When we landed we met Damien at a subway station not to far from his job and he was able to find us since I was the foreigner wearing a 20.5kg blue back pack. He welcomed us and he took us back to his place to get food and drop off our bags. He did not quite get the whole Jewish/Kosher thing so he figured taking us to the supermarket was where he would take us to get dinner. We headed towards the deli area where they make these wraps that start off looking like crepes. They pour batter on a hot spinning wheel that creates the wrap and then they brush plum and hot sauce followed by a large fried wonton and cucumbers. They then fold it up into a sandwich.
Now here is where the couch surfing gig got a little awkward. When we got to Damien's apartment his roommates are not familiar with couch surfing and the common area is just a kitchen and there is not really a couch or TV that they share. We did not realize that we would be sleeping in his bed while he slept on his couch in his small room. After sleeping there for 2 nights it was not awkward at all. Damien is a great guy and we appreciate him for letting us crash at his place for free.
Side note: Once we got to Damien's we realized that Facebook and You Tube is banned in China. Oh and so was blogspot which is why I am way behind on blogging.
Sept. 14th: Damien let us sleep in and gave us the keys to his apartment. We woke up and left to see the Temple of Heaven. When you enter the garden looks like a spaced out labyrinth with temples and shrines in different corners. We went in took some photos and sat down on a bench near the 7 stones. There was a man and a woman dancing using what looked like a badminton racket and a ball. I decided to find a place for us to eat and chose a Mediterranean restaurant called Boccata. Lonely Planet told us to take a subway and get off and then take a bus. Sure that looked easy.
We got on the subway and got off the stop it told us to. We could not find the bus stop at first and didn't know what direction we were in so I took out my compass, yes I have a compass, and tried to figure out which direction we would need to take the bus from. We found the right bus however we had no idea which stop we were and the man collecting the bus fare was so amused by us trying to read where we were. Everything was in Chinese and luckily we realized that when the bus stopped there was an announcement in English and we then knew we needed to get off. The fare man just nodded and laughed at us, we paid and got off.
We ended up at a large shopping center and walked on the street where Bocatta was. Of course we got lost and tried asking for directions and no one spoke English. We were about to give up and go to a different restaurant but I noticed a Mediterranean looking restaurant and knew that had to be it. We found it! We sat in large lounge chairs, ate sandwiches and cous cous and drank fruity beverages. The weather could not have been more perfect. We stayed there and ate 2 meals and then left to crash at Damien's.
Sept. 15th: We booked 2 tours through Viator and today we were going to see the Forbidden City and Great wall of China. We also decided to let Damien have his room back and book a hostel and thought it would be best to run to the hostel first drop off our bags and then meet the tour guide at a different hotel where other tourists were getting picked up. Eden and I have no concept of time and we were not able to get to the hostel in time to drop off our bags so at 6:30am we were on the subway with and went straight to the hotel the tour guide was picking us up at.
Our tour guide name was Thomas and he said we could leave our bags in the back and that they would help us get to our hostel after the tour. We then headed towards the forbidden city.
Quick side note about the people of China: The Chinese have no concept of space, they are always in a rush, always need to be first, cut people in line, oh and they love to hock a loogie and spit even the women. To all my friends who are Chinese I apologize if this has offended you but this is what I experienced and you guys do not do this in the states.
Now back to the tour: The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing D. It is located in the middle of Beijing and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost five hundred years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government. If you ever visit the forbidden city there is no bathroom here. The guide told us that the emperor did not build any bathrooms he had servants follow him with a pot whenever he needed to go.
We then went to a silk and jade factory had some lunch and headed to the Great Wall of China. Unfortunately the sky was extremely foggy and dismal so we could not enjoy the view. We also did not realize how steep the climb would be. Eden wore a skirt so climbing the great wall was not easy so we decided to pick an easier route, took some photos, and walked back to our tour bus. Thomas, our tour guide, gave us money for a cab to take us to Peking Yard Hostel.
Sept. 16th: This morning our tour guide was picking us up at our hostel. We woke up extremely early because they were picking us up at 7:40am to see the Panda Garden, The Summer Palace, and the Lama temple. The tour guide we had that day was named Jackie Lee. When we got to the Panda Garden we were at one of the sections of the Beijing zoo and we literally spent 5 min seeing the Pandas. Perhaps if I was a kid I could have appreciated the Pandas. Now off to the Summer Palace!
The Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China. Its Chinese name, YiHeYuan, translates as 'Garden of Nurtured Harmony' or 'Garden for Maintaining Health and Harmony'. It was used as a summer residence by China's imperial rulers - as a retreat from the main imperial palace (or 'Forbidden City') - a pleasure ground in the countryside, yet near to the city.
