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Sunshine, Vodka, and the End of the Beijing Pix

Glorious readers, the sun is finally shining through after a solid week of gloom and carcinogens. In case you haven’t heard, the Beijing area (including Tianjin) has been wreathed in a cloud of despair for the past several days. Air pollution monitors in Beijing have been literally going off the charts, and it seems everyone is coughing, sneezing, hacking, spitting.. wait, a lot of people here do that regardless of air quality. Still, I hope these beams of sunshine signify that I won’t get lung cancer later in life just from living here.

In other news, the semester is nearly over! Students are busy cramming for tests, and I’m busy… well, busy doing nothing. My tests are all done, so I’ve been able to spend some quality time with my friends Youtube and Facebook. That and get shit-faced last Friday on 38 RMB bottles of vodka. I think we can all agree that cheap liquor is never good liquor.

On a less vomit-inducing note, I went shopping for jeans to replace my pair that has an awkward hole in the crotch… and lo and behold, I found some that fit!

I entered a tiny jeans shop that was advertising 40 RMB jeans (about $7). I naturally ended up with a nice pair of jeans that cost significantly more than 40 RMB, but such is the game. While I was trying on jeans, the 40+ year-old shopkeeper commented on how very 粗 (thick) my legs are. Then, to prove her point, SHE TOOK OFF HER PANTS TO SHOW ME HER LEGS. Um, yes, your legs are much thinner than mine. OK please put your pants back on please. Please.

Anyway, the point of this post is to put up the last of the Beijing pictures from over the New Year’s holiday. I stole (read: borrowed with full consent) my friend Helen’s pictures, so here they are, in all their glory.

These were our adventures at Olympic Park. We frolicked, battled some demons from the past, and were very very cold.

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Our adventures at Beihai Park were a thing of legend. Ice-biking, hockey-watching, temple-praying, and butt-freezing.

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And of course, there was more Chenglish and random awesomeness.

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Finally, here’s a picture of a random girl at the Great Wall. Don’t know why, but I love this.

Climb some annoying stairs, then admire the view. Such is life.

Climb some annoying stairs, then admire the view. Such is life.

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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Beijing, Life, Travel

 

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Great Walls and Great Speeds

Settling back into normal, non-tourist life has never felt so good! Yesterday I did nothing besides watch Doctor Who (oh, and teach two classes, nbd).

So let’s reminisce a little more about Beijing! The highlight of my trip by far was going to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

I want to see mountains again, mountains, Gandalf!

I want to see mountains again, mountains, Gandalf!

Pretty stunning, even in the middle of winter. Since my friend Helen and I are so adamantly opposed to doing anything involving travel agencies or tours, we set out to Mutianyu on our own, with flimsy but adequate instructions from our hostel. We took the subway, caught the 916 bus out to Huairou, about 45 minutes away from Beijing, and then were quite confused as to where to get off.

The hostel lady told us to wait until the end of the line before getting out to find a taxi to take us the rest of the way to the wall. But the bus driver came all the way back to where we were sitting not once, but twice to tell us to get out. The second time we listened and found ourselves in the middle of the small town of Hairou, having no idea where to go next.

Gratefully, there was a taxi driver waiting for us literally five feet away. We haggled him down to a more reasonable price (170RMB total, roundtrip), and off we went to the Great Wall.

We passed a frozen waterfall and a ghost town that must become tourist central when it’s not 15 degrees outside. When we got to the base of the wall, our driver took us out and showed us around the tourist trap shops with all kinds of souvenir goodies that my friend had a hard time resisting. I finally made a worthy investment: face underwear–I mean, a facemask. Now my facial region is warm and cozy, and my glasses fog up all the time! Fun.

Unfortunately for Helen, her facemask didn’t stop her eyelashes from freezing.

Cold much?

Cold much?

We took the cable car up the hill, which lacked any kind of safety features minus a metal bar for the feet and another that would in no way could keep you from falling out.

Safety first!

Safety first!

Helen had a yelled conversation with a guy passing the opposite direction on the cable car. As it turned out, he was from about ten miles away from where she lived in the Washington DC area. Crazy coincidence.

