Posted by: 1of10boyz | February 29, 2012

Family in China – Beijing Part 3

It’s December 29th and it is the third day of having a family vacation in Beijing. We are going to call today shopping and entertainment day. We are not going to try and see any of the major sites we just going to wander in the city and shop. How’s that for not worrying about time?

We go out of the hotel about 11:00am and we head for the subway. I want to find the elusive “Friendship Store” and it is supposed to be just down the street from the Silk Market. We know how to find the Silk Market and may even stop in to see if we can find something.

We exit the subway and do a little bit of Silk Market but we are not really in the buying mood at this point. We head out and start down the street. We go a couple of blocks and decide that we want to try the other side of the street. We find a rather nice mall and wander and look around. It is not anything like Hong Kong but it is still nice place. The family likes it because it is heated. It is probably about 30-35F outside and the wind is blowing, definitely not a good day to spend a lot of time out walking around.

I realize after another block we are not going to find the “Friendship Store”, maybe I just don’t recognize it or it is not labeled well; regardless, we are not able to find it. We are now about half way between subway stations. We have the option of back tracking down the street where we have already been or pressing forward to the next one. Never been one to want to see the same boring thing over again so we opt for the next station. We see a McDs in front of us and realize we are hungry. We head into the golden arches and it is packed busy. The lines are at least 6 deep. Everyone decides that the double cheese burger meal is what they want and leave me to order. No one wonders how I am actually going to get 5 adult meals and a kid’s meal back to a table, they just leave me there. Fortunately the lines are slow and Sam wanders back about the time the food is ready to be carted back to the table. There would have been no way to get the food there by myself.

Once we have finished eating we continue towards the train station. As we near it I realize that we are at the C. Not that I am a big star “guy” but I am interested in this location just because we haven’t seen much today. I find the ticket booth and get tickets for us to go in and look. It really isn’t much more than a 3 story tower that has some ancient looking metal objects on it, sun dials and sextants, that kind of thing. Before getting to the train we came across an observatory; my dad paid for us to go through.  I am interrupted while in the observatory to take a work phone call, I have not put my phone on the charger for several days now and the battery is low. I spend about an hour on the phone while everyone wanders through the garden and looks at the plants. Not really interesting in the winter but it occupies a little time until I am finished. We investigate the various buildings and read about the various observations that were made while this observatory was operational. We take a bunch of pictures on the stairs to the observatory with MaKaela and have a pretty good time.

We are now ready to big the last leg of our little shopping adventure, we are going to the Pearl Market. We are at one of the transfer stations and have an option of two trains to take to where we want to go. We look at the routes and opt to take one over the other based on what we think will make the train less crowded. Either option requires that we transfer to another line and both look like they are going to take about the same amount of time. We appear to have made the correct choice as the trains are not crowded when we get on but the other transfer stops really pack them on so we feel lucky. We arrive at the Pearl Market station, this station is also the station for the Temple of Heaven, we are going to be back here to see these sights later in the week; today we are shopping.

The shopping experience deserves some description. While the Pearl Market is many thousands of square feet of shopping it is not a single entity, it is an accumulation of many small shops (the silk market is much the same). While enjoy walking around and seeing what they have here I am not a real fan of the shopping and negotiating experience. I am not a hard-core negotiator. I am not a person that haggles well. I am not the kind of person that will negotiate pause to talk about something else and then continue the negotiation, like the Chinese are.  I am better at it than my family members are and I don’t have the huge circle around me that screams “my personal space” so I am not as worn out by walking through these little shopping areas. I think it is funny to watch my family members shop and how they react to swarming tactics we see in these shops.

One observation that I have regarding my children that are with me, the people think that Sam and Sarah are a couple. I am surprised by the number of times that the shop keepers become more interested in Sam once they realize that Sarah is his sister. It was probably a good thing for