Archive for July, 2009

Beijing Day 19 – Olympic Stadiums

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Last night we chilled at the park again. Always so nice. I wish Stellenbosch had a nice big lawn somewhere where you can bring a beer and just chill on hot summer nights.

This morning I met Jenny outside the res, and missioned with her back to Zhongguancun’s International Comic City, which has this one floor with just nerd/anime culture items! She and I agreed it’s every nerd’s wet dream. We bought many awesome stuff for friends and if it wasn’t for the money I would’ve bought the whole floor. Jenny missioned to meet a Chinese friend so I decided to visit a nearby arcade. I jammed some cool rhythm games and then left for the Bird’s Nest.

The Olympic Stadium’s and the whole area there is really impressive. I went into the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest. It was actually cheap on a student discount, but somehow I was underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong the places are impressive, but I expected more of the place. I guess it would’ve been different if you were there during the Olympics. It, however, was cool to see everything and sort of envision the opening ceremony going on.

Tonight, we’re going for munchies with our South African teacher and then perhaps going out afterwards!

Beijing Day 17-18 – Scorpions and More Shopping

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So, last night we missioned back to Wangfujing to eat some scorpions. You pay RMB20 for four fried scorpions, who by the way were still alive. Everyone shared a stick: I ate one whole scorpion. It was surprisingly yummy! If it wasn’t so expensive and had like next to no meat on it, I would’ve bought it for dinner. I kid you not. It tasted like slightly burnt chicken skin. We then missioned around the street some more, did some shopping and ate some more strange market food. Me and Jenny were busy munching these dough balls sprinkled with sugar on the street, when randomly a small kid and his dad came to sit almost next to us. The kid then without any remorse took down his pants, took a pee, while the dad was looking in a sort of “yes, yes well done my son” kinda way. The kid then pulled up his pants and then the family darted off. This is was in a big tourist public place. WHAT THE F—–! I was so disgusted.

Alas, we left along with another long packed subway journey ahead and arrived the res all sweaty. After a quick shower some of us got some cheap drinks and went the park on campus to have a little kuier. It was fun. We’re planning on doing it tonight again. Anu, who bought the bottle of Great Wall Wine (which was good by the way), walked to restuarant nearby to let them open the bottle. To her and everyone’s shock a rat jumped from ceiling onto the counter and onto the floor and darted off. Can you say crazy “cliche”?

Today, after class, I was planning on going to the Bird’s Nest, but got sidetracked by Erin and Jenny to go back to the Pearl Market. Oh man, now I realize how people can become shop-a-holics. I bought the most randomest crap that I’ll probably never use! Got some presents for friends though, but that was just ridiculous.  Tonight, we’re again going to chill at the park with some cheap beer (RMB2 a  can).

Tomorrow, I’m definitely going to the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube.

Beijing Day 17 – Presents Time

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So like I said, yesterday was “catch up on sleep day”. Today, I got up for my early morning class and afterwards missioned to Zhongguancun E-Plaza. I’ve told you guys about this place. It’s a huge huge huge computer/electronics market just a block up from Renmin University. I spent like three to four hours there shopping and looking around. I got some really awesome presents for my friends. I’ve got some crazy surprises (for me included!). You’ll see when I get back. Alas, on the downside my money is running low, but I’m going to manage. Still need to do some leftover shopping for some friends.

Tonight we’re going back to Wangfujing street to eat some fried scorpions! Yummy! Mark, one of my classmates, ate a snake and he said it tasted like burnt popcorn. haha. I guess a scorpion would taste very crispy and bland. I’ll let you know! Then we’re going to buy some wine and chill on campus for the night. Also on my to-do list is to see the Bird’s Nest (Olympic Stadium) and go to the Silk Market.

You know, I’ve been finding this week kinda strange. I’ve gone from talking about things I miss from home (good food, friends etc) to talking about stuff I’m going to miss from Beijing (hilarious menus, bargaining etc). This place is starting to grow on me.