We took a motorized boat that looked like a dragon around the summer palace and left for the pearl factory. At the pearl factory the women who worked here were extremely pushy they followed us around the shop and tried to force us to purchase something. We then ended up going to a tea shop afterwards and that is where I got tricked into paying $100 for Chinese tea. We sat down at a table made out of a tree trunk and sampled a number of different teas that either help with stress, digestion, eye sight, and for waking up. They had a tea for everything. At the tea shop they had this toy called the pee pee boy. You put it in hot water then cold then hot again and then the pee pee boy squirts water from you know where. Although I spent $100 on tea they threw in a free tea set and 2 pee pee boys and sent it to my home in CT. When we got on the bus to head back to our hostel Jackie Lee asks us " Do you remember how to use the pee pee boy?" and these were his exact words " hot cold hot pee pee." Eden and I looked at each other and I died; I could not stop laughing.
When we got back to the hostel we made plans to head to the train station to purchase tickets for Hong Kong. At first we were going to go to Shanghai but nothing was available until Monday. We were not fans of China and the people and the experiences we were having so we said lets just head to Hong Kong. We got our tickets for the next day and headed back on the subway.
Now let me tell you about the subway: Again let me reiterate people here do not care about personal space. They push you and cut you to get into the subway. When your stop comes people will push you to get out and you need to get out fast or the doors shut. Eden and I were having a discussion and I realized we were at our stop. I quickly jumped out and saw the doors close on Eden. We waved to each other laughed and she went off to the next stop and I sat and waited for her to return. Yah I know we are ridiculous.
Sept. 17th: Eden and I woke up early to get ready to leave for Hong Kong. We had breakfast and then booked it to the supermarket. We rushed back, hopped on the subway, got out and took a cab to the train station and ran around the train station trying to figure out where our train was that was leaving in 5 min. We finally asked some lady where we needed to go she shook her head and told us we were "way late." She told us to get into line 17 to exchange our tickets. Ugh we missed our train!!!!
We got into line 17 and realized that the next train to Hong Kong was not until Sunday, 2 days later, and there was nothing we could do. So I am standing patiently in line waiting for my turn and I watch people behind me cut the line. I can only stay the nice Jewish girl for so long until the sassy Latina side comes out; I was not happy. I look around and see the only non-Chinese guy in line 16 and I tell Eden to talk to him and ask him what the deal is. She came over and told me that he said to come to line 16 and exchange my tickets but she did not have the guts to cut and push people and told me to go for it. I get to front of line 16 and cut everyone and tap the non-Chinese guy, his name is Frank and he is from Germany, he told me the woman at the desk here speaks English and I watched him reach over a metal bar pushing people to exchange his tickets. There was a Chinese woman in front of me so I made hand movements and told her to cut the line and reach over the metal pole so I could go after she was done. She gets her tickets and here I come with my 20.5kg bag and my little arm reaches over the pole and I stick my little arm closer to the ticket window. I have 5 Chinese men's arms on top of mine trying to get their tickets and when the last arm was off mine I shoved my way through and stuck my hand through the window. This Chinese man tried to push my arm and I flung his arm back and stuck my tickets through the window. He looked at me and I looked at him and I said "what?" good thing he was amused; he just laughed and stayed out of my way. Tickets were exchanged and we walked to the subway with our new German friend Frank.
We decided to return to the Peking Yard Hostel and stay for 2 extra nights until Sunday. We did not do much that night all we did was hang out at the hostel and chill. I decided to chat with a group of German guys that were also staying at the hostel and Eden and I played a horrible game of pool with them. We were up playing pool and drinking beers till the hostel closed down at 2am. I learned how to say great and I am thirsty in German that night.
Sept. 18th: We decided to take it easy today so after breakfast we went into town and found a yoga studio. The yoga class was amazing and taught by a woman from Singapore. We then treated ourselves to a spa day and got pampered. We had some Thai food for lunch and went shopping and headed back to the hostel to meet up with the German guys and go out.
We ended up be friending our new hostel mates. 2 guys from Ireland and Mark from Boston. It was Eden, me and 6 boys getting ready to go out and party. Luckily one of the German's cousin, who was also girl, joined us as well. We ended up at a street with a bunch of bars for tourists and every bar was all about Lady Ga Ga. We finally picked a bar and when you order a certain number of beers they give you free fresh fruit and snacks. I was exhausted and tired of the smell of cigarettes I ended up going home and calling it a night.
I was woken up at 4am by one of the Irish guys who was a little fresh but I pushed him and put him in his place and I was safe and nothing bad happened. At this point Eden and I were done with China and ready to get out of here.
We were looking forward to going to Hong Kong!!!