With the sunny yet appallingly chilly weather, there were only a dozen or so other tourists on the wall. We huffed and puffed our way up stairs that had a hard time deciding whether to be midget- or giant-sized.

Your glutes love it.

Your glutes love it.

We eventually got to an outlook where the wall renovations ended. It was probably the most beautiful sight I’ve seen in China to date. Tranquil blue-ish sky, craggy rocks, and the Great Wall snaking through the hills. It made me appreciate how rugged this part of the country is, and how daunting a task building the wall would have been over one thousand years ago. We spent a long time just soaking it all in before heading back.

Beauty and wonder, all wrapped in one. And the view was nice too ;)

Beauty and wonder, all wrapped in one. And the view was nice too 😉

I won’t lie, I was rather skeptical of the “toboggan” that would take us from the wall back down to the tourist trap village. But I will say, with only a hint of shame, that it was THE BEST PART OF MY TRIP TO BEIJING. Seriously.

Get ready for ADVENTURRRRRRRE

Get ready for ADVENTURRRRRRRE

The toboggan track is a metal slide with surprisingly sharp turns. The car has a lever that allows you to apply the break, or let the car sail down the track at breakneck speeds. I decided to use the break as little as possible.

Two women headed down the slide before us, then Helen, then me. I spent the first part of the journey in giddy amazement at how freakin fast this thing could go. Men were placed at strategic sharp turns, where evidently their only job was to yell “Slow down!” at overzealous tourists like me. I was flying around corners and leaning into turns and generally having far too much fun.

Then I caught up to Helen. Of course, the only thing to do was to slam into her with my car. I did this a couple more times, slowing down to let her get ahead of me, then going as fast as possible and hitting her with my car again like it was all a game of bumper cars.

The last time I rammed into her car though, I didn’t realize that Helen was only precious inches away from the woman in front of her. So Helen ended up hitting the other woman’s car. Hard.

Naturally it was all my fault, so I said “I’M SORRY I’M SO SO SORRY”  a few hundred times and behaved myself for the rest of the ride like a child caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar.

When the toboggan track came to an end, I seriously considered buying another cable car ticket and heading back up to the wall to do it all over again. But I decided to be an Adult, apologized a few more times to the nice lady, then Helen and I headed back to Huairou with our driver.

The bus ride back was fraught with… standing. It was chock full of people heading into the Big City, which made for an uncomfortable ride. BUT we got to hear, for the first time ever, someone in China say the vile phrase “Cao ni ma” (fuck your mom). The bus driver got a little peeved at someone’s driving and released a whole string of obscenities out the window. It’s so nice to hear new words you’ve learned in their natural environment!

When we got back to the hostel, I saw someone stooping down, searching for something in her bag in the hallway across from our room. That coat… those stockings… It couldn’t be! The same girl that I made Helen ram into on the toboggan was not only staying in the same hostel as us, but living in the room across the hall! I said hello and apologized one more time for possibly giving her whiplash. She was a French student studying in Shanghai, in Beijing on holiday for New Year’s. And we met her on the same day in Beijing. Twice. What are the odds…?

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2013 in Beijing, Travel

 

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Sound the kazoos!

Happy belated 2013, everyone! What a shiny new year for us to make a lot of goals and then abandon them partway. Wow, that sounded pessimistic. But really, I’m quite excited for this next year: more China, summer travels somewhere, then starting college for realzz  (no really, I won’t run away to a foreign country to avoid going to college again).

This past week a couple of friends and I spent three glorious days in Beijing, where I proceeded to spend large sums of money (OK, like $200). We dropped off our bags at the hostel on New Year’s Eve, then proceeded into town to find us a good party to ring in 2013.

The first bar we checked out, Slowboat Brewery, was close to the hostel and promised beer, champagne, and a festive party hat for a nominal entrance fee. Unfortunately, it had possibly the worst atmosphere of any bar ever: plastic picnic tables, glaring bright lights, and far too many foreign faces. Although an overheard conversation about Star Wars sounded promising, we turned tail and caught a taxi to Sanlitun to find ourselves a better party.