Anyhoo, cheers for now!

Beijing Day 15-16 – Party and Sleep

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So, like I said, last night we went out like 10pm to catch the last trainsto Wudaokou. Our mission was to party all night and then mission to Tianamen Square for sunrise. First, we went to Lush, again like I previously posted, is this tiny place above a bookshop that reminds me of a smaller, but better ventilated Bohemia. On Sunday nights, it’s open mic nights, so there were many people jamming their own tunes along with many cover tunes. Flight of the Conchords was popular that night! The house band playedtunes between the performers and were really good. There was this one girl who played in the house band, who was just mesmerizing: she had this red haired uber-sultry look, good voice, could play guitar and wait for it… did beatboxing! If there ever was love at first sight that would be it. hahaha.

Anyhoo, drinks were flowing and many people played more covers. Later the night two dudes called PG Restricted did some Eminem rhymes. It was hilarious! They even took off their shirts. The things people do for a free beer. A comedian also strutted his stuff, with some crazy offensive material. It was so edgy that some of the girls in our group got offended and flipped the guy off stage. The guy’s got some balls. I found it funny though. Each to his own I suppose.

After Lush we missioned back to Propaganda again: danced, drank and played pool with Nigerians. 4am came surprisingly quick after we went back to Lush to grab their 2-4am burger special. We then took a taxi to Tiananmen Square to watch the sunrise, but what we found was one of the more unique experiences I’ve had the privilege to experience.

At about just after 4 the square was filled with people and tour groups. Apparently the sunrise is very popular! I took some videos: it looks a huge concert! I’ve never seen so many gather at such an arbritrary time. It was so strange. People were flocking to the front, looking towards the Forbidden City and Mao’s big portrait. Just before 5am a group of soldiers walked onto the plain for the a flag ceremony while the national anthem played in the background. After that the guards were relieved of their position, the crowd was let loose to do whatever they pleased. So so so strange. We took the early morning subway back to res, but one train took like 20minutes to arrive which made me very agitated as I was craving sleep like crazy. I only managed to get in bed at 7am. Slept till 4pm and the rest of the day will continue to be a chill day.

The upcoming week I’m going around to do some leftover shopping.

Cheers for now

Beijing Day 15 – Forbidden City

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Last night after the Great Wall I took an early night. Was very tired, but I managed to spend two hours on my Rubik’s cube. I’m determined to finish this thing!

Anyhoo, this morning we got up late morning to go the Forbidden City. Again, the place is absolutely packed with tourists and sellers. Each one of us are getting really irritated by all these people. They never stop trying to sell things, doesn’t matter where you are. It’s so annoying. They just can’t take a hint! If I wanted your item, I would’ve gone to you and bought it, but don’t shove it in my face. When me, Erin and Jenny, were walking back to the station a rickshaw dude followed us all the way trying to sell his service. He was the most stubborn seller ever. I just started speaking in Afrikaans and even then he couldn’t take a hint. Jenny continously said Zaijian (Goodbye) to get him off our backs, but to no avail. GRRRRRRRRR. However after like 2 kilometres he got the hint.

Photos with Westerners are also very popular, especially if you’re with blonde-haired girls like Erin and Jenny. Once a person asks for a photo, the whole family/tour group have to take each picture individually. You even start gathering a crowd. At first it was funny, but now it’s just getting annoying.

The Forbidden City, like the Great Wall, is amazingly impressive, but all the people and heat make it slightly unpleasant. Tourist spots will in the end remain tourist-y. Tonight, I’m going to take a nap then go out later for some partying and then see the sunrise on Tianamen Square.

Cheers for now!

Beijing Day 13-14 – Houhai and Great Wall

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So after my previous post, we (me, Erin and Jenny) went to play Ping pong with one of Erin’s Chinese friends (who is kinda stalker-ish, which makes it very funny). Erin invited us with so that she won’t be alone. The table is on the 10th floor of a random building on campus just outside an elevator. Super duper random. We took turns, and in the end it was rather fun. The dude taught me a “magic” trick with a ring and chain, which I’ll show you guys when I get back.

