Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Hike Along the Great Wall

This past weekend we had an amazing experience. First of all, I never in my life thought I would ever visit China, and secondly, I never would have thought that I would EVER hike the GREAT WALL OF CHINA! To say that it was amazing and wonderful would be an understatement. The scenery was incredible, as well as the weather. It had just rained the day before so the air was pretty cool and breezy and it was a beautiful blue sky day. I was able to take a TON of pictures, 145 in all, and I was really impressed by the fact that I was able to hike as much as I did and enjoy it every step of the way (once we were on the wall.)

A little more about our trip... I had been researching visiting the Great Wall for some time and decided that the JINSHANLING section of the Wall would be the best for us to visit because it is still rugged, which was awesome, and far fewer people visit it, as compared to the BADALING section of the wall that has been restored and is VERY TOURISTY. It was also built about 600 years ago! Allie and Steve Tensmeyer were able to come along with us as well, which made the trip even more fun. We left from Beijing Dongzhimen Station by bus on Saturday morning at 8am and took the 1.5 hour bus ride to Miyun County where we then had to take a "taxi" to the JINSHANLING section of The Wall. I use the term "taxi" lightly because it was pretty much just a guy with a car who negotiated a price with us when we got off the bus... After another hour or so car ride, we came to The Great Wall and we were all blown away! It was amazing. The hike up to The Wall was not enjoyable in the least, but once we were on The Wall, it was an incredible hike. In all, we walked about 15 towers and it took us about 3 hours or so.

After taking numerous photos, drinking lots of water on The Wall and eating fried chicken for lunch, we took our cab ride back to our buss stop, as well as the bus back to Beijing and ended the day with a great Muslim dinner. This was by far one of the most enjoyable experiences that I have had while here in China. As I was telling Michael, "it was my favorite thing that I've done that I never even knew I wanted to do."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Peking Roast Duck

Ducks Roasting in the Oven. YUM YUM!!

Even before Michael and I came to China I had heard about a famous Chinese dish called Peking Duck or Chinese Roast Duck. Well, Beijing is the birthplace of this dish and I was excited that I was not only going to be able to sample this famous meal, but excited that I would have the chance to try it for the first time here in China where it was invented.

After researching the dish for a few hours and using the internet and a few guidebooks for resources I finally settled on a little restaurant down the street from our apartment. I'm not sure what the Chinese name of the restaurant is, but I love the fact that the only English words outside the restaurant read "BEIJING ROAST DUCK."

We were able to go with Allie and Steve Tensmeyer who we've been able to hang out with here (he happens to be from Cincinnati where we lived for 5 years! Small world!) and the food was amazing! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and can't wait to go back. Beijing Roast Duck is one of the best Chinese dishes I have had here! Sure beats the BBQ Chicken Feet...

When you order Roast Duck the waiter brings you:
1. duck meat
2. duck skin (delicious!)
3. sliced cucumbers
4. sliced spring onions
5. Hoisin sauce
6. sugar

The idea is to layer your duck and toppings in your pancake, roll up and eat. This dish has been prepared since the Imperial Era and is now considered one of China's national foods... or so says Wikipedia. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up In Pictures: Week 4

I can't believe that I have been here for 4 weeks! It amazes me how quickly the time has gone by and how much I have come to really enjoy it here. It has been such a wonderful experience and I am excited about what the next 4 weeks have in store for me and Mike.

Sunday - During the day this is a common sight, especially on weekends. Men and even some women set up tables and play games for hours. At this particular park there were about 6 games of cards or Mahjong going on.
Monday - Michael and his new bike. A friend of ours we met here gave it to Mike because he is moving back to Croatia. This has cut Mike's commute to work down to only 15 minutes.
Tuesday - Tutoring session. I tutor Michael's bosses daughter who is 9-year's-old in English.
Wednesday - enjoying the night air and eating sunflower seeds.
Thursday - one of the smallest cars I have ever seen. It only had 3 wheels!
Friday - FYI - Hooter's girls look cheesy in every country...
4 weeks down, only 4 more to go. I never would have thought I would be this sad about he thought of leaving. I'm glad I still have lots of time to see more of China, though.

Weekly Wrap-up In Pictures: Week 3

I'm a little behind but I want to keep up with my weekly posting of pictures. Here's week 3! Pretty fun in my opinion and it seems to have a food theme to it... :)

Sunday - Famous Peking Roast Duck with the Tensmeyer's. Delicious!!
Monday - 9 Dragons Hostel. They have some of the best burgers here!
Tuesday - Angry Birds EVERYWHERE! They are kinda obsessed here...
Wednesday - 2 super cute kids who wanted to be in a picture with Mike while we were at dinner. The Asians love him here! Mike feels a bit like a celebrity. This is probably the 10th time someone has asked him for a picture, and it hasn't been the last, either. I only get 1/2 as many requests.
Thursday - Yummy Pizza!! Almost tasted American!
Friday - Sporting my knock-off Coach sunglasses in the park.
Saturday - Acupuncture for Fertility. Judging by my expression you would think it was awful bu it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. If you look close enough you can see the needles ALL over my stomach. He used about 15 and even put some in my feet! He also burned incense and herbs over my stomach to "warm" it. Very interesting, but I think I may go back for more... :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Market Days

A few posts back I referred a bit to how "western" shops (aka American/European) are not very common here in China. Most of the big cities including Beijing and Shanghai have a few western malls which are decked out with stores such as Coach, BCBG, Uniqlo, Addidas, Steve Madden, Esprit, but most of the shopping is very different. Most "shops" are typically little storefront rooms with a small array of dresses, skirts, shirts, and other various articles, but there are not multiple sizes of each item and usually there is only one. (So, good luck finding something that you 1. like 2. fits and 3. is of decent quality...) Although I haven't shopped around in these stores very often, they are still interesting to look in and browse.

