We kind of knew it already but a few days in Beijing have confirmed to us that we’re not really historical buffs. We’ve been to see the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace in Beijing over the last couple of days and whilst they are amazing in their own way, some of that was taken away by the fact that you couldn’t really get many decent big scale pictures as there is just way too much smog around the city just now. I’m not sure if it’s like this most of the year but I’m guessing (and hoping!) it’s particularly bad in the summer.
Our best times in the city was when we were wandering around the markets such as the Silk Market, late night food market and places like that. The Silk Market however was a bit of a disappointment as the sellers were starting at some crazy prices – I wanted to buy a set of ‘Bee’ playing cards and the guy starting his negotiating at the equivalent of £25!!! That’s about ten times the price in the UK, so I started bidding at around £5 and he wasn’t having any of it so we just walked away and he wasn’t very happy that we never continued negotiating. Other sellers who were selling knock off North Face gear were equally unamused when I looked at a couple of things then said I never liked them and it wasn’t what I was looking for – if their looks could kill I wouldn’t be writing this. I long for the happy go lucky sellers in places like Laos.
The night food market was very interesting if not a bit depressing. It’s quite bizarre seeing some of the things available to eak (Silk worm cocoon anyone?) but a bit depressing when you see tiny seahorses ready to be fried…..now they’re amazing to see underwater, but just not to be eaten!
I looked at an ‘iPad’ just out of curiosity and had to laugh out loud when we asked to switch it on. Of course it looked like a real iPad (apart from the crappy quality logo on the back), they started at £150 for it, and when I switched it on it was running the Android operating system – for those that don’t know, Android was started by Google, it’s open source (i.e. free or close to free for manufacturers), and it’s what runs on my Google phone. I felt sorry for the older folk that were buying ‘iPhones’ maybe for their family members when I was picturing the disgust on some 13 year olds face when they threw it back at grandad saying ‘what’s this piece of sh!t you’ve bought me?!’.
We also found a really cool hutong (small street) north of the Forbidden City that had cool bars, and loads of cool arts and crafts shops so we bought some old tin mugs (as you do) and a leather bound notebook for a few quid….it’s thing like this I want to place an order for and sell them back home somehow!
Oh yeh – Forbidden City – lovely old buildings, Summer Palace – old building with a lake with some pedaloes on it, and you get charged to enter the really interesting buildings after you buy your entrance ticket….the boat we took to it drops you at the far end of the park as well so you have to walk for miles…and there’s no decent eating places……
I’ve had a couple of roast Peking Ducks as well – the first one I got highly ripped off in despite the price being on the menu. It was more expensive and not much better than a frozen one from the Chinese Supermarket on Leith Walk in Edinburgh. However tonight we went to one in the hutong round from our accommodation and it was £7.80 which I still thought was pricey……until I realised I had ordered a meal for two, and there was about 8 plates came out. I made as big a dent in it as I could then retired with a takeaway. The streets around the hostel are buzzing, there’s loads of cheap stalls but unfortunately most of them aren’t very gluten free friendly. If you stumble on this blog I’d highly recommend staying in the Qianmen area, either the Qianmen, Leo or inn365 hostels are all around each other and loads of places around to eat, and a cheap small supermarket next to Leo Hostel.
I need to crash out now as we’re up very early so see a smoggy Great Wall about 120km outside of Beijing. We’ve then got another night here, and we’re heading overnight on Thursday to get to Xi’an for a couple of nights to see the Terracotta Warriors. Time is flying too quickly! A bit like our money in the city!
Some more insects for you (they were moving as they hadn’t been fried yet!) and a wee street scene!