Anyhoo, after the games we rested the afternoon and then decided to check out the English Corner on campus. It’s such an amazing concept. People come together at the University to practice their English. We went there without any expectations, but woah there were a lot of people! We were quickly swamped by people asking us questions. Most people don’t believe us when we say that we’re from South Africa. Some still think Nelson Mandela is president. They asked me many questions about South African politics, its industries and equality. Some talked to my about me studies and such. One guy asked me how strong the South African army is… er… wait… how strong is our army? Does anyone know? haha. It was an interesting experience!

After that we missioned for the night to HouHai district. WOW! I’ve never been so impressed with a nightlife area ever. I was overwhelmed. Every single place had the awesomest character and there were at least a 100 hundred places. The only downside though is the prices. It cost me 25Y for a beer. Ouch! Alas, it was worth it. We only spent a short time though, but we chilled at a jazz cafe which had live jazz. Really great place! All my friends will love it!

The rest of the night we strolled around the whole place looking for cheap booze, but alas none was to be found. When we’re about to go I found a guy playing some guitar on the streets. His tunes were amazing so I bought impulsively bought his CD. Can’t wait to listen to it at home! We got back fairly late though, and I got like under 4 hours of sleep.

I almost overslept for the bus this morning to the Great Wall. We all made it though, but very sleepy. Now, the Great Wall. It is amazingly impressive, however, it is SO crowded by tourists. It’s another example of a great place losing it’s touch because of all the tourists. We went to the Badaling area of the Great Wall which had two sides to walk on (left or right). We decided to take the left route. Although it was shorter and didn’t go as high as the other side, it had way less people. It made the trek much more bearable! Still, even when you get to the top, there are vendors trying to sell you things. You’d think you’d escape them on the Great Wall, but alas no you still here, “Look here! Cheap Price, just for you!”.

When we took the bus back, we, to our suprise, stopped at this random Cloisonne factory. It was so pretty and mesmerizing. We had lunch at the place too, which some amazing Chinese food. It reminded me of South African Chinese food ala Magic Flavour. I loved it!

Now, the plans for the weekend in still undecided. Chilling tonight, but tomorrow we might go to the Forbidden City and then party all Sunday night to see the sunrise on Tainamen Square! However, I’ll keep you guys updated!

Cheers for now

Beijing Day 12-13 – Pearl Market + Photos

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After the night’s performances me, Erin and Jenny missioned to a place on campus called Canaan Pizza and Steak Restuarant. It’s a really cosy place! I had some pizza there and is by far the best I’ve had in China. Super yum! Afterwards we chilled in Erin’s room and chatted again about various philosophy and things. Was fun, but I got to bed a bit late. Decided to bunk class on Thursday morning. Hehehe. I’m a naughty boy.  Also decided to drop Chinese Politics, because it’s just too much work for the time I have left. I have to prioritise. Spending time in Beijing is more important than essays.

So, with the afternoon free, me and Izelle missioned to Hong Qiao (Pearl) Market. It’s by far my favourite one thus far. I bought lots of goodies for me and my friends. My favourite items I bought for me include a Cool Boy, which is a handheld NES/SNES that plays carts made for it. The screen is really clear and the system sturdy. I also bought a Rubik’s Cube! Hehehe. They seem to be very popular here. One of my purchases also included a USB memory card reader. Thus, check for the link at the end of the post for my Flickr photos! Facebook is currently blocked! Bleh!

Anyhoo, after a long at the market we had some dumplings at a place on campus and went to bed early. Now, my classes are done for the day, and I’m planning on going to play ping pong with Jenny and Erin soon. Tomorrow, we’re going to climb the Great Wall! Very excited for that!

