“Jamie’s travelogue of Awesome Places.”
That’s what I wrote in my travel diary on the first night of my arrival in Beijing. It was my first time in China. If you don’t count Japan, which was really my home and not a vacation destination, it was basically my first travel abroad, ever. Actually, I’ve never gone “abroad” since then, either, and this was in the winter of 2007. It’s been almost five years, and it’s high time that I remedy that! (This fall, it’s Hello London! I’m super excited! Going to have a jolly good time, cheerio!
Don’t shoot me!)
Back to Beijing! It was a big culture shock! I didn’t know a whole lot of Japanese at the time, but at least I knew enough to get around. In China, it was a whole different story..
Sorry about the low picture quality! I lost all of my high-res pictures and only have the low-res ones left.. ;_;
Well, anyways, I went to China in order to visit my good friend Greg, who was studying/working there. We had met in Japan and became good friends, so when he offered up the extra room in his apartment if I came to stay, how could I pass that up?
So I jetted off to China, alone.
There is Greg, and then me. My hair was a disaster, but that is a totally different story!
It was late afternoon when I got in, and freezing cold. It was December 15, 2007. And I had so much cash on me that I had to put it into a bag! I’d brought 200,000 yen with me (about $2,000), and when I changed it over at the airport received copious amounts of cash. It was insane!! But kind of cool. It’s probably the only time that I’ve felt rich, ever!
I ended up leaving the cash in a drawer in his guest room and only taking tiny bits out with me, which I stuffed into a pouch that I kept hidden under my sweaters. I had heard about pickpockets, and wasn’t taking any chances. XD
So, I’ll tell you a story about the pictures above. It was my first night in Beijing, and we had dumped all of my gear off at his place and went out to eat with another American friend of his, Jason, at a tiny local eatery near his apartment building.
Greg, being the only one who knew any Chinese, and obviously more of an expert on Chinese cuisine than either of us, ordered everything. We were only responsible for eating. And eat we did! There were all kinds of things, and they were all delicious!
There was this delicious brothy soup with spongy meat pieces in it. I usually don’t like those kind of spongy meats that Chinese places served in their meals, but these were rich and flavorful, and even a little bit tangy.
“What kind of meat is this?” I asked Greg, and Jason nodded his curiosity, too.
“It’s dried pork blood,” replied Greg in a nonchalant manner.
“WHAT?!!” Both Jason and I spluttered.
I remember Greg looking at us in a bit of confusion. He told us that dried blood was something that’s eaten all of the time in France, so he hadn’t even though to warn us about it. He wasn’t aware that Americans might find it unusual or disturbing!
That’s still one of my favorite stories from China. I ate some more of the soup, although it was hard to get the idea that I was eating slabs of dried blood out of my head! I tried to convince myself that it was delicious again, while Jason just gave up on it. It’s all a mental thing, lol. I’d eat it again if given the chance. 🙂
It was late, but Greg is a night owl party animal, so I was dragged around town to a friend’s party and then to a bar, where I fell asleep on the sofa. The next day, I tried to recover from things, and Greg took my shopping in the afternoon, where I bought a guidebook in English, and got ready for my trip to the Great Wall the next day. 🙂
I went with a french girl friend of Greg’s, because Greg had work and school and was not on vacation like us. We went up as part of a tour group in a big white van, and probably looked like bizarre illegal immigrants or something. All of us tourists with our giant cameras, and bundled up against the frost.
The van drove us up to a somewhat remote part of the Great Wall a few hours away from Beijing, where we were assured that there would be very few people. It was called Mutianyu.
They were right, and it was absolutely GORGEOUS. It was well below freezing, with snow all over, and a biting wind, but it was amazing. It was kind of surreal, really, to stand on top of the windswept Great Wall, looking out over a foggy, desolate landscape.
I’m not a religious person, but I would describe my experience there as “spiritual” nonetheless. There was something about the Great Wall that soothed my soul, so to speak.
I wish that I had more pictures! I don’t have any left from my dinner that night, which was Peking Duck. Peking duck in Peking (Beijing is called Peking in Mandarin, as I learned!). You can’t argue that it’s not authentic!! It was delicious. Mouth-watering and so tender that it fell right off the bone. We also had a spicy, lemony dish made with cow intestine, where I learned that it is really good! If you are okay with a rubbery texture, then cow intestine is amazing. 😉
And the desserts, those little mochi balls covered in sesame seeds, with red bean paste in the middle, were AMAZING. To die for!! In Japan, red bean paste is a lot sweeter, almost cloying. In America, I found it a bit bland. But in these “expensive” local restaurants in China, away from the tourist spots, the bean paste was to die for.
I want to go back, just thinking about the food! I gained a lot of weight during this trip. Omg.
At least I had a lot of walking to places like this to look forward to:
Tomorrow, I’ll pick up on the next part of my journey in Beijing! Has anyone else been to China? Share your story, please! (^o^)/