Cord Houle: Day 1
Our first day in Beijing was great! We started out with a breakfast were I drank hot milk and ate fried chicken. The milk wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated; it tasted sugary like warm creamer. We boarded our tour bus and set out for Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and in the process nearly killed at least 5 people on bikes. The Square was much larger than I had expected, and our visit happened to fall on the 20th anniversary of the riots 1989. After entering the Forbidden City I was also amazed by how big that place was. The amount of history present was almost overwhelming and this combined with the fact that the place was restored to as good of a condition as it is made the trip a once in a lifetime event; unfortunately, my camera died half way through. I think the best part of the day came after the Forbidden City however; it was when we went for lunch. We all got into rickshaws and traveled through the side streets of Beijing. It was here that we saw a more true representation of life in the city.
We saw all sorts of houses in serious need of renovation as well as shop fronts that were at this time nothing more that piles of refuse. We ended this initial ride through these streets at what appeared to be more of an alleyway. We followed our great guide Lisa through a serious of turns through some more traditional houses into the courtyard of a traditional family house in Beijing. We were then led into a room with two tables and proceeded to sit down in this building complex that was by American standards, rundown and lacking of basic amenities. What awaited us was a big surprise to us all as plate after plate of the most delicious Chinese food we have ever eaten was brought in. It was simple home cooking but the blend of traditional ingredients and spices makes me wonder if I will ever be able to each Chinese food back in the states again. This meal far surpassed my expectations and even beat out our dinner tonight of peaking duck as the best Chinese cuisine I have eaten.
After dinner we went to the markets to try our hand at bartering for goods. I was not prepared for how abrasive these markets are. Many times we were grabbed at and even blocked by sales people trying to sell you every counterfeit product under the sun, which today gave me an unfortunate sunburn. From fake Rolexes to knockoff Diesel Shoes everything was there. While it was a bit abrasive and at times draining, there were deals to be had. My greatest accomplishment was talking down an item from 800 Yuan to a mere 110 Yuan or about $16.92. While I did buy a few items customs will not be hearing about suck as a pair of Foakleys, overall I tried to stay away from knockoffs.
After the markets we went to a fancy restaurant where we were all way underdressed and brought into a back room with two tables again. While this might have been to separate us from all the finely dressed patrons, it was nice to have our own room to experience the new food together. The peaking duck and many other foods we tried were great. Probably one of the better meals I have had but surprisingly still didn’t beat out the other meal we had in the back alleys of Beijing.
ill add pictures soon
Day 0: "The plane ride"
Wow, 48 hours into this trip and I have already gotten my tuition’s worth. After waiting for the plane to board, three hours after I arrived at the airport I promptly waited in line to take my seat. There was a message over the loud speaker asking anyone who had been to Mexico in the past couple weeks and traveling to Shanghi to come to the ticket desk for a “special announcement” basically they were not going to be allowed to board. When I finally got to my seat I found myself in the middle of the center row in a Boeing 747. The trip started out well, I was sitting next to great people and after some conversation I found out that one of them was an aid to Minneapolis mayor R.T. Ryback. Little did I know at the time I was sitting a few feet away from him. I introduced myself and explained that he had spoken to me and a group of Wells Fargo interns last summer. After a little bit of conversation we discovered we were headed to the same technology expo in Beijing. The rest of the flight went alright with the in-flight movies as wells as the pills of Dramamine I was popping the whole way there to put me to sleep.
When we finally arrived in Tokyo, 12 hours after we left Minneapolis, we had to sit on the tarmac for another hour and a half as the Tokyo health officials in there hazmat suits checked over everyone’s documents and scanned everyone with a thermal camera. Finally we were allowed to get off the plane and rush to our flight to Beijing. This time I wouldn’t leave anything to chance, immediately I took 2 Dramamine and tried to fall asleep. While my efforts were hindered slightly by a particularly cute two year old hating everything about life I was able to put my ear buds in and eventually fall asleep. This was no easy task as she expressed her anger by screaming at the top of her lungs and using the back of my seat as the target of her aggression through long successions of kicking tantrums. Finally we landed in Beijing and to more health officials in hazmat getups. After passing another temperature check we were allowed into the country. As soon as we arrived at the hotel I immediately brushed my teeth took a shower and passed out.