Cheers for now

P.S. – The stupid Flickr account has limit to the amount of photos to upload! So I only uploaded as much as I could. Enjoy here! My time might run out for uploading most of the photos, so excuse me if all the photos don’t upload correctly! I’ll fix them as soon as possible!

Beijing Day 11 – Chinese Performances

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Last night we all went for hot pot at a restuarant quite far away from campus. Hot pot is really interesting. You get this boiling pot on your table that has two sides of water: normal and uber-spicy. You then order ingredients that you want to cook. We ordered lamb, calamari, meatballs, potato etc. You throw it into the pot, let it boil for a while, take it out and enjoy. I love how the Chinese dinners are really social. You chat, have some drinks, throw something into the pot, grab something here, grab something there, then munch some… repeat. It’s really nice.

Afterwards we decided to go for a drink at Propaganda again, but first we checked how Lush looked like. Yes, the word Lush might remind one of the place in Stellenbosch, but on the contrary this Lush, which is close to Propaganda, is above a bookshop and really small: a very Bohemia type vibe. Alas, we didn’t stay, we were meeting other people at Propaganda. Above Propaganda is a place called La Bamba (a mexican restuarant type place). We settled and got some drinks. We shared embarrasing moments and all that jazz over some nice drinks.

Today, after class, we went to a place on campus that sells pizzas. It was very good, although my Hawaiian had corn on it!? It didn’t bother me though. Anyhoo, after the munchies some of us missioned to find a place recommended by a friend of a friend. It’s a British place called Old Bike Cafe. It’s this really quaint small place with British memorabilia and it had coffee! Actual nice coffee! Today’s weather was phenomenal. It was the first time since we arrived that you could wear a sweater. It also rained lightly all day.

After awesome coffee, we missioned back to get ready for the night’s variety performance by the Chinese students. It was crazy awesome! I was blown away: choirs, accordions, violins, Beijing Opera etc. There was an erhu performance and afterwards they asked if someone wanted to try it. Me being my curious self jumped at the opportunity. They quickly learned me to play to simple notes on the erhu, while the other guy played a melody over mine. It was so fun! I got a signed orchestra CD as well. I wish I could’ve experimented with the erhu some more! Jenny, also representing South Africa, tried some Beijing Opera moves. It was fun!

Now, I’m just chilling. Got a strange story to tell. When my roommate left, he left some stuff on his desk. I haven’t touched it yet, but once in the previous week I noticed the items were rearranged. I found it very odd. Someone was coming into my room. Yesterday I bough a new toilet roll and left it on my desk. The afternoon after class when I got back, it was gone! I was flabbergasted! I devised a plan to test if someone was coming into the room: I put a small piece of paper just in front of the door, thus if someone opens it, the paper will move. When I got back from class this morning, the paper had indeed moved, and strangely enough… get this, the toilet paper was returned standing right on my desk. I found it really weird. Nothing else of my stuff was moved or taken, even my Game Boy and mp3 player lying on my desk wasn’t touched. I think my roommate is still perhaps in the area, or I don’t know. It’s really strange!

Cheers for now

Beijing Day 9-10 – Class and Stuff

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The past two days I’ve been spending my time doing class/study oriented things for Chinese Politics. We have this thick reader book which contains crazy articles we have to read before class. Crazy workload on a summer school in my opinion. On Monday I spent most of the day reading it and then went to class, got back/chilled before we went out for another dinner at the same Peking Duck restuarant with our teacher. That place has the best Chinese food in town. I actually ate a lot of the food. Was super yummy. Wish they had the place on campus!

Today, I had more class, intermediate chinese and politics again in the afternoon. So had to prepare again! It’s kinda bleh having to waste my time in Beijing by reading articles for class, but the Chinese Politics class is really interesting – will tell you guys about it when I get back, however I’m considering dropping it to increase my exploring time in Beijing. Tonight a few of us are going for some hot pot, then maybe mission out afterwards to some clubs or shizzle.

