Thursday, July 24, 2008

Update 3: Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, etc.

Nihao everyone!

It is time for my third update! I can't believe I have already been here almost three weeks! Beijing gets more and more interesting every day, but it's also been getting hotter every day! Today it is 87 but it looks (I haven't braved the heat, yet) like humidity might make it feel like 100. The fog/smog is so bad I can barely see the building across the way from ours.

Since I last emailed out, I have done tons of fun things! On Friday, I went with a group to the Forbidden City. The entire area is huge, and beautiful. We wandered around for a few hours, and at the end we came upon the Imperial Garden, which was gorgeous. The trees there were all very old, and they twisted and turned around the garden. There was even a artificial mountain topped with the "Pavilion of Imperial View." The emperors would climb up to the pavilion to watch festivals with the rest of the royal family.

After the Forbidden City, we walked down Wangfujing, a major street near the Forbidden City. It is a street much like New York--boutique stores, famous stores, bright lights, etc. On that street is the Donghuamen Night Market--a place where you can buy crazy food items, like scorpion on a stick! So of course the girls I was with and I decided we must try some. We had scorpion, silkworms, and sea snake! The scorpion tasted like a really sweet meat--forgive me for the comparison, but like chicken, but it was really crunchy, and I poked myself with the stinger when I ate the first one. The silkworm was gross--it tasted like what you'd expect a silkworm to taste like. As my friend Marc put it, it kind of explodes in your mouth, and the middle tastes like chalk only more gummy, if that makes sense. The sea snake was fine, but it was very very chewy.

After that, we walked down the Wangfujing main street and went to the big Olympic store there. There were Fuwas EVERYWHERE. The Fuwas, for those of you who don't know, are the Olympic mascots this year. They are very cute. After that, we went home!

The next day, we had a pretty lazy day, and ended up not going out until the evening. We went to Jingshan Park, which is located behind the Forbidden City, which was built in the early 1400s. We walked along the Forbidden City's moat to get there, and saw a man catch a fish in the moat--and it looked as though he was going to bring it home. It was a pretty big fish--probably a foot maybe longer? I don't know, it looked really big, and it was flopping around on the sidewalk. After we saw that, we continued on to the park and saw people practicing different dances behind the Forbidden City at the bottom of Jingshan Park. The park is a tall hill, artificially built with the earth that was dug up when they built the Forbidden City's moat. We watched them for a while, and then we headed into the park. By the time we entered the park it was almost dark. When we got to the top we were above the city, and it was beautiful! We hung out at the top for a little, and then we went to get Sichuan food, which was spicy but delicious.

Sunday we had another lazy day, and spent most of the day uploading pictures and hanging out. Then we got massages for around $10 for an hour, and then got dinner near campus at a Uighur restaurant. Uighur is a type of cuisine known for its lamb kebabs, among other things. It was delicious.

Monday a group of us had a VERY full day. We left campus at 9:30 to go to the Pearl Market, which is like the Silk Market only with more jewelry. One of the floors of this market had tons of little junk shops full of stuff you'd find at flea markets in the US, or tag sales, etc. It was fabulous. I spent a lot of time browsing those little shops, and got a few souvenirs. After spending a few hours there, we headed to get lunch, and then to the Temple of Heaven.

The Temple of Heaven was beautiful! It was built around the same time as the Forbidden City--in 1420. The Temple of Heaven complex is even bigger than the Forbidden City! It has a giant garden, and smaller temples and buildings. We all took turns climbing onto the stone that supposedly is the one closest to Heaven, called the "Center of Heaven Stone." The grounds were beautiful, and very peaceful. We walked around most of the perimeter, seeing gardens along the east side.

Then we walked back to the subway, and by this time it was nearly 6 pm! Susy suggested that we go to the Silk Market, since we were already out and a little grumpy (good for getting fabulous bargains) so we agreed and went off to the Silk Market. There, Susy and I were successful with buying sneakers (a pair for each of us) and sweaters (matching ones) and each paid under $20 for both. Very successful, indeed. By the time we left the Silk Market, the lights were off and it was 9 pm. A full day indeed!!

Tuesday was had a full day, too! We had training all day at the Bird's Nest! We finally got our credentials, and got to go inside the stadium! We had to do a relay around the entire building, looking for certain rooms and getting signatures from different people. Our group came in first (taking 20 minutes to complete the scavenger hunt) and we each won an Olympic pen. It was pretty fun. Then we got our schedules, and I found out that by luck of the draw I am going to get to cover the men's soccer final game!

After training all day, we headed off to Saddle Cantina, a mexican restaurant in Sanlitun, a huge expatriot area. We were there with all the people that are working in the Bird's Nest, and all the paid staff, too--all the international crew that we'll be working with. They were all very nice, and it was fun to finally meet them. Our boss, Emily, is a sweetheart, and is really helping us to feel welcome and comfortable. It was a good time, and it was nice to see some food that wasn't Chinese!

On Wednesday, a group of us went to Wangfujing, again, and went to a different snack street. It is called Wangfujing Snack Street, appropriately, and was pretty great. This street had the same things that the other street did, and more! On the snack street, there were scorpions that were ALIVE on a stick. On this street, Laura and I ate a starfish, some more sea snake, and Helen had a seahorse. Then we went to the Olympic store yet again. Good times.

Yesterday, Anna and I got up early to go to the Bird's Nest and drop off snacks for when the Olympics start. We felt pretty VIP when we could get past the check points without a supervisor, but just with our accreditation. Then, after a long two hour journey to get there, we rested a bit and then headed to the Lama Temple. It is the second largest buddhist temple in China, apparently. The temple houses a 26 m tall (that's 86 feet, roughly) Buddha, that was carved out of a single piece of sandalwood. It was gorgeous.

After that, Anna and I headed to Ole, a grocery store we found in Wangfujing, to shop for groceries for our tentative trip to Samatai (a part of the Great Wall.) Then we headed home, and got ready to go out for Ruby's birthday. We went to an indian restaurant which was very good, and we all had an excellent time.

And there you have it--my week in review! I hope you are all doing well. Be sure to check out my blog, and click on the photo section for new pictures. I also am sending you a link to Emerson's Beijing blog, so you can read other students' accounts of trip!



Emerson blog:

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