Monday, February 18, 2008

Beijing 2008

We have made it to the far-East and everything is very different than the countries we have visited over the last month. Beijing is a modern and large city gearing up for the Summer Olympics, but somehow or another you can hardly tell that the World's largest sporting get-together is around the corner. There's almost no advertising on billboards, no stores devoted solely to Olympic merchandise, and any construction seems to be hidden by large screens.

This part of the trip so far has been great. We were generously offered help by a local at the airport to make sure we got on the right bus to get to our hotel...and he didn't even want any baksheesh! HAHA. It turns out he was just in the states as an exchange student at Cornell and just finished his semester abroad. Arriving late to the city limited our choices of dinner, but fortunately, Beijing has some amazing dumpling shops. Not like the Soup Dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in NYC, but all types of flavors and in various broths. There's the usual of beef, pork, or shrimp, but there are also other meats, seafood, and vegetables. By far, the oddest menu item has been "Jew's ear". Surely it was a misprint due to translation, but it definitely was funny to see. We are guessing it is Pig Ear. Kate and I decided to pass this one up.

Compared to the previous destinations, northern China is bitterly cold. Not having down jackets or multiple layers made our trip into Tieneman Square & the Forbidden City quicker than it should have been. It was a bummer that some of the major buildings were under restoration, but stunning nontheless. It is on a very large piece of land and was very calming and quiet. The best part was the garden on the northern wall.

Today was awesome...we got up early to hike the Great Wall! This snaking, stretching structure is amazing. It is steep, winding, and went on in both directions for as far as the eye could see. We did a 6mi (10k) hike along a stretch of it that is in decent to crumbling shape. Starting in Jinshaling, we ended up in Simatai where there was a chance to take a tandem zipline down a steep hillside and across a small lake. Why not!?!

Tonight we tried one of Beijing's food specialties...Hotpot! Think of it as fondue, but in a soup form. First step: do you want the broth spicy or not; Second: order ingredients while broth heats up; Third: cook your food in the broth. It was a lot of fun and think it could be a hit back home.


Ann said...

"Knee-how", Kate & Phil
Loved yor comments -- you're a good observer & writer, Phil, plus excellent photographer. Will you visit the garden villages near Shanghai, also Nanjing? Shanghai is wonderful & so different from Beijing. Keep enjoying that food--I love it. Hope you've got some down jackets now or more layers.
Keep the commentary & photos coming! Love, Aunt Ann

Sari said...

I've never met you two directly but have heard tons from your Mom, Philip. I told her to suck in the tears and let you glad you're getting this trip of a lifetime under your belt. My husband and I did just that in 2000just before we got married and the experiences we had together is still a part of the glue that sticks us together. i'm a travel fanatic with 2 small kids right now so I'll be following your blog and living vicariously.
Safe travels,
Sari McConnell