Baba Mama in Beijing
Trip Start Aug 29, 2012
25Trip End Ongoing
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Dad came out of the bathroom with that good ol' sarcastic look on his face, holding the rubber slippers that were standard in Chinese hotel rooms. "And what, may I ask, are these for?"
I rolled my eyes, like all daughters do. “They’re for the shower, dad.” “But…but there are two pairs. Oh! I get it! These are PERVERT SHOES!” He was delighted to discover more and more pervert shoes at each guest house we visited for the rest of the trip.
My heart will go on
We spent Chinese New Year day as caricatures of stereotypical tourists to Beijing: we toured the Forbidden City and climbed around the Great Wall taking pictures with the sound of distant fireworks in the background. We stayed at the Templeside Lianlian Hutong Hostel, the same place I’d stayed at three years before with my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Howard and where my brothers and I stayed during their visit to China.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know Bobby, the hostel owner. He was kind enough to drive my parents and me to the Great Wall and give us a tour of the city on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Then, he invited us to make dumplings and eat a Chinese New Year feast with him and his wife in their newly built guest house, just a block away from his hostel.
As we made extremely ugly culinary creations compared to Bobby and his wife’s perfectly-shaped dumplings, the Spring Festival Gala was playing in the background. Just as Bobby was explaining how it was an important, very Chinese tradition to watch the Spring Festival Gala on New Year’s Eve, I heard a familiar voice singing “Oh! What a Lovely Jasmine Blossom!” in Chinese.
It was none other than Celine Dion, whose Chinese is surprisingly good, and guess which song she sang next!
People mountain, people sea
We only had a few days to explore Beijing, a city chock-full of the kinds of historical sites and national museums that my parents love. We reserved the day after Chinese New Year to check out Yonghegong Lama Temple, one of the most intriguing sites in Beijing.
When we told Bobby’s wife our plan the night before, she looked at us wide-eyed and warned, “People mountain, people sea.” This is the Chinglish translation of a four-character Chinese saying: “人山人海,” which pretty much means, “Oh my god! There are going to be people everywhere!” (I know, there’s a reason why I’m not an interpreter.)
We got up as the subway pulled up to our destination: Yonghegong Lama Temple. To our surprise, it just kept on going! Because of all the people visiting the temple the day after Chinese New Year, they closed the entire subway stop!
That didn’t stop us! Nor did it stop the other thousands of people eager to see the temple that day. We walked from a nearby stop to the temple and then walked about ten blocks in a fast-moving line around the temple. The sidewalk was lined with vendors selling incense for 10 kuai a bunch. It must have been their biggest profit of the year.
People mountain, people sea was exactly what we found! When we saw the masses crowding into the temple, jumping around to get a glimpse, we gave up and went to the Temple of Heaven, which, for the first time, seemed nearly empty to me.
Not to worry though! With our extra day in Beijing, we enjoyed a spacious tour of Yonghegong, a stroll around Confucius Temple, and a bar night at Houhai Lake.
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