Beijing pt. 2

Trip Start Jul 09, 2013
Trip End Aug 29, 2013

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Saturday, August 10, 2013

Aug. 8

We decided that today was a day to take it easy and get un-sore from the climbing the day before. We looked around on the Internet and found a movie theater that played English language movies and headed over.

All of these trips around town have been fun because we've been able to get little tastes of what the Beijing's different areas look like. The area that we're staying in is pretty central and yet the development is all old/renovated hutong buildings. They're fun to walk around because the areas all around them are fronted with big high rises but as soon as you get inside the block it's singe and double story buildings with families and little shops. The area around the movie theater was very different because it was pretty much solid high rises but with a cool walking street shopping area with malls on both sides.

After walking around two malls trying to find the theater we finally found it and found that they were playing Pacific Rim in English. $20 per ticket! I don't know of many movies worth $20 especially when that much money can go so far here. We decided that a movie wasn't the best way to go and on the way in we'd passed another Bellagio's so we got some more delicious peanut ice cream. After a while sitting around in the restaurant we walked around for another while and took the metro down to the Temple of Heaven park. We've all enjoyed the nice parks in Beijing but they've been quite different. Ritan park was fun because it was so secluded and rugged feeling but the Temple of Heaven was much bigger and orderly and full of people. We got there right as the temple closed which was a bit of a bummer but we could see the building from outside anyway. We found a bench and talked/read for a while then walked around the endless rows of trees. Emerging from the trees just as it was getting dark we found a completely different park that we'd left when we entered the forest area. There were tons of people out on the walking boulevard playing with Chinese yo-yos, Chinese hacky sacks, rollerblading, scootering, flying LED lit kites and most of all jazzercising. I don't know the actual term for it but there were tons of mostly ladies doing some synchronized dancing for exercise. We watched them all for a while then Kip and I jumped in with the dancers and by the second song we had the dance down. There was a lot of laughing and pointing and the women were very happy to have us trying to learn their skill.

After the park we headed back to the hostel and got our staple noodle soup and dumplings for dinner along the way. The hostel we've been staying in was booked up for the next night so we found a new place a mile away with zero reviews and we're going to check it out.

Aug. 9

We got up this morning, checked out of our hostel and set out to find the new one. We had the address in Chinese and a map but it still took a while to find. It's right in the middle of one of the Hutong neighborhoods and the roads back inside these blocks wind all over and little alleys wind even more. We asked a few people on the street and finally found it. A great place! They had just opened a few days before and we are their first American guests which explains the lack of reviews online. It's a little courtyard of hutong buildings with about 7 or 8 rooms and everything is brand new and super clean. Compared to the backpacker haven that our last hostel was, I love this place. The two employees running it speak great English and are both super helpful and nice. We were trying to find out how to buy online tickets for a water park because it was cheaper online and they asked if they could help and then did it all for us. The girl bought the tickets on her online account, called ahead to explain that we were foreigners and would have the tickets she bought for us and in the process of it all they fixed my phone to work with a Chinese SIM card.

After we figured out the ticket situation with the water park we set off for the metro station once again. Two trains and a bus later we were at the park. It's supposed to be the biggest water park in China but claims like that in China are suspect. Our pass was from 5-10pm and we utilized it to the fullest. There were three slides that we rode over and over again and had an absolute blast. One was a really tall slide that basically just dropped you down as steep as you can imagine and then flattens you out suddenly at the end. The G's were pretty amazing. He next was a four person inner tube slide with a big cone that you drop into and swing around a few times. We messed around with the people in line and yelled and sang our way down much to the delight of the people watching. Many a fist pump and high five were shared. Finally was the 8 man race slide. It had 8 parallel tracks that would do one 360 then down three hills to the finish. We rode it probably 30 times and originally we were challenging each other to races and “who can get the highest off the track into he air” competitions but by the end we were challenging all Chinese comers and even had a few rounds agains Russian competitors. By the end if the night the starting girl was our buddy and the guy at the end would give us a “Very gooda! Welcome to Beijing!” At the end of every race. We left the park that night with a perfect record and an expert knowledge in how to maximize speed on one man water slides. We were all a little hoarse and dehydrated but our day with the new hostel and water park was one of the best of the whole trip.

When I got home I Skyped with mom and dad and decided to find a train down to Shanghai for the last few days before my flight. I called the airline I'm flying from Beijing to Shanghai then Phnom Penh to see if I could just pick up the flight in Shanghai but they said no dice. So the plan is to get down to Shanghai and spend a few days there and in Hangzhou which is nearby and called the Venice of China. A little convoluted for sure but I felt like I'd done everything I'd wanted to do in Beijing and we were just trying to figure out what to do every day while sitting around the hostel.

Aug. 10

This morning I got up and the girl at the hostel offered to show me train schedules from Beijing to Shanghai so I checked those out for a while and set my itinerary for the next few days. I'm on the bullet train right now down to Shanghai and I'll spend the night there before heading to Hangzhou in the morning. I'll be there the 11th and 12th before heading back the Shanghai for a day then taking the train back to Beijing the morning of the 14th to catch my flight that night back to Shanghai. Thank goodness for policies!

This train is pretty fun. I've never been on a bullet train and I can't tell how fast this one's going but I'd guess it gets up to 150-200mph and it's super smooth too. The country has been much more mountainous than I thought it would be. There have been big bare-rock mountains along the way and we've been through a few tunnels through the mountains as well. Aside from the mountains there are wheat and corn fields in perfect rows and trees in perfect rows and roads in perfect lines. Order!

Speaking if order I have something to note. Something Steve said yesterday as we were leaving the park got me thinking about Asian people. We were all complaining about different aches and pains we had as we were leaving the park and Steve said his face muscles hurt. It was from all the smiling we'd been doing for the last few hours. A lot if that had to do with how much fun we were having on the rides but more so with the people we were talking and messing around with. It seems like most people here only take a half second to open up and once they do they're a very jovial and fun loving people. I feel the same way about Cambodians. I realized on my mission that my smiling muscles would hurt after a long day for the same reasons. It's more noticeable now when I get off a Skype call with someone there and I realize I've been smiling the whole call. Maybe the point 'm making is simply that most Asians I've met are happy and very nice. I was Skyping with Logan last night and we talked about this a little too with regard to Beijingers. He said that he thinks most people who haven't been to China imagine it as an austere, strict, communist place when in reality the people feel very optimistic, free and excited to show off the new China to people who visit. I can't think of anyone here who has been upset with the lack of Chinese that we speak but I can name off six or seven times when random people here have struck up conversations with us or walked with us down alleys to give us directions or made phone calls to make things easier for us or come up to us asking if we needed help translating.

In a big fan of Asians. I was talking with Taylor a few months ago about his traveling and he said that his favorite places to travel have always been Buddhist countries because the people are more relaxed and nicer than other places he's been. Maybe that's the difference, who knows? I'm excited for the last few days and really excited for Cambodia. Even though I've been gone a long time and traveling alone isn't as fun as traveling with family or friends I've felt more at home the further east we've travelled and enjoyed the people more too.
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