Notes from Beijing

Wednesday, July 25

Yesterday: good first day!

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Pork buns breakfast for a dollar.  The pork buns guy was so nice to us; I devised a plan to befriend him/use him for language learning purposes, but then shot myself in the foot by sleeping in too late for us to catch him this morning.

The uniform friendliness of service industry types has been really surprising to me so far. At our hostel, at street food stalls, at hole-in-the-wall convenience stores, at fast food joints: Whether people speak English or not, they’ve been dealing with our idiocy with smiles on their faces.  I’m not sure what I expected — to be scowled at?  Spat upon? — but it wasn’t this.

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Hello friendly local crepe dude

Pork-filled deep-fried pancake thingys for lunch.  It occurred to us later that our breakfast and lunch had been, essentially, Mongolian food.  Just with pork instead of mutton, and flavorings instead of no flavorings.

Man, I’ve been allowing myself the most uncharitable, un-volunteery thoughts about Mongolian food these last few days.  I have these deranged daydreams where I track down various  friends and coworkers, grab them by their shirt collars, and say, “Do you remember all those times when you asked me if I liked Mongolian food?  Do you remember how I smiled and said yes?  Well I LIED!  I HATE IT!  I HATE ALL OF IT! BWA HA HA HA HAAAA” and then I cram a bunch of pork buns into their mouths.

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Oh hi, first iced coffee in two years

And then we walked around.  We walked around looking for a market; when we found it, we were immediately accosted by vendors (“You buy purse?  Have a look these purse.  Nice price.  Hey lady you HAVE A LOOK I GIVE YOU NICE PRICE”) and Ryan ran away, hyperventilating.  We walked around trying to find our way back to our guesthouse (we were accosted again, but this time by some motormouth expat from Los Angeles who bought us a couple beers, looked at our map, and after fifteen minutes of telling us about himself, pointed us in precisely the wrong direction).  We walked around some more and found a dude giving haircuts in a park, which was nice, because Ryan needed a buzz:

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(my favorite detail here is how the dude is using a comb)

And then we walked to a club on the other side of our neighborhood, where we watched two “experimental” electronic bands with, like, an audience of five Chinese people and 10 white dudes, each one weirder than the last (shades of Korean expat culture, here)

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Anyway yeah.  Good first day.  Vacation!

Sunday, July 29

The biggest difference between this backpacking trip and our last one, so far anyway, is our  lack of interest in seeing the sights (“our” is misleading, here; it would be more accurate for me to say I’ve come around to Ryan’s point of view, which has always been very anti-temples and museums)(but, for obvious reasons, I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of admitting this).  Like when we went to the Forbidden City this week: We walked around the first two courtyards for a couple minutes with the thousands of other tourists, briefly considered spending the $20 on tickets to go inside and look at stuff, and then decided to just skip it and go find a place to eat lunch, instead.

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If anybody ever gives us a hard time about not seeing the Forbidden City, our plan is to look confused and say, “But…we thought it was forbidden.”

So we’ve barely been outside our neighborhood this week, but that’s fine by me, because it looks like this:

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And it is populated by oldsters like this:

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And what could be finer.

We did do the Great Wall, though, because we aren’t completely insane. We signed up for a tour bus out to Jinshangling, where we hiked up and down and up and down and up and down for a few hours.  It sure was pretty.

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And it sure was hot as balls.  As balls I say.  China in late July: Whose idea was this, anyway?

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Oh right.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Notes from Beijing

  1. Love the idea of the hairdresser in the park but don’t think I’d sit there having my highlights done!

  2. Juli-UH

    If it makes you feel better, its just as hot here. I have a similarly distraught photo of myself from Harpers Ferry. Travel safe!!

  3. Merrie Winfrey

    Katie, having left Mongolia a few times (and returned!), my trips have become all about the food. The trip to Vietnam and Cambodia last year…I barely remember the temples we went to but I can describe the fabulous street food we ate and where in intricate detail. Being in Mongolia has changed the way I travel. And I believe I put on about 5 pounds, maybe more in the 43 days I was in the States. But I’m back in Mongolia, so I expect to lose weight rapidly.

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