And a party we found. Sanlitun is well-known for its nightlife, and New Year’s Eve only amplified the ridiculosity. We wandered around looking for somewhere that charged less than 50RMB for a beer, didn’t have obnoxious dance music blaring, and where maybe, just maybe, we could find a place to sit. We wandered for a good half hour, going from bars with dancers pole-dancing in the window to a bar that was so busy, people were standing five-deep just to order a drink from the bar. We were getting desperate as the clock approached 11pm, but then we found it.

Taps proved itself to be a little piece of paradise. We snatched two seats and a box to sit on at the bar, where we could watch soccer on TV and listen to the DJ jamming out techno beats at a pleasant volume. Before we knew it, we downed an excessive number of shots, some of which were free (thank you, bartender with the amazing hair). We also got a platter CHOCK FULL of cheese for free, because every waiter in the place kept forgetting about it. My klepto friend also proceeded to borrow indefinitely one tiny spoon, several drink stirrers, and an ashtray. At some point, I heard a bunch of yelling and wondered what they could possibly be making such a ruckus about. Oh, 2013. Right.

We eventually meandered our way outside, where my friend bought a couple of jianbing (delicious pancake things), then proceeded to spit it out on the sidewalk because it supposedly tasted like fish. Anyway, she gave it to me (yum), and watching her trying to get the imaginary fish taste out of her mouth was more than entertaining. My other friend breaking down into a sobbing fit over her breakup with her boyfriend eight months previously was less entertaining, but you can’t choose what kind of drunks your friends turn into.

All in all, it was a splendid New Year’s celebration, although I think we went a little heavy on the tequila. Now I leave you with some prime Chenglish examples from our stay in Beijing.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Beijing, Night Life

 

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Foreigner Rule Violation

The Foreigner Rule has been violated.

So here’s the deal: if you’re a foreigner in China in a city other than Beijing or Shanghai, you have a Special Bond with every other foreigner you meet. This may materialize as anything from a simple head nod in public to a full-blown conversation and exchange of phone numbers.

With this in mind, imagine you are on the line 1 subway from your outskirts-of-Tianjin school to downtown to get your party on on a Friday night. Keep in mind, you have NEVER seen another foreigner on this part of the subway. Then, out of the blue, a blond woman and her Chinese friend sit across from you and speak wonderful mish-mash of Chenglish.

Yes, this happened last night, and I was slightly excited–new friends maybe, oh boy! I introduced myself to the blonde woman and her friend, telling my name and what I was doing in China. But here’s the thing. The blonde woman said absolutely nothing. Nothing! She looked at me like I was delusional and let the silence drag on for what seemed eternity. So I leaned back in my seat and mumbled something like “Sorry to bother you… (bitch).”

Just to add to my confusion, a few minutes later the blonde woman got my attention, then,  I kid you not, wagged her finger at me to get me to come over to her and her friend. Against my better judgement, I sat down next to them. Her Chinese friend went off on this long-winded explanation of where she worked and a lot of things I didn’t care about, then oh-by-the-way offered me a job at her company’s kindergarten. I kindly informed her that I hate children and would rather wear underwear filled with burning coals than work with them. And that was that–I got to sit awkwardly next to them for the rest of the journey.

On the plus side, I met another Chinese girl on the subway who is applying to my university for school next year. She was much nicer. And didn’t make me feel like the outcast in a high school cafeteria.

So yes. The Foreigner Law was broken, and my pathetic attempts at being outgoing were stymied. But on the plus side, I have pictures from my last trip to Beijing in November! These pictures are not mine, but were instead stolen from my friend Helen (with her permission).

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Beijing, Food, Travel

 

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Tribulations in Squatting

Going into a public bathroom here in China has become a harrowing experience. Not because they’re often dirty, or because they smell bad. It’s not even the discomforting lack of soap. Oh no, dear reader.  It’s the fellow bathroom patrons that make me feel most unwelcome there.

