15 PICTURE ALBUM
Monday, March 15
Paula: Today was a travel day to Beijing. It was also
our final time in the Bangkok airport - we've been in and out of there five
times! The Thai Airways flight was fine, and we arrived in Beijing right on
time this afternoon. By the time we got to our hotel in the center of Beijing,
it was time for dinner and we didn't think we would have much to write in
our daily journal. In fact, we even considered not doing an entry until after
our tour of the city tomorrow. But after a wonderful meal in a local restaurant
and an exciting walk in the area around our hotel, we decided that the evening's
events had to be recorded.
quickly got a feel for Beijing as soon as we arrived in the airport which
was sparkling and appeared brand new. Everything from immigration to baggage
claim and customs was well organized and efficient. We were immediately surprised
by the amount of advertising that confronted us - perhaps this was partially
because we have been in Cambodia for the last week. One of the first advertisements
we saw featured a huge picture of Yao Ming, the NBA star from China.
Our guide, Shu, quickly helped us into our van and told us to expect a long
commute to the hotel since it was rush hour. He explained that the traffic
in Beijing is a problem because there are 12 million people, 2 million cars
and millions of bicycles. We immediately noticed two differences between the
traffic here and in our Southeast Asian stops: there are no motorcycles and
there is a separate lane just for bicycles. The traffic patterns, while heavy,
are orderly! Signage of the roads is clear and includes English translations.
Shu told us that motorcycles are not common because they are taxed heavily
to discourage their use. He also told us that only 15% of the population can
afford a car and that most people in China use bicycles.
We saw lots of tall apartment buildings, which Shu told us were increasingly
becoming too expensive ($120+ per square foot). He told us that people in
the city feel they have to work very hard now to afford private property (something
that has only been possible since 1998). We hope to learn more about the recent
changes here from Shu over the next few days. Everywhere we looked, there
were new buildings under construction and large cranes. We read an article
in the Bangkok paper yesterday stating that China is importing huge quantities
of scrape metal from the United States to feed such construction and we saw
evidence of this
reality all around us.
After checking in to our hotel, we had dinner in a nearby restaurant recommended
for its Shanghai cuisine. Although the waitress spoke only a little English,
she helped us select some of the best dishes. We enjoyed
wonderful selections of pork, fish, fried noodles, shrimp and a spicy soup.
The staff showed us how to serve each dish and kept our cups full of hot green
After dinner we decided to walk to the shopping district just a kilometer
from our hotel. Neon lights and large modern shopping malls quickly surrounded
us on both sides of the street. Many of the establishments were all too familiar
Nike, Reebook, McDonalds and Starbucks, but it was fascinating to see their
advertisements written in Mandarin Chinese! The streets are neat and clean.
Several people approached us trying to sell services as guides or asking for
We had also been told of an interesting food market in the area and decided
to explore. David had been a little reluctant before dinner (probably
because he was so hungry), suggesting that we have seen so many markets on
the trip that we didn't need to see another - boy was he in for a surprise!
We have seen many markets and many different kinds of foods but nothing like
this. We walked along a row of stalls which all appeared to be selling kebabs
- then we looked a little more closely and discovered these kebabs are quite
unique. We saw kebabs with squid, octopus and even beetles - these we have
seen before but these vendors also sell snake, scorpions, grasshoppers, starfish
and even goat testicles! The vendors were all encouraging us to try something
new - we decided just to look
and write down a log of all our choices. David's download below provides the
detailed menu. While there were a number of other tourists gawking along with
us, there were many more natives actually purchasing and eating these items
right in front of us!
It was quite an experience and we laughed about it all the way back to our
hotel looking forward to what other interesting things lay ahead for us in
David's Daily Dump: Beijing Night Market. Tonight after our first real
Chinese meal, we visited a Beijing night food market. We weren't sure what
to expect, and definitely weren't prepared for what we were about to see
we strolled down the parade of red lighted circus-style open air food
stalls, we saw some of the most amazing things being cooked, fried and eaten.
There were crickets on sticks, larvae, fried beetles and scorpions, snake,
fried silk worms and even roasted frog!!!! We saw Chinese munching on shish
kebab star fish, sea horses, octopus, small roasted lobsters, and internal
organs like stomachs, hearts, kidneys and amazingly testicles!!! YES, goat
testicles!!! One menu advertised "Goat Cock and Testicles!" It was
absolutely sickening!! We also saw a sign for fried pimples but had no interest
in discovering what those looked like!
Tonight was our first real encounter with gross Asian foods. Although it
wasn't particularly pleasant it was fun to look at all the disgusting things
that were being fried, I am looking forward to seeing more weird foods in
china and am getting ready to try goat testicles tomorrow evening (NOT)!!!