Monday, February 8, 2010
Snack Attack Beijing
I know it's a little late, but now that I'm in Thailand, and I can blog about our experiences in Beijing. Our hostel was around $6USD, and we grabbed cheap, delicious food just down the street. That night at 11pm, we booked our trip to the Great Wall for the next morning at 6am. We were the first people there (they were just then opening the gate), and we were followed at first by some ladies who wanted to hawk Great Wall merchandise. We told them right away that we had no money (our driver didn't stop at an ATM, so I literally had to borrow 10Y from him just to pay for my admission over the bridge. The hike from Jinshanling to Simatai along the Great Wall takes about 3 hours, but we asked our driver for 4 1/2. There were two checkpoints along this stretch of wall, where there are men who take your admission ticket. It was really cold, but we didn't even notice. Between the hiking and the beautiful sights, it was hard to notice. Since we went in January, there were not many tourists there at all. I think we encountered a total of 15 tourists. It's hard to put the experience into words (but I'm trying), but it was a very dwarfing experience. It's sort of hard to feel like a big deal when you're next to the Great Wall. It was just very quiet and cold and epic.
There was a part of the wall where there was like a 9-foot gap. It was just begging to be jumped. Granted, it was a little scary since it would've been about a 10-foot drop. But I did it, and Snack got a great photo.
We ended up getting to Simatai almost an hour early (which was our plan), so we started climbing up the very steep portion of the wall just east of Simatai. We got to the highest part of our trip and looked back at our path from the day, and it only constituted about 1/3 of the wall that was visible from where we stood at the end. Again...epic.
When we got down and looked at the map, we realized that we were only supposed to go as high as Tower 12, but we made it all the way to Tower 14. Oops! :)
We could tell our driver wanted to get back as soon as possible, so we decided against trying to communicate that we wanted to get food (we hadn't eaten anything since our banana and muffin thing around 6:30, except for some chocolate). As you can imagine, we got food immediately upon returning to our hostel. We found a restaurant that was completely empty and ate for almost 90 minutes. Orange juice-soaked lotus root, dumplings, corn bisque, 2 main courses (pumpkin and lily pearls?) and fried rice, and then we went for the deep-fried crispy apples for dessert. We ordered in segments, so by the third segment and especially dessert, we got funny looks from the waitstaff. "Really, more food?" "Yes!"
Our meal cost us $12USD each. Amazing!
The next day, we saw Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. My legs and lower back were more sore than I had expected, so my attention span was low, but I enjoyed it. Some really cool sculptures and buildings. There was a vendor selling cooked sweet potato. We bought one. Then, we bought another. Just delicious.
Then, we explored closer to our hostel at a restaurant whose sign said, "Roast duck big dumplings Nice Food Nice Price"
The next day, we just kind of wander/explored (which I've learned is our basic MO). We happened upon this tiny shop that had food cooking in some very spicy sauce. We were invited to eat it there at a table, sitting on a TINY stool. Don't worry; I got a picture.
We were hoping to get to the airport about 2 hours early, but we were super late. We basically got there, ran around trying to find check-in, and checked-in with 9 minutes to spare. Just in time! :)