So other stuff: our beds are really hard. The matress is thinner than a futon, so it’s impossible to sleep on your side. However, since my roommate is gone, I grabbed his matress and stuck it under mine. So much better. hehe.

Beijing is a really rough place, especially in summer. Everyone is sweaty and the humidity is crazy. What makes it worse are these siff sewage smells I’ve told you guys about, and then of course the famed pantless infants. On a walk past a bus stop you’ll see way too many naked bums or even some child doing his thing in the street. It’s absolutely disgusting! Even worse is the mother breastfeeding on the pavement. Whenever you see a strange puddle on the pavement, it’d be best to steer clear as you never know what it might be. Also, the snorting and spitting thing is still tough to get used to.

But alas, I shall greet you guys now. Not much to write about now. Stupid class. hehe. Tomorrow night there’s a free Beijing Opera performance on campus! Really looking forward to that!

Cheers for now

P.S. – Again, sorry for not posting photos now, I’ll be making a photo blog when I get back, along with a Flickr stream.

Beijing Day 8 – Beijing Zoo

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Going to the Beijing Zoo seemed like such a lazy supper hot Sunday morning thing to do. Ate some leftover pizza for breakfast (doesn’t taste strange anymore though! haha) and met Mark, Lauren, Izelle along with Mark’s Chinese partner Helen and her friends, Connie and Casy, outside the dorm. They managed to help us get on the bus. It’s the first time I took a bus in Beijing. Woah, that thing is crazy jerky. If you don’t hold on or have a weak sense of balance you’re bound stumble all over the place.

When we got off, we were met with multitudes of tourists, Chinese or otherwise. It was crazy! We first missioned to see some reptiles and amphibians. It was ok, not all that interesting, however some of the toads, reminded me of BattleToads. They looked like some missing link or something! The park was huge to say the least, you have to walk a lot, which did not bode well. I’ve been walking all week, so walking is kinda bleh right now haha, so we strolled at a slow pace to each section.

At first, a zoo in the forsaken Beijing seems odd. It does not make sense to me, to place one here. You see cityscapes and wildlife in one scope. It does not gel too well. The lion and tiger dens were the most shocking. The lions were lazying in their “abodes” just sleeping away the hot weather, however alongside it you could see so many empty water bottles as people tried to stir them with a well aimed shot. It’s the most appaling thing I’ve seen a long time. I felt so sad for the lions. I even witnessed one idiot chuck a bottle straight into the lion’s face and it did not stir. It thus seems the lions are used to it. It is a sad affair. The tiger (which was beautiful by the way) was also strolling around looking for munchies on the ground. It found a packet of eaten chicken legs someone chucked into the grounds. It was so horrible to see it.

The bears, although funny, were also thrown with food. The bears have even learned to do tricks so that people will throw them food, where it explicitly says don’t feed them. One bear even had a cracker stuck on his back from a misthrow by someone.

The pandas however where in sealed rooms so the crowds could not interfere. They were especially cute: typically panda. In the end, I don’t mind zoos if the animals are correctly cared for, but this zoo just upset me. The pandas were a highlight though.

So the first week in Beijing has passed. It felt as if I’ve done so many things in such a short time span. At first I struggled to get a grip of this strange place, but now I’m firmly in the zone and met some kiff friends. The next two weeks will probably go by within the wink of an eye. For some strange reason I wouldn’t mind going back to SA. I miss food, friends and family, but this place is just too unique to just quickly shrug off. When people told me to prepare myself for a culture shock, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thought it would be nothing really. Luckily I adapted quickly. Nothing beats lots of water, sleep and vitamins (thanks mom!). About the water: it’s amazing how much you drink in Beijing. I go through at least 3-4 bottles in a day.

Anyhoo, I’ve got to get back to my dorm and start reading my Chinese Politics readers for class tomorrow afternoon. I don’t usually have class on Monday, but only for next week it was moved from the previous Thursday.

Cheers for now