Monday, January 20, 2014

China Express- 3 days in Beijing

Flying on my way to Thailand, I had a three day stop over in Beijing, China. It was the same cost as buying full priced plane ticket. China has always interested me, due to the fact that so many Chinese immigrants live in Canada including some of my friends so it's interesting to see where they come from. Also it's economy is booming and so much of everything we use is made in China making it a cool place to see. The other interesting thing to me is that there over A billion people living in China, including over 20,000,000 in Beijing alone, and I am curious to see how life is with having that many people in a relatively small space.

I posted on couch surfing that I am coming to Beijing for three nights and am looking for a host. I got about 5 offers overnight of places to stay. I ended up choosing a couple Xaoi and Trevor (Trevor being from BC, and recently moved to Beijing to teach English) because they seemed like cool people, and around the same age as me. They lived in the Wudoku district of Beijing (there are over 100 different subway stops in Beijing, making for a lot of different areas. Wudoku seemed a good a area as any, with lots of restaurants, bars, and stores around.
Near my hosts aparment

Getting out of the airport I got on a shuttle bus, to go meet Xaoi at her work place. I didn't have her phone number, and I planned to meet her at 6:30pm. Due to my bags taking so long to get out of the airport, it was looking like I would get to her office closer to 8pm. I asked a guy named Ding on the bus if I could use his smart phone (50 percent of Chinese people have one) to email Xiao through couchsurfing. He said yes and invited me to sit with him. We ended up talking the whole bus trip, and he was going to the same general area as I was. He said he would show me to Xaio, and he would be meeting his sister at the stop we were to get off at. We did meet his sister at the stop, and they insited on taking me in a taxi to meet Xaio, which I agreed to, as they wouldn't take no for an answer. They also offered to be my host for the next day to go see the great wall of China. They found Xaio and Trevor for me, and I promised to call them later that night to arrange for the next day.
Ding!!

Xaio and Trevor took me for dinner at a Chinese restaurant near her work, and the food was seriously good. Actually the whole time I was in Beijing the food was delicious, and so different to western food I normally eat, which it was great to have a change from. I took some pictures:
The restaurant

our waitress

Pork, soooo good!

Pretty jet lagged, but more hungry

After dinner we took the subway ( a few transfers and stops) back to Xaio's and Trevor's apartment. It was pretty entertaining for me to watch people on the subway. I found the people in China to have very different ways of conducting themselves. For example they have way less personal space (When you are in the subway people will be breathing down your neck (mostly due to the fact there is no room on the trains). Also it is normal to do things like spit and blow your nose out onto the street, yyyyyyyyyyyuuuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkkkkkk! Guys are also way more comfortable with physical contact with other guys, as they will often grab eachothers hands then they talk, etc for effect. Another thing I thought was nice, but would be weird in Canada is that Ding bought for his sister a box of chocaltes and a teddy bear (sorry Devon and Calena, I won't be getting you that :p).





Xaio's apartment was honestly quite old and run down. It was small and shared with a third roomate with two bedrooms. To rent out the apartment it costs $1,000 usd per month, which shows me that in Beijing rent is quite expensive, as for the quality of the aparment a simlar room in Vancouver would probably go for about $500 a month due to how run down the building was. Anyways I didn't mind at all, as I was interested to see how people in China live, and I was only staying three nights, and I was more then happy that they invited me to stay with them. I stayed on the couch in the living room/ dinning room/ laundry/ multipurpose room.
The next morning I met Ding (20 years old), and his sister (who I can't pronounce her name and don't want to butcher it 22 years old) at the subway closest to Xioa's place. As promised they took me to see the great wall of China. Ding said that if you haven't gone to see the great wall you haven't gone to China. It took about two hours in transit and on the train to get to the wall, and Ding and his sister practiced there English with me the whole time, asking me about Canada, what I do there, why I am in China, etc. Niether of them have ever left China, and Ding's sister had never hung out with a foriegner before. After telling them about Canada they both want to come live there.....


It was so cold



People seemed to get tired walking even 100 meters on the great wall

Will do


We got to the great wall and went walking along it for about 2-3 hours. It was cool, up in the mountians, and for being the middle of winter there and quite cold there sure were a lot of tourists, with people on the wall everywhere. My highlight, and definatly Ding's and his sisters was watching me climb over the wall (went through a window half way up). They said they are so glad they took me, as they said “I am so cool” because I do these crazy things and they have never met anyone like me before. Over the three days I came to the realization that China being a confucious/ communist society (meaning you do what is good for the whole, not for you as an indiviudal), people don't think outside of the box to much and go out on there own often, so you can imagine how foriegn I must have seemed.