Here is a great shot of some of the stores around the corner from our apartment.

On the other hand, the large multiple-floored markets are a lot of fun to shop in. They have everything from shoes to luggage to pearls and jewels to Chinese fans and kites. It is also funny because shopping at the markets is a lot like shopping at a garage sale when it comes to prices. The idea is to Bargain and BARGAIN HARD! Most of the time the salesperson will give you a ridiculous price to start off with when the actual price is only about 1/5 of what they are asking for. It is pretty fun to bargain but it does get exhausting after about an hour of shopping. I love it because the shopping is even interesting enough for Mike to enjoy! :) One of my favorite purchases here so far was a really cute little "LeSportSac" purse (I say "LeSportSac" but I am about 99% positive that it is a rip-off) that the vendor wanted 580 quai for! That is about $90! I was so proud of myself that I was able to talk her down to 30 quai or about $4.50. It is about as addicting as bidding for an item on Ebay! We've gotten some other really great stuff at these markets like "Tom's" and "Vans" shoes for Mike and a pair of "Crocs" for me.

One thing that I haven't gotten used to yet is shopping at the outdoor food markets. Michael and I stumbled across one and I couldn't believe my eyes! There was so much to look at, so many people shouting and bargaining and so many smells all in one little street market. Here is a little clip and some pictures to give you an idea. I don't think I am ever going to get used to this. I think I will just continue to shop at the "grocery store" near our apartment...

Vendors selling meat at each stall. Now just imagine this place in 95 degree heat in the middle of the day... Not very appetizing...
Fish for sale as well as FROG LEGS (front center)
Turtles for soup, anyone?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up In Pictures: Week 2

Okay people, I am a little behind here because of some camera issues, but I'm back on track! Week 2 in Beijing consisted of some really great shots! I hope you enjoy! Week 3 and 4 to follow VERY soon!

Monday - Yummy rose/mango tea overlooking the Hutongs

Tuesday - Another "great" smog shot. This was definitely one of the worst smog days here so far.
Wednesday - Ghost Street and all the pretty lanterns. Such a great place for dinner!
Thursday - Koi pond. So many cute little fishies

Friday - Turtles at the market... No, these are not meant to be bought as pets :( The poor little one on the bottom looks like he is pleading with me!
Saturday - This is a common sight. Lots of Chinese men and even women set up game tables and play all night long.
Sunday - Yummy Dinner!! Finally!! It has taken us quite awhile to find great food that we love here. These little buns are A-mazing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beihai Park

With Michael working a 9 to 5 job at an architecture firm, I get a lot of time to explore parts of Beijing. On this particular occasion I decided to take the bus (which has become my major form of transportation) to Beihai park. It is not very far away and it is beautiful. The day that I went was not on a particularly pretty day (more smog! YUCK!) but the park itself was wonderful.

This is called Jade Island and it is in the middle of Beihai Park. It has this huge Gadoba that sits on the center of the island. There are also many other various buildings on the island as well as caves.
One of the many gates that you walk through while in the park. This was one of my favorites.I spent a few hours just sitting on the benches, exploring the grounds and taking in this wonderful little paradise smack dab in the middle of Beijing. It is wonderful to know that such a beautiful park exists here and I hope to go back soon.

4th of July = Fatburger in China

Since we didn't get to celebrate the 4th of July in the states with all of our fellow Americans, we did the next best thing... We rounded up two more Americans, a Chinese guy, a Croatian, and even a Brit for some dinner at Fatburger.

Unfortunately, for our British friend Johnnie, he didn't know us Americans were celebrating our Independence from England until we all met up, but he was a good sport none-the-less.

Sorry, we didn't get pics of our friends, other than Allie!


Okay, okay... maybe we are about 3 years too late for the Olympics here in Beijing, but I thought it was pretty interesting to see where all of the action took place back in the summer of 2008.

It is especially interesting because the area called "Olympic Green" is anything but green, and it is absolutely empty save tourists and vendors selling trinkets.

I was amazed by how huge the area is and how it is so lifeless in a way. Here are some of the pictures we took while we were there. :)

The Bird's Nest. Check out all of that nasty smog! It is disgusting!
Yet another group of Chinese people who want to take a picture with Mike. Maybe we should start charging them... :)

The Watercube. It is really cool and apparently it has water slides in it now! We're hoping to go sometime if it is not too expensive.

You can hardly see the news tower through all that smog!
Well, we may have missed seeing the Beijing Olympics, but it was pretty cool to see some of the amazing architecture built for the occasion close up and not just on TV. It's just too bad that these structures were so lively and amazing 3 years ago, and now they are lifeless. :( Makes a person kinda sad.