Beijing has a lot to offer a tourist. To me, some of the sights are much more memorable than others because of the crazy situations I got into… Read on and check out my video! 😀
This post is continued from Beijing through my Eyes (Part 1 of 2).
Love at First Sight – The Great Wall of China
What does a “Wonder of the World” feel like? I think I know after seeing this one. From the second I caught a glimpse of it, I knew it was going to be stunning. But it was much more than that. It connects past civilizations with the present in a way that is impossible to describe in words. Truly a masterpiece! Its breath taking scenery and never ending length has left me with a memory to last forever. Oh Great Wall, how could I not fall for you?
We were told that the Great Wall is the largest cemetery in the world. Countless workers have died building it and many soldiers have given their lives defending their country against invasion.
Hiking it was a lot of fun. The farther you go from the renovated parts, the older and steeper it gets. I tried not to look behind me when climbing some of the crumbling, almost vertical steps and while I held on tight for my dear life, the local Mongols selling drinks and postcards ran up and down as if they were in a playground.
Hike down the mountain???
The Wall is situated atop a chain of high mountains so cable cars operate to take you on and off. When we decided to get down, it suddenly became extremely windy (and cold too) which meant that the cable car service had to be stopped.
“Our bus leaves soon! We must take the cable cars!” We told the worker who spoke some English.
He told us there is nothing he could do and showed us the easiest way to get down – a trail winding down the steep mountain we were on. And I use the word “trail” very loosely. It was hardly a clearing between tall bushes and had basically formed by the footsteps of locals who frequently climb up and down. We dreaded going down this way but thankfully, a couple from our bus was also stuck in the same situation. Being experienced hikers, they offered to lead us.
At first I thought it wouldn’t be so bad going down, but was it slippery or what! The round, mini rocks made my shoes feel like roller blades. Add to that the slope of the mountain and I was basically giving myself in to gravity. Wow… I’m going to break my legs at this epic site!
But I survived. After about thirty long minutes of slipping, sliding, falling and sometimes involuntarily running down the mountain, we finally touched ground. Covered in dust, we walked another half hour before we made it to our bus.
This wasn’t so much “fun” at the time, but thinking about it now makes me happy. Thank you, crazy wind! You made my experience all the more memorable!
Visiting Forbidden City… Twice!
A huge portrait of Mao marks the entrance into the Forbidden City – a mini city inside Beijing. It’s basically a massive cluster of Chinese buildings, one building after another, surrounded by a huge wall on all four sides. They are full of art: dragons in the courtyards, colourful paint on the walls, detailed ceilings, and beautiful Chinese-style roofs. Emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties, their families, and political visitors had resided in this city. Common people were “forbidden” to enter. And now I was here in this historic place feeling quite special. We took a million pictures. A million was also the number of tourists present at this site. It took us a good three hours to walk through it from one end to the other as we stopped quite often to explore it before we bade farewell to its mightiness.
But goodbye was said a little too early…
At the end of what turned out to be our most action-packed day in the whole trip, three of us decided to go see yet another popular sight at night. After walking for half an hour towards our destination, we somehow ended up at a dead end. There was an open gate in the huge wall before us so we entered it, hoping it would lead us to some big road. Guards standing there stared at us with their open curiosity but no one said a word. Soon we found ourselves inside a deserted walkway barely lit by tiny street lamps and lined with huge trees and giant walls on both sides. It extended as far as I could see and there was not a soul around. We were clearly not supposed to be here, and at this point the plan was to hold on to each other, pray, and find a way out fast. I could feel that A was scared, so I looked at L’s face for some reassurance but found none. Great! Any second now, someone is going to jump out of somewhere, yell “BOO”, and send the three of us screaming away in different directions.
Walking for what seemed like hours brought us near an office where workers seemed to be getting ready to leave for home. When asked for directions, they all talked amongst each other while we looked at them terrified. One of them pointed towards a pitch-dark narrow alleyway.
There is no way I’m walking through that!
“Can you please lead us out of here?? You walk, we follow” asked A with a desperate look on her face.
After much hesitation, one of them finally agreed to come with us. Clinging to each other, we followed him for about five minutes. And then we finally saw it: Civilization! A busy road with speeding cars and Tiannamen Square shining on the other side. Thank you GOD! It is then that I fully realized that we had just strolled through a side walkway inside the Forbidden City, having entered it from its back end at “forbidden hours,” as L put it. The guards had obviously saved themselves the inconvenience of talking in English and stopping us from entering. I declare that, if anything, the Forbidden City is FREAKY at night!
That was adventurous enough so we decided to forget the original plan and go back to our hotel right away. But we couldn’t have left without taking pictures with the locals, of course. One lady just handed her little daughter to me. As I held her in my arms, the mother clicked and I smiled while the little girl looked terrified, struggling to wiggle down to the ground.
Snacks at the Donghuamen Night Market
So this is the fragrant environment I was talking about. It’s where we saw people clenching the limbs of bats with their teeth, rolling the meat of snakes in their mouth and… I’ll just let this video do the rest of the talking:
So ya I was terrified when he pretty much threw those insects at me. And not for a second did I want to try any of those… things. But in hindsight, I don’t think eating fried insects should be such an out-of-this-world concept. Most of the world eats animals like chickens, giant cows, pigs, camels and what not. These insects are not nearly as graphic as the stuff that can be found inside these larger animals. Am I wrong? Don’t mean to mentally disturb you… just making a valid point 😛
May be this part of their diet is what allows Chinese people to have beautiful shiny hair, good health, and flawless skin. I say we all start devouring this neglected source of protein!
The Silk and Pearl Markets
I have no idea where to begin and how to end writing about my experience at these two markets that are run almost entirely by young Chinese women. They offer you everything from table runners and Abercrombie hoodies to fake MAC make-up brushes and Dr. Dre headphones. Here I have five shopping tips for you if you ever happen to be there:
- Take the price they give you, divide it by 10, go ahead and subtract a few more Yuan from that if you like, and pay no more than that number. I bought pashmina scarves for 23 Yuan ($4) each. Original quote = 320 Yuan each ($53) …
- Remain calm if they call you “a crazy lady” or tell you that your price is “impossiboo!” They aren’t really trying to be rude. Seems like each and every one of the 200+ women working in these markets has gone through some kind of training to say the exact same phrases to every customer. It is quite funny actually.
- Don’t bargain too hard. Simply leave the store when they quote ridiculous prices. If your price was reasonable by any standard, they will hold you by the arm, drag you back into their store and let you pay what you like.
- Buying a 32GB memory card for $5, or a 16GB for $2 are probably two of the most attractive deals you will come across. DO NOT fall for it because these cards stop working after you take about 10 pictures. As for those 10 pictures, it won’t be long before your camera tells you “data destroyed.”
- Don’t be too shocked when a saleswoman says the following: “Hey lady! Come heeya! I hava nice purses fo you okhay? You lika Gucci or you lika Louis Vuitton? I also hava Prada and a Micheal Kors. It’s rea leather! okhay? Come backa heeya pretty ladyyy!” And these purses are probably some of the best fakes you will ever see!
Hope you enjoyed reading the highlights of my stay in Beijing. For all my unforgettable escapades in this city, I give it an A+ in my books!
This post is continued from Beijing through my Eyes.
Next Up in Travelog: Exploring Xi’an – the Capital of the Past