Despite my hair growing longer, my earrings, and the decidedly female parts of my anatomy, people here STILL can’t tell I’m a woman. I no longer get angry about it–now I just become more and more amazed at how compartmentalized their views of women are. In their eyes, it seems, women must wear pink or foofoo lacy things or tights with booty shorts in the middle of winter (or all of the above–yes, I have seen it with mine own eyes!)

So for a woman to wear a leather coat that’s slightly too big for her, with dark jeans and leather shoes, is just too gender-bending for them to know what to do. Instead of thinking that maybe I’m a foreign woman who likes to dress a little masculine-of-center, they decide that I’m a foreign man who has a hard time reading the restroom sign. Also, they must decide that I’m a retard, because most signs are also in English, or have the universal picture of a woman wearing a very awkward-looking skirt.

Srsly, worst dress ever.

But at least this weekend, it was a little different. Most times, it’s a middle-aged woman who freaks out and scolds me for being in the lady’s room. This time it was a little girl, and her cuteness completely overwhelmed any kind of anger I could have felt for being accused of being a blind idiot foreigner.

The scene: a crowded bathroom in the Forbidden City in Beijing. I was standing in “line” with my Chinese friend (all lines in China look suspiciously like gaggles, and whoever can scurry over to an open bathroom stall first gets it). The stall in front of me opened, and a little girl with her mom started walking out. The little girl was adorable, so I smiled at her a little. When she looked up at me, she turned to her mom in confusion.

Little girl (in Chinese): Mommy, why is there a boy in the girl’s bathroom?

The mom looked at me, and I sighed in frustration as my friend started to laugh.

Me (in English, under my breath): Damn it…

Little girl (in Chinese): Mommy, I didn’t understand that. What did he say?

My Chinese Friend (in Chinese): Don’t worry, she’s a girl. It’s OK for her to be here!

Me (in bad Chinese): Yup I’m a girl.

The mom apologized a little, then walked out with her girl. My friend laughed at me some more, but hey, I can understand kids not quite understanding me. Adults don’t have any excuse other than being stuck in a oppressive regime with limited self-expression.

… Actually, now that I think of it, that’s a pretty good excuse. Maybe I should cut them some more slack. In a place where conformity is so valued, something as simple as me looking like me could be the most diversity these people have seen their whole lives. It truly is amazing how homogenous China is. Nearly everyone is the same race (Han). Students wear uniforms from elementary to high school. People would rather push and shove to get on the tiny, crowded escalator than break away from the crowd and walk up the empty stairs. In general, no one wants to be different.

So next time I get yelled at for being in the wrong bathroom (probably tomorrow,) maybe I should feel grateful that I made someone realize that people can look different than what they’re used to. Self-expression. It’s a thing.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Beijing, Life

 

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How NOT to travel in China

So, this may come to no surprise to most of you: when you are traveling in a foreign country, you should always have your passport. Seems simple enough. Travel=passport.

WELL. After you’ve been living in a foreign country for a couple of months, sometimes you… forget. You never forget that you’re foreign and different and not quite accepted, but you may forget about some of the more anal laws for foreigners. As a random example that has no bearing on the enjoyment of my weekend (OK maybe it does), in China you need a passport to perform simple travel tasks like buy a train ticket and book a hotel.

So let’s say I was leaving Tianjin for Beijing on Saturday morning. I was meeting some people in Beijing to go hike Xiangshan, “Fragrant Mountain,” where the red leaves would dazzle and the fresh air rejuvenate. I may have gotten all the way to the  train station in Tianjin, which is about 45 minutes away from my school, and realized that my passport was still nestled snugly in my desk drawer.

Awkward.

So I had a decision to make. Do I go back to my apartment and get my passport, which will add an hour and a half to my trip and cancel my hike at Xiangshan with potential new friends? Or do I try to play the “oh, I’m just a clueless foreigner” card and get everything I need, just with a little extra hassle? I opted for the latter–Xiangshan and hanging with new friends were the priorities.

I won’t pretend that I arrived at this decision lightly. I freaked out a little (a lot), and called three people to see if they thought I could make it work. I need to look each of them in the face and apologize for my mild hysterics.

