July 25th, 2008

birds nest

We're heeere

Quickie update!

We're here in Beijing. Our internet connections are still getting hooked
up; it looks like they're tossing a 100' ethernet cable out our windows and
plugging it into the ADSL router in the office. They can only get a few
going a day, so I'm using Dr. Barlow's computer right now. It also looks
like the Great Firewall blocks Livejournal, which means I can only post via
email. I may or may not be able to post via text message.

So, we've been here for a night and two days now. Our flight in was the
shortest long flight ever -- we ended up going north over the top for a
13-hour flight. I slept through the better part of it, including all the
meals.

Beijing is beautiful; also, ridiculously smoggy. A lot of us have noticed
the difference in air quality, especially when we were walking a lot. We've
been shopping an awful lot, touristing the Forbidden City, strolling around
some lovely parks, and eating a fantastic amount of Chinese food. They just
bring out plates and plates of food and put them on the lazy susan. It's
amazing; also, delicious; except for the fish which we thought was beef
until we found the spines. Oh, Chinese food. Also, my Chinese language
skills are alternately horrible and passable. It's enough to shop with, but
barely enough to ask for a cup of water. (It's really hard to get a cup of
water around here; they prefer tea, Coke, and Sprite.)

Once the internets gets all hooked up here, I'll post again with pictures.
but hey, guys, I'm alive and eating well!

Zai jian!
birds nest

Friday, July 25, 2008 - Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Parks

Originally published at Andy Does Beijing. You can comment here or there.

Funnel cake: it’s what’s for breakfast

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<p style="border: 1px solid black; padding: 3px;"><strong>Originally published at <a href="http://www.andysacher.com/beijing/?p=13">Andy Does Beijing</a>. You can comment here or <a href="http://www.andysacher.com/beijing/?p=13#comments">there</a>.</strong></p><h1>Funnel cake: it&#8217;s what&#8217;s for breakfast</h1> <p><span style="float: right; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-breakfast_drinks.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="Mixing bowls as carafes"<br /> src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-breakfast_drinks-t.jpg"></a></span> Breakfast: Chinese-ish. Fried dough sticks; rice dumplings; big bowl of powdered rice; and bowls of hot coffee, hot OJ, hot milk, &#8230; yeah. And one of the water coolers had hot water.</p> <h1>All the way to 天安门 Tian&#8217;anmen Square</h1> <p><span style="float: left; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-tiananmen_sq.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="Worshipping in Tian'anmen<br /> Square" src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-tiananmen_sq-t.jpg"></a></span> Today was a good day: it was sunny! &#8230; well, you couldn&#8217;t actually look at the sun through the smog, for once. Although it made it a little warm, we still took the walk through the largest public square in the world. Huzzah! There were a couple Disney World-esque displays, both in size and style: a large (20&#8242; tall) Beijing 2008 Olympics logo, slowly rotating; a &#8220;cycling circuit&#8221; with the stick-man cyclers biking up towards a peak; and another one currently under construction. They were lifting the flowers in. </p> <p><span style="float: right; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-tiananmen_soccer.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="Natasha, badass soccer player" src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-tiananmen_soccer-t.jpg"></a></span> The square also has a few monuments and statues. Mostly it&#8217;s just a big open space. Really, really big, and open. Also, empty. Unfortunately, it was pretty sparsely populated when we came through. Who was populating it, though, was the <b>USA women&#8217;s soccer team!</b> So we got a buncha cool pictures with them and ended up walking with them on route to the Forbidden City. We mentioned we were from Delaware and apparently one of the girls lives in Wilmington and her little sister is a UD student. Good old Delaware.</p> <p><span style="float: left; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-forbidden_entrance.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="Entering the Forbidden City" src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-forbidden_entrance-t.jpg"></a></span><br /> Beyond the square is the entrance to the Forbidden City. To enter, you pass under a giant portrait of Mao Zedong. Rockin&#8217; it old school, Mr. Mao.</p> <h1>Forbidden City: Tourist Zone 1</h1> <p><span style="float: right; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-forbidden_door.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="Door into the Forbidden City"<br /> src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-forbidden_door-t.jpg"></a></span> The Forbidden City has a pretty epic entrance onto several imperial buildings, which all have various imperial uses. We just kept walking through doors and seeing the same thing: big courtyard, big building, lots of red roofs and blue-green detailing. Each door we walked through was covered in large brass studs, nine to a row; nines represent the emperor. So, it was good luck to touch the studs.</p> <p><span style="float: left; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-forbidden_roofs.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="Roofs, all red, of many kinds"<br /> src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-forbidden_roofs-t.jpg"></a></span> The City is indeed a city. It centered around the emperor, with all of his servants, military, etc. all living in this one imperial city. Hawt. Now it&#8217;s a good tourist spot. At one of the little tourist shops, we all bought <strike>ice with cold water</strike> ice-cold water because it was steaming hot. Seriously, our waterbottles were a hunk of ice with a little water. Also, a cold bottle of sweetened green tea cost less than water.</p> <p><span style="float: right; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-forbidden_garden.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="Imperial Garden, where the<br /> concubines would amuse themselves" src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-forbidden_garden-t.jpg"></a></span> Beyond all the big stone and painted wood buildings is hidden a large garden, where the emperor, empresses, and concubines &#8220;amused themselves&#8221; &#8212; no lie, that&#8217;s what said the sign. It was definitely Secret Garden-style, with lots of old, twisted cypress trees and<br /> curious rock formations. </p> <p>Although we saw neither emperor, empress, nor concubine, we did see two Chinese kids with mini javelins sparring in a moat. They kept chasing each other around while the Americans cheered them on and gave well-intentioned advice &#8212; in English.</p> <h1>Lunch</h1> <p>We dropped by some restaurant which had good food, real good food; also, good service. However, we were limited to one glass of water per person, to the Americans&#8217; chagrin. Barlow taught us &#8220;很好 (hen hao)&#8221; so that we might properly express our pleasure with the restaurant to Hao 先生, our tour director. He has good taste in restaurants, and we want to acknowledge that from an American<br /> perspective. The restaurant is actually part of a hotel and they have a nice courtyard / tea room behind the restaurant with interesting things for sale, including a variety of opera masks. The Beijing<br /> Opera masks are pretty fearsome, one of the very stereotypically antique Chinese items.</p> <h1>A stroll in the park</h1> <p><span style="float: left; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-beihei_park.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="A gate in Beihei Park" src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-beihei_park-t.jpg"></a></span><br /> We visited 北海 (Beihei) Park, which was beautiful! On a river; there were paddleboats.</p> <p><span style="float: right; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-beihei_forbidden.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="Overlooking the Forbidden City<br /> from atop a hill" src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-beihei_forbidden-t.jpg"></a></span> Then, a short walk to another park, Jianshang Bird&#8217;s-Eye-View Park, where we walked the path up a &#8220;small hill&#8221; (maybe 5-6 stories&#8217; walk) to a lookout structure atop the hill whence you could see the entirety of the Forbidden City. Well, maybe if the city weren&#8217;t so smoggy.</p> <h1>Home again, home again, too-la-rah-doo.</h1> <p><span style="float: left; padding: 5px;"><a href="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-dinner.jpg"><img style="border: 1px black solid;" alt="A typical dinner at the hotel,<br /> Coca-Cola and all" src="http://andysacher.com/storage/pics/china/journal/07-25-dinner-t.jpg"></a></span> Dinner at the hotel was nothing unusual; another plates of various dishes, some vegetables, and fish balls. Think meatballs, but with fish meat (and less gristle and spices). Also, there was Coke as usual.</p>