chinese people will cook and eat anything and everything!" I can't back that statement up, but I will say there are many more options, and they seem to be far more adventurous eaters! Here is some of what we saw:

Silk worms on a skewer, ready to munch on while you walk.

Stinky tofu (which is fermented tofu and definitely lives up to its name).


Fried seahorses.

Squid, ready to be cooked and eaten.

(Not actually sure what this is, but it looked good!)

Some kind of crabby lobstery crustacean on a skewer.

Twisty bread with sugar (not sure what it's actually called) that a lot of people here have for breakfast.

Snake (!!)


More insects, waiting to be eaten right off the stick.

Silk worms and centipedes. ("Hello! Lady! You want centipede? Delicious centipede?")


Noodles and chicken.


More noodles.

And starfish.

Here's the end of the market.

Josh and I opted for vegetable dumplings, noodles cooked in chili oil, corn, and fruit. All of it was delicious, especially the noodles! (Sorry, no snake or scorpions today. I am not ruling it out for tomorrow, but I think I need to psych myself up.)

If some of this food seems a bit out of the ordinary to you, listen to this. Earlier, Mary's husband was telling us that the following items are extreme delicacies in China and only the very rich can afford to indulge in them: monkey brain (half alive, which made me think of Indiana Jones), camel foot, and bear paw. (I think I would actually like to try bear paw.)

After all this, we're pretty beat. It's almost 10:00 p.m. here, so I think it's time to call it a night and rest up for tomorrow. For our last day in Beijing, we are going to Beihai Park, Summer Palace, Lama Temple and the opera in the evening. More soon.

晚安,再見 ("Goodnight.")


dapotato said...

so much good stuff in this post!
- i finally get why my parents were so camera happy on vacations.
- in korean, that bread is called "flower bread." no idea what the chinese call it.
- i spy chocopies! great loot from the market.
- the insides of sea urchins are so yummy. texture's interesting, but the flavor is delicate and yummy.

i love how you're keeping up with the recaps in almost real time so far.

Nanette said...

I just showed Brent the toboggan photos and he exclaimed, "Let's go to the Great Wall!!!"

jmawrey said...

I think the scorpions would be delicious with a garlic aioli...

WeezerMonkey said...

(1) So funny that you missed the cable car and had to ride apart from Josh!
(2) Love the "Welcome to China" couple!
(3) Toboggan! We didn't do that! I'm jealous!
(4) Josh's fave food are called mantou. I can tell you where to get them here at home! I love fried mantou!
(5) The cute blue and white character is Doraemon (in Japanese) or Xiao Ding Dang (in Mandarin). He's a robotic cat who travels through time!
(6) I love night market. Some day I hope we can travel together to Taiwan -- that'll be cake for you after China!
(7) My grandma used to own a KFC under her hospital!
(8) I love stinky tofu!
(9) My people sure eat strange things!
(10) Can you tell I'm loving re-living China? Longest. Comment. Ever.


wan-nabe said...

i'm laughing at all the exclamation points in the monkey's comments.

i can't lie - the "cable cars" and the toboggan look scary as hell. i've become such a wuss in my old age.

love the food on sticks!

i would have a zillion pictures, too. :)

California Girl said...

Oh my goodness! I don't think I'd be able to tolerate all of that freaky food. Snakes on a skewer? Monkey brains? Bear paws? Oy vey!

The Great Wall looks awesome. Seriously, what a landmark!

amber said...

* the tobogan looks equal parts scary and fun as hell. :P
* hey, i spy pocky in your grocery store stash!
* that night market looks fabulous! i've heard urchin is actually pretty tasty. don't think i could stomach the snake or insects though.

i'm loving these recaps!!

R said...

I might have shit my pants on the cable cars. Me no likey heights like that. The toboggan might have redeemed the experience.

I love that you have taken so many pictures.

I usually say I will eat anything on a stick, but the bugs killed that for me. Now I can't say that.