So I managed to get my train ticket, with the cashier lady saying “You really should have your passport” over and over. At this point, I realized that my hostel might have some very deep reservations about letting me stay there. Every time you check in at a hotel, they make a copy of your passport and report you to the local police section. But I was hoping that since I had stayed there just a few weeks ago, they would still have my passport copy on file.

So that’s how I threw caution to the wind and went to Beijing without my passport.

Ensue short train ride, long subway ride, dropping bag off at hostel and agreeing to do the check in procedures when I got back, and another long subway ride to meet my friends.  From there, we chomped on some delicious homemade trail mix out of the Bucket of Joy and took a bus toward Xiangshan.

Toward, being the key word: this was a big weekend for Xiangshan, complete with a “red leaf festival” and tour groups and the typical Chinese fanfare. All of this made for atrocious traffic and a veritable sea of people.

We didn’t quite know what stop we needed on the bus, but when the traffic came to a stand-still, and all the other passengers started hopping off, we took that as a sign and completed the rest of the journey by foot.

We made our way through the throngs of hikers, Chinese restaurants, and tourist shops, finally arriving at Xiangshan itself. We alternately followed the crowd to try to find our way up the mountain and wandered away from them to snatch at a chance for privacy.

One epic Chinese guy was going up the mountain on crutches–well done, sir! While most of the leaves were still quite green (my friends surmised they were waiting for the National People’s Congress before turning red), the view of Beijing was quite profound. How’s that for some perspective!

When the sun began to set, we turned back and tried to find our way back to the subway stop. Unfortunately, a couple of factors made this difficult: every other hiker was also leaving the park, but most importantly, TRAFFIC WAS COMPLETELY STOPPED ON THE ROAD. No movement. Empty buses lined up on their way to the park, where they would turn around and haul back travelers. But there was no driving, and no turning around. Bus after empty bus was lined up for literally a mile or more, with their drivers laying back in their chairs, snoozing. The odd passenger car was thrown in the mix, and all the drivers were standing outside, smoking and looking bored. They clearly had been at this for a while.

So we continued to walk along the road, our feet feeling very tired by this point. A bunch of crazy people were piling into the random bus that went by every 20 minutes–sitting, standing, laying down, whatever made them fit in the bus. We didn’t feel like dealing with that, so we just kept walking and walking. We eventually saw the reason for the traffic jam: a little accident where a bus and SUV tapped bumpers. But with the road being a loop leading to the park then back, with no major roads intersecting, the cars and buses had nowhere to go until the accident was cleared out of the way. Genius urban design.

Finally, a motorcycle rickshaw approached us and we viciously flagged him down before some other travelers could get to him. We negotiated from 80RMB to 50 for the trip back to the subway station… totally worth it! Also, the fact that we fit three people into a two person rickshaw seat will always be the stuff of legend. Sorry for having to sit on you, ladies.

By this point we were starving to death, so we subway’d to a tasty Yunnan restaurant in a hutong and ate ourselves silly (the curry was a particular favorite!) Then we decided that there was exactly enough room in our stomachs for milkshakes. Grandma’s Kitchen was a surprisingly-authentic American-style diner. We ordered some supposedly Kahlua milkshakes that tasted oddly of butterscotch, but it still worked.

We checked out one more place before calling it a night: a hutong lined with every tiny shop you could possibly imagine, plus many a bar of all shapes and sizes. We landed at one that had a jazzy, cozy feel to it, mostly because they advertized mulled wine (YESSS!). The white cat sleeping on the fridge, plus the 100+ year old piano made it seem old-fashioned and inviting. And while the mulled wine was delicious, I was still shocked how everything in Beijing is easily twice as expensive as Tianjin. Big city living indeed.

My friends had work and obligations and things in the morning, so we called it a night and I returned to my hostel. At this point fear was bubbling in my stomach: I still wasn’t sure how troublesome not having my passport would be.

The receptionist was passed out on the couch, and the first time I asked him if he worked there, he told me no and went back to sleep. Very professional. I shook him awake again and made myself abundantly clear that I needed to check in, which finally woke him up enough to get up off the couch and to the front desk.

