05. The Beijing Basics

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When in Beijing, do all of the touristy things that come to mind. That was our thought process when planning our trip and we hit as many of these spots as we could in our four days. As a result, my feet are on the verge of falling off, but nothing a foot spa can’t fix. We didn’t land until about 1 o’clock in the morning on Thursday and were instantly targets for tourist scams. As soon we walked out of the airport, a man approached us as a taxi driver asking us where we needed to go. I showed him the address information and asked how much it would be for him to take us to our AirBnB. He pulled up his phone calculator (this is a daily price communication tool, now) and punched in 250¥. I couldn’t help but laugh in his face (it just came out, I promise). As we told him no thank you and began to walk away, he graciously brought down his price to 200¥. What a gentleman. We blew him off and made our way to the waiting line for the legit taxis, where we continued to be harassed by other drivers with their dinky hoopties in the background. We finally made it to our destination (in a real taxi) for only 75¥ and celebrated ourselves for knowing better than to trust the locals looking to make a dollar off of a westerner. It’s the little things, right?

Our first major stop on the trip was Forbidden City in the center of Beijing. This walled in palace includes over 900 buildings with 1700-2000 rooms (the exact amount is still unknown). Being home to over 20 emperors between the 1400-1900’s, this place had a lot of history to offer, and we were excited to see the ancient artifacts that Wikipedia had promised us. However, we were a little disappointed with the lack of native materials remaining on and around the palace. For example, the colorful paint around the perimeter of roof overhangs are all recently done and any artifact that was said to be owned by the dynasties are so far behind roped off doors and cluttered together, you can hardly make out what each one is. All of the large doors leading to the next section of the palace had been repainted and many walls retiled. We were not even able to tell if the roof was original. These “maintenance repairs” (done every Monday) made us sad more than anything and we began to make a game out of it – New or Original. It feels like this is a game we’ll continue to play during our stay here. My favorite part of the Forbidden City was the large marble walkway paved through the center of the palace. The emperor was the only person who was allowed to walk this path during the dynasty era and you better believe we marched all over it. It felt like one of the last genuine pieces of the palace, because let’s get real, no one is going to pay to replace that $@&#.

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We decided to hire a private tour guide for the Great Wall. It’s great seeing all of these historical places in China, but they do not have as big of an impact when you’re unaware of the background story and the events that took place there. So I did a little research on Trip Advisor the week of and found a great one manned touring and driving service. He offered a wide variety of tours through China’s capital and historical landmarks. We made sure he was available for the two of us on Friday, and put our names down for a nine hour tour to the Ming Tombs and Great Wall. We met him at 7:30 AM to beat the traffic heading out of town (the traffic here is on a whole ‘nother level), but started to get a little discouraged with the way the weather was beginning to look. We picked this particular day because of forecast. However, we’re slowly starting to realize

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04. 20,000 Steps Up Mount Qingcheng

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A group of Shawn’s co-workers invited the new team to an overnight stay at Mt. Qingcheng (translates to Green City), just two hours outside of Chengdu. The mountain range has 36 peaks and is one of the most important places of Taoism in China. Friday night, the hotel cooked the group a large dinner consisting of many mystery meats, whole fish, rice and potatoes. I stuck to the rice and potatoes. After dinner, when the drinks were flowing, we all played the English and Chinese versions of Heads Up and a few games of dice. Once the majority of the group started to trickle into their rooms to rest up for the hike the next day, our team stayed behind to sing a few karaoke classic such as Spice Girls, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Disney’s Aladdin.

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We missed the larger group the next morning and our party of eight had to rely on vague directions and memory. So, of course our hike started in the wrong direction. We didn’t realize we were going the complete opposite way until about a mile in, where there were only local farmers and small, rundown residential buildings. Fortunately, we were able to wave down a buggy passing by and were dropped at the

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03. Getting Lost & Our First Visit To the Local Meat Market

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So, we got lost this past weekend. We were attempting to find a place called Flower Town – a flower growing village that is intended to bring the rural and urban parts of the city together while helping support the local farmers. Sounds great, right? Yeah, we thought so too, but we never made it there. Instead, we made the eight mile hike into another kind of town.

While heading out of the hotel for the day, we googled the location for Flower Town and it returned one result on the map. It looked to be in the right area, so we hopped on the subway and made our way to the edge of the city. Once we made it to our stop, there were a line of tuk-tuks waiting for subway passengers, in hopes to take us to our final location. We decided we would give one of these three wheeled golf cart lookalikes a try and handed over our destination to the driver. He read the address, which came from a handy Chinese taxi booking app, and started yelling to the other drivers about where we were asked him to take us. All of them rushed towards us and read the Chinese characters over his shoulder. As they discussed the address we had given them, the conversation seemed to be intensifying as if we had just handed over the address for Mars.

Side note: Taxi and tuk-tuk drivers don’t like to read maps here. If you show them the address of where you would like to go, they know exactly how to get you there.If you show them your destination on a map, they’ll just look at it like a deer in headlights… and then ask for the address.

With their distaste for maps in mind, we hesitantly pulled the location up and showed it to the group of drivers. It takes them all a few minutes with one younger man, who is just passing by, to figure out where we’re trying to go. They finally hand us back our phone and tell us it will be ¥8 ($1.33) for the ride. We accept the price and nervously settle into the back of the tuk-tuk – we hope they figured out how to get there, no one ever gave us a reassuring nod that they had it under control. We make it about half way to the pin on our map and our driver pulls over and says something in Mandarin that translates to something like “we’re here!” or “ok, I’m bored now – get out”. Either way, we cut our $1.33 loss and decide to walk to the rest of the way.  Once we hopped out of the tuk-tuk, we double checked the address we provided through our app and this is what we handed the driver –

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