Today we decided to go the Forbidden City (the plan was Tiananmen sq as well but that didn't exactly happen).
we compromised on a start time of about 8:30a and headed off up the road to the metro station (we now knew all about the scale on my map and were under no delusion as to the distances we planned to walk). Along the way we discovered an amazing little bakery that seemed to specialise in cake decorating - even the individual pieves of cake were hand decorated.
We grabbed some (kind of) savoury things for breakfast although even our ham and cheese danishy things seemed to have a sweet icing on top (there are some strangefavour combos that happen over here). On arrival at the metro, Tony asked for directions he is getting more wiling to do this and Nikki likes toencourage him when he does it so even though his directions didn't exactly add up to what I thought would be the best way to go we followed them and so eneded up between tiananmen sq and the forbidden city. we decided to clmb Tiananmen (the gate from whcih Mao made his big speech in 1949) and thend headed into the FC
On our way into the Forbidden City Nikki got in some bargaining practice for our trip to the Silk markets later this afternoon and managed to get me a hat and scarf (I only really wanted the hat but it came with a scarf) for 30Y from one of the vendors between the gate and Forbidden city. I also bought some postcars which I am yet to write and send... If I don't have your address, you won't get one, so if you can jot down an adress for me if you don't think I'll have it (ie not family members - I should know your addresses) and I'll get onto that in the next few days.
The forbidden city was pretty impressive and we got these automatic tour guide things which are an LCD map and earpiece that kind of knows where you are and gives you the spiel on whatever area you are in front of. Mine was a bit on the blink but I got the hang of it in the end and just had to pace a bit in frnt of each section for it to start.
We were still pretty tired from our big walk yesterday and I know I'll have at least another visit there so we didn't see all of the halls but I will catch up when I go again.
I also added to my collection of Chinglish signs - amusing eglish translations of signs which I'm sure some of you will get a kick out of like me (when I can post them).
(am a bit over the internet here - this is the third timeI have tried to update this entry and it keeps crashing onme.Also the space bar sticks so excuse some extra long words...
After the forbidden city we realised we were too far away from Tiananmen sq to double back and have a nother look there but Nikki hadn't really realised what was there so she wasn't too worried till later when we explained (again) that she could have actually seen Mao,along with a few other sites at the SQuare.But by then shopping washigher on thepriority list andI know I'll have time to head back.
We headed off to the Silk market,known for its cheap copies of brand name stuff and the need to haggle mercilessly to get a good deal. When we arrived there was a subway next door at whcih Nikki got very excited and this was to be our lunch. Tony had never had it before and only rated it as a 6 out of 10 saying (like a good husband) that the sandwiches Nikki makes him rate an 8 but his ub wasn't as good.
Once we went into the market (a closed building with extreme heating (compared to the outside temp anyway) we were accosted every two steps by calls of "lady, I have *insert brand here* come look, i give you good price". You have to be quick to walk past, if you loiter for even a second they'll grab you and you can't even really ask how much something is because then the bartering starts and you're locked in.
Nikki and Tony are machines and brilliant at picking their price, walking away and then the sales person will yell at them down the hallway until they eventually end up at N or Ts p[rice and the deal is done. Nikki came away with some bargains although one piece in particular took her quite a while to get to a price she was happy with, it was in heaps of little stores so she just kept trying untilo someone went low enough for her.
I thought I'd be able to avoid someof the stressjust by saying "it won't fit" but then we walked past a fwe shops that had bigger sizes in jeans and "polo" cashmere jumpers... There pretty pushy sales ladies and even when I tried to say too expensive I'm not interested andwalk away they had no prob;lems physically getting inyour way. It was quite confronting some timesand frustrating because you can't abuse them as they wouldn'
t understand anyway.
In the end I bought a pair of "Armani" jeans whcih actually fit ok (not over thermals, so they'll be a home pair) and some "cashmere polo" jumpers which are really warm (almost hot sometimes). Ialso bought some puppets of famous opera characters for Leah (and for my Joeys too if I do a unit on China),and a couple of things for people at home. Tony and Nikki bought some stuff for themselves as well as some presents for his family. We all wanted watches but it was getting very hot in there as we were dressed thermals for the cold outside and so we decided to head home to the hotel.
We knew that we had to be at the duck restaurant by 6:30pm and that taxi travel was preferredbut going to take forever so we decided to head out about 3pm to another market not far from the restaurant and then walk over closer to time.
This time we headed straight up to the jewellry floors and looked at watches.I got a "Gucci"one for about $10 I think and Tony also bought a newone but Nikki couldn't get the models she wanted for theright price.I also found some pretty cool jewellry, some of which I bartered for bymyself but got told off for paying too much... I guess Nikki looks at what shes spending as Chinese Yuan as she's earning it,where as I compare values back to Australian dollars and what Iwould pay for something similar at home.
Someof the jewellry here is amazing, and the beauty of it is it doesn't take up too much room.I wish I had a little shop at home and could buy heaps of awesome stuff here then sell it themarkets or something at home... but in themeantime I'll just add it to my collection. I am going to need a nice collection of black tops or little black dresses to show off some of thecolours I picked though.
After shopping we walked to the Duck restaurant which definitely wasn't as far a walk as yesterdays effort so we're getting better at reading the map. Beijing (or Peking) duck is of course thelocal specialty and this is supposed to be one of the better restaurants for it.It was a bit scary though to look through themenubook at someof the delicacies on offer including every otherpart of theduck- innards brains and all and the prices attached. But in the end we just ordered two ducks between the six of us and the assocaited condiments that you need - pancakes, cucumber, spring onions, sauce. It came to about 100 each and while it wasn't the most filling meal we d had inages it was still not bad...
The highlight of the roast duck is the skin which this restaurant has perfected and actuallymanaged to lean up to about half the fat content of other ducks while still being crispy. Its a bit like pork crackle and when you sprinkle sugar onit is great. The panckae of duck and condiments Icouldn't seem to get qite right, but was still ok.
We didn't leave themost falttering comments on our customer satisfaction card asour waitress was a bit sour and took about four goes to get our drink order right (2 diet cokes and a sprite),and the chick who collected the card got us to explain what we meant which while a bit confronting at least means that they take the responses seriously I guess.
We were also surprised to find out that we got a free dessert and fresh fruit as well. The fruit was great,the dessert, not so good... Nikki,Mel, Tony and Jacky ( a friend of Sams who had caught up with Mel and Liam) had an almond milk with papaya which wasn't too bad,b but Liam and I ordered a porridgey thing which was in a word disgusting. On adding theleft over sugar it became sweet disgusting and so they weren't finished.
After dinner it was back to the hotel as we had a 6:30am start for the great wall tour Nikki and tony had booked...