After that, things did not go very smoothly. I explained my passport-less situation, and he said I couldn’t stay. I told him how I had stayed there just three weeks ago, so they probably still had my passport on file. He said probably not. I asked him to look for it. He wouldn’t. I asked him to give me the folder so I could look for it. That finally encouraged him to take a cursory search, which revealed their records only went back two weeks. Which meant no passport. No can stay.

And that’s how I came to be homeless at 1am in Beijing. Since the receptionist went back to the couch and fell sound asleep, I was gratefully left with some options. I tried to lay down on a couch outside in the hostel courtyard, but the chilly fall temperatures and intense shivering quickly convinced me that that was a poor choice. So I went back into the reception area, found ahard chair, and did my best to sleep for a few hours.

The bad news is that I got about two hours of sleep. But the silver lining of the situation is that I didn’t have to pay for the hostel. Worth it? …. Nope.

I decided to skip out of the hostel early to avoid any awkward questions about why I was sleeping in the reception area. There was a 24 hour KFC down the road, where I got a rather disgusting chicken sandwich and mediocre but blessedly cheap coffee.

Even though I had been planning to stay in Beijing until Monday morning, the prospect of sleeping in a hostel lobby another night, or mooching off of friends were both terribly depressing options. So I braved the crisp but beautiful clear morning and headed back to Tianjin, tail between my legs and rather despising myself for thinking I could take a chance and get away with it.

On the plus side, Tianjin was lovely this morning. I took a walk around downtown to enjoy the view.

So yes. That’s how you DON’T travel in China. Always bring your passport, or for pity’s sake, just keep a photocopy in your bag in case you’re forgetful like me (I’m stashing a copy in my purse now as I type.) While foreigners really can get away with just about anything, some laws are holier than others and should not be trifled with. It’s quite sad that a memory lapse kind of destroyed my Beijing weekend, but I can be sure that my next weekend getaway will be approximately 5 billion times better. Le sigh.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Beijing, Night Life, Travel

 

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Beijing Welcomes Me!

Oh, Beijing. The tune of “One World, One Dream” is still ringing in my ears. My shoulders are a little red from the long hours of sunshine (yeah, sunshine! It burned through the rancid levels of air pollution and revealed a gloriously blue sky. Who knew that was there?) And this afternoon, I felt relieved to step back onto the Tianjin subway, knowing that I didn’t have to risk life and limb to find a tiny space to stand.

Let me just say: my impressions of Beijing this time around (as opposed to my trip there in June earlier this year) are much more positive. I managed to stay away from  Tiananmen Square completely, so the amount of irritating “Hello! Hello!” yelling was kept to a minimum. Still, I saw more foreigners in an hour in Beijing than I did in this whole last month in Tianjin.

What led to this side trip to Beijing? Mostly boredom, in this long holiday week. Also,  a desire to tell my students something exciting on Monday. I couldn’t let them have all the good stories! Of course, we’ll see if they did their usual crazy activities (reading, eating, and sleeping), just in different locations over the holiday.

First off, here are some Evidence Photos. I was there, guys! At 雍和宫, the Lama Temple!

And at the Bird’s Nest!

And next to some running girls!

So anyway, the Lama Temple was super busy with Chinese people burning incense all over the place. Actually, getting enough oxygen was a bit of a problem. Does smoke-free incense exist? It should.

The Olympic stadium area was fantastically free! I guess they make up for the lack of entrance fee with overpriced water and snacks? In any case, I experienced a China-first: someone asked to take pictures with me! Weeeeird. I really don’t understand the fascination, or how they explain to their child years later why there’s a random foreigner in their Beijing travel photos. But it made her happy, so whatever.

Also, how would you feel about donating some blood today? I usually feel the urge to bleed into a bag for the good of mankind when I’m wandering around Olympic venues. Totally shady.

North of the stadiums was a sprawling park, complete with trees, lake with paddle boats, and… camping?!

