Last Tuesday morning we took a 4 hour bus ride into Beijing. Qinhuangdao is building a new train station, so in the meantime they've closed the train station for the next six months, so taking the super fast (and cheap!) train wasn't an option this time. However, the bus wasn't too bad since we left so early. Our goal in Beijing was to celebrate Andrew's birthday a little early, do some Christmas shopping, and stock up for Thanksgiving at the foreign food store. All in about 30 hours.
When we arrived in Beijing, one of the first things we noticed was a lovely sign pointing toward home! We didn't follow it, but did notice these European-style buildings in the same area. Next time we'll check it out and report back.
Our first stop was our hotel, which was a good choice. On our last trip to Beijing, we stayed at a gorgeous little hotel that was really far from the main sights and public transportation. This time we opted for an HI Hostel right next to the train station (we had booked it before we knew the trains wouldn't be leaving from QHD). It had lots of amenities, like a bar, mini-mart, and a cheap buffet breakfast.
We quickly checked in and then headed near the train station to see the old remnants of the Beijing City Wall.
Next we headed to the Temple of Heaven Park. Here, we toured some gardens and temples, and bought a cute little knit panda for Andrew's birthday.
See the baby panda?
After a couple of leisurely hours walking around, we went to the Natural History Museum. Unfortunately, the exhibits were in poor shape and none of the interactive displays worked, but it looks like with a little extra funding this would be a great museum. I never realized how fast you can get through a museum when there's nothing written in English!
After a yummy dinner, we went to a KungFu show at the Red Theater. I really enjoyed the performance. It told the story of a young boy who enters the temple and trains to be a warrior monk. The KungFu itself wasn't very impressive, but the costumes, sets, and story were really fascinating. I was most impressed by the little boys doing flips and mock-fighting. The whole thing was a combination of Street Fighter meets Swan Lake meets Jackass. There was a good portion of the performance dedicated to doing crazy things, like lying on a bed of nails and breaking bricks over heads. It was a lot of fun.
The Red Theater
The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and then went shopping. We did our Christmas shopping at the Wanfujing Market, where I picked up a cool panda hat for $3. Did I mention I have a thing for hats? We also bought Andrew an amazing silk shirt with dragons embroidered on it for the low price of $20. My mad bargaining skills made Andrew feel bad because we got them so low, but I figure that if they really couldn't afford to sell it at that price, they wouldn't, right? We checked out the bookstore, picking up a few classics like Around the World in Eighty Days and Arabian Nights. Andrew also got a guitar tuner. We passed on the skewered scorpions this time.
After, we went to the Sanlitun Village Shopping Center, which is basically a big outdoor mall targeted toward ex-pats and rich diplomats. We checked out the IPad at the Mac store, and then discovered the amazing Lugas Villa Mexican Restaurant. I ordered a huge strawberry margarita, and the bartender even gave me a second glass with the leftovers from the blender for free! We ordered chips and salsa and giant burritos and contentedly stuffed ourselves. A little tipsy (it was a BIG margarita!), we then did our foreign food shopping at Jenny Lou's. We bought some cranberry sauce, evaporated milk (for pumpkin pies), cream soda, two precious avocados, and cheddar cheese.
Reluctantly we headed back to the hotel, picked up our bags, played a quick game of pool, and then headed to the bus station for the trip back to QHD. Not bad for only 30 hours, huh?
Andrew's cool Dragon Master shirt
Next Tuesday is Andrew's birthday, and we'll be celebrating with tacos and chocolate cake and Harry Potter in English (well, on Wednesday Andrew agreed to come with me to the theater)!