After the great wall they asked if we could go skating (so I could teach them). I said sure, so we took a short taxi from the wall to what I thought was going to be a skating rink. We got there and I realized it was a ski hill with artifical snow..... I helped them out with there English on this one. We rented skis and went up the magic carpet ride (niether of them had been skiing before). I did my best to teach them to ski with the crappy equipment and conditions we had, but it was quite hard and they fell alot, in fact almost everyone on the mountian was falling. There was one t-bar, and I think only about 3 people including myself could ride it to the top of the hill without falling off. On the way up the T-Bar there were rocks in the path way and they must have scratched up everyone's skiis pretty bad. I think Ding and his sister thought I was a god, as they were very impressed with my ability to ski, which I thought was funny, but I guess compared to everyone else there I wasn't to bad.

All fake snow

After that we took a bus back into the city centre (I was exhausted from Jet lag, and freezing as I didn't pack much winter gear as I am mainly staying tropical). Eventually we just got off the bus as it wasn't moving in what seemed like the worst traffic in the world (we literally didn't move for 20 minutes at one point). We went to a highrise shopping mall and I bought long johns. Then we went looking for a resteraunt to eat peking duck at (Beijings specialty dish). All the resteraunts were packed full of people with lines to get in at over an hour as it was Friday night, and people in Beijing love to go out and eat, food seems to be a very social thing. We finally got a spot at a Chinese restertaunt and orders some great food including Peking Duck, which was amazing, as duck is my favorite food to begin with.



After dinner we parted ways. I went back to Xaio's place, and we were planning on going out to a club, but I was way to tired, cold and sick, so we agreed to go out the next night. Another couch surfer Lucy had contaced me offering to show me around Beijing the next day, which I agreed to as it is always good to meet locals to show you there city when your traveling.

I was able to sleep well, and felt a lot better the next morning. I left the apartment at about 10am, and decided to just wander around until I was to meet Lucy at noon. I just walked down the street near the subway. There were a lot of shops and stores that we have over in the Western World like Subway, KFC, McDonalds, Apple, Zara, and on an on... Then there are also lots of Chinese stores and resteraunts. I ended up going to this coffe house, as my stomach was hurting a bit from all the Chinese food, and ordered a smothie and waffles and just sat on my own and read for a bit and relaxed (this was the only time on my whole trip in China that I was on my own and it felt quite nice for a break (there was not even any customers in the coffee shop).

I met Lucy at an old part of Beijing. Lucy is orignally from a another part of China (Chairmen Mao's birth place), but moved to Beijing five days to go to work as a marketing director for a start up company that rents out Volkwagons. She had previoulsy lived in Singapor for two years, and studeied in Australia. She seemed to travel and done a lot for being only 23. The place she took me to was my favorite part of the stay in China, as I got to see what China looked like up to 100 years ago. Single story houses, with communal washrooms, old men hanging out playing Chinese Chess on the street (We ended up talking to one of the old guys for 30 minutes, Lucy translating for me). They were curious as to where I was from, and they wanted to know if there were Chinese people in Canada, and when I told him yes, he said that is very good! He said they played Chinese Chess out out on the street everyday, and it keeps there brains sharp. He said it didn't matter if it was 40 degrees Celcius or -20 celcius, they would still be out there playing.He said they will live as long as they keep there minds thinking playing chess.
Hooligans not welcome

Old Beijing


Keeping the streets clean




Old guys playing Chess on the street


We also found a lot of dogs running around. There was a frozen over lake that had hundreds of people playing around on it, pushing eachother with chairs, or using these raft type things with picks, and making there way across the lake. Lucy got me to try this special hot yougurt drink famous to Beijing, it was really, really good, reminding me of fresh yougurt I had tried this last summer from a goat on a farm.



famous Beijing drink, warm yogurt


I went for a 30 minute head Massage while Lucy had an appointment to look at an apartment. The head massage was so relaxing and nice (I had never had one before). This lad basically just scratched, rubed, and hit my head for like half an hour as I lied there and drank green tea. After I got out of there my cold seemed to disappear.

Me, Lucy and my couchsurfing hosts all met up for dinner that night, and shared a whole bunch of dishes. Circles seemed to be the shape of choice in China as all the dishes, lots of the food, and things in general often seemed to be in circles. Lucy said circles are good becuase they are equal and social. As promised we went out to a night club called WU club about 5 minutes from out apartment. When we got there I was almost the only non- Chinese person there, but by the end of the night about half the bar was full of foriegners, and it was so packed you could barely move. It was entertaining to watch Chinese people dance to Western music as they had some pretty funky moves. Lots of people throughout the night invited me to join them at there tables to talk, and see what I was up to in Beijing. I found that I was the only person I found traveling, and most of the other foriegners were there studying, teaching English, or doing business. In one of the major Chinese cities Lucy siad that there are 200,000 people from Africa living there (to give you an idea how many foriegners there are. The majority of the work done by foriegners is involved in exporting goods from China to there home counties.


I got home at about 2am, went to bed, and got up at about 9am the next day to get to the airport to catch my flight. All and all a great three days. I was so impressed how friendly everyone was to me, and the extra effort everyone put in to be great hosts. When I would ask a stranger for directions they would always help me, and often get them to follow me to where I needed to go, and then ask me about 20 questions about what I was up to... The food was amazing, the culture was so different making it interesting and refreshing to experince.


Wu club