I guess when that itch to experience the great outdoors hits Beijingers, they pack up the tent and head to the neighborhood park. Ahhh, the scent of pine! Nothing says tranquility like the sound of thousands of people walking right past your tent. And then it hit me… this really is the most “wilderness” that most Chinese city-dwellers see. Sure, they have a lot of parks, but they’re all so full of people, and usually so well-maintained, that they look nothing like real nature. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to find a peaceful patch of forest without driving a thousand miles west. That’s one reason that, as much as I like 黑椒鸡肉饭 (chicken in a tasty pepper sauce over rice), I don’t see myself staying in the Middle Kingdom.

The highlight of the trip was meeting an old man in a park. In the Temple of Heaven park,  I unintentionally bought a ticket that didn’t include seeing the big pagodas and such, so I wandered around enjoying the sunshine and perfect weather. I passed up the guys practicing nunchuks, the synchronized dancers, and guys pretending to be really hardcore while working out in the playground. I also managed to walk for almost half a minute without seeing another person!

Eventually, I heard a strange thing…. accordion music?! And a rich baritone voice singing along. It was an 80 year old man hanging out with his accordion-playing friend, making beautiful music on a lazy Thursday afternoon. I just couldn’t believe how fantastic his voice was… If he joined an opera company, I would gladly pay the big bucks to hear him perform. But since he’s just an old man singing in a park, I got to hear him for free 🙂

In other news, the hostel I stayed at, Ming Courtyard, was pretty much perfect. Five minutes from the subway on “Ghost Street,” which has a bunch of tasty restaurants. A big courtyard in the middle, with lots  of chairs and tables for chillaxing and meeting new people. And a bar with cheap beer so you can start your night on a budget. I gathered up my courage and fledgling social skills to talk to random people both nights I was there. Luckily, when you’re a westerner in China, you always have something to talk about.

The first night, I hung out with an Italian guy and a Chinese guy from Wuhan who worked at the hostel’s restaurant. We hit up a bar called Modernista, tucked away in one of Beijing’s many hutongs. Evidently they have a 1920s vintage thing going on: they have absinthe specials from 12am-2am, old-school burlesque shows every month, and regular jazz performances. The night we went, a DJ was providing an original soundtrack to the silent movie “Salome.” The movie was trippy (most silent movies are), and the DJ was a little unimaginative, but the incomprehensible story line made it fun.

The second night, I invited myself to dinner with three Germans and an English guy, followed by a “Modern Jazz” show at 愚公移山. OK, don’t get too excited, guys, but the venue also has METAL shows. METAAAAAAAAL! Can I get a HELLZ YES!!! They’re having Cannibal Corpse later this month, which is a little too scary for me, but maybe they will have a band I actually like later? A girl can dream!

Anyway, the jazz show. When they say jazz, what they really mean is random noises produced by instruments that contains neither harmony nor rhythm. In other words, my ears were bleeding.

I kept thinking (hoping?) they were still doing their sound check. But then there’s that awful moment, when you realize that they weren’t doing sound checks. This is their show. Daaaaaamn.

Gratefully, one of the German guys hated it as much as I did. So we headed to 三里屯 Sanlitun, which I discovered is Beijing’s Bourbon Street. Bars, clubs, and more bars. We hung out at a super chill rooftop bar until the other Germans got their fill of “music.”

Next, we found a club called Latte, which, get ready for it, is a STEAMPUNK CLUB. Like, all of their decor is copper and mechanical and stuff. There were clocks and gadgets and things I had no idea what they were, but they moved on their own and it was awesome. So between that, and the wonderfully obnoxious dance beats, I was in heaven. The Germans were not, however, so we moved on 😦 Next time, Latte. Next time.

Insert a lame club with five people dancing, a failed attempt at getting late night munchies, and a little bit of haggling with the taxi cab driver to make the fare home not completely ridiculous, and the night was over. In conclusion, Beijing nightlife is slightly (infinitely) more interesting than Tianjin’s.

So while my trip to Beijing was borne of boredom and desperation, it was pretty successful. And considering the whole travel process of subways, trains, and walking takes about 3 hours, I will certainly be heading to Beijing more often.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Beijing, Night Life

 

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