10.01.2013 - 12.01.2013 2 °C
We took our last flight back to Beijing where we met the kindest Chinese guy sitting beside me who I interacted with through charades while George was sleeping. We checked into our hotel late that night and the next morning we asked the concierge about our lost bag. They knew exactly who we were and called the cab driver who apparently had it. We were told to leave some money for his fare since he had to return it (about ten times what the fare probably was) and he would drop it off that afternoon. We were a bit disappointed by his request for money since we would have of course rewarded him anyways but the fact that we would get it back at all was a miracle. Since we were going out for the day, we would have to wait until later to see if it worked out so we kept our fingers crossed!
We headed to the Silk Market, apparently the best market in Beijing and once we got there we were surprised to find what looked like a 7 storey mall. It definitely was not the type of market we were used to in our travels - indoors, boutique shops, high quality merchandise. The shop owners were as relentless as ever though and there was a chorus of "come inside", "take a look", "purse lady? Prada, Gucci, Channel?" every time we passed by. We found it to be quite expensive, almost comparable to sale prices at home for REAL stuff so we hardly bought anything. George had a friendly war going with one feisty girl where we bought most of our souvenirs. She said my husband is too cheap and kept getting pretend offended. In the end she said "you win!" but I'm sure we still paid a few times more than what we bought was worth. It's quite surprising that the cost of clothing is pretty much the same, if not more in China than in Canada. Who would have thought??
For lunch we finally went to a hot pot restaurant, a famous style of cuisine in China where you have a boiling bin of water in your table and you cook a bunch of things in it. We had no idea what we were doing so the staff tried to guide us through it and they were so amazing. The food was great and so was the experience and I'm glad I don't have to be embarrassed about not trying the most famous type of food in China. We had planned on seeing the Summer Palace, a famous palace in Beijing but unfortunately we had not time and headed back to our hotel to see if our bag had actually made it back to us. Once we walked in, there it was sitting with a bunch of other left luggage! We actually got it back with everything in tact after leaving it in a random taxi in Beijing and being gone for 2 weeks. We would call this a Chinese miracle! I made a deal with the higher powers not to get angry with certain types of drivers back home if we got it back and I will try to stick to that...for a while at least.
Finally an authentic Chinese meal - we needed better instructions
Later we went out to find hutongs, old alleyways in Beijing that are a little more historic and authentic than much of the modern city that has been built up. Apparently, over 40% of Beijing's downtown area has been demolished and rebuilt in the last 20 years. How unfortunate that they don't value their history. We walked down some hutongs that were definitely off the beaten path and more representative of the real Beijing but it was getting dark and we headed back to the main street for our last bit of souvenir shopping and some dinner in a food court full of locals. Our time in China has come to an end and we are now in the Detroit airport waiting for our connection home. We decided that when people ask us the inevitable question, "how was China?" our reaction would be "unexpectedly great". The people were surprisingly very friendly, the scenery was gorgeous, and the cities were modern. Another memorable experience that we will recall when we're old and grey.
Looking a little haggard after our first leg home - 13hrs down, 1 to go
Some final memories:
- Sporadic flash mob dances in the most unlikely of public places (predominantly old Chinese women who kept stone faces while they danced)
- High end malls on every street corner. Malls linking to another mall on the way to other malls.
- The lack of heat EVERYWHERE (aside from big cities). You think Canadians can handle the cold? Check out the Chinese.
- The lack of English. George got tons of practice writing our hotel names and addresses in Mandarin. I thought it looked wonderful but sometimes the taxi drivers had a blank look on their faces when he showed them his masterpiece.
- How do we say this nicely...the majority of the food we tried was not to our liking. We're sorry! We love almost all Asian food but something about Chinese did not go over well with us. However, we learned that the Big Mac is consistent all over the world.
- Chinese people love their escalators! It's pretty funny to watch a herd of people emerge from a subway and pile onto one escalator while the stairs remain empty. How do they have the patience?
- Women's clothing in China is very sparkly, flowery, glittery and in general, girly. No thanks!
- Chinese people, at least the young ones, love to practice their English. They will fire off a million questions one after the other now that they have a Western person in front of them. You gotta love their spirit!
- Probably the thing we admire most about the Chinese is that they love to explore their own country. There are tour groups all over the place full of Chinese tourists. We found it admirable (although annoying at times) that they are so interested in seeing their country. We hope to take that spirit and discover our beautiful country one day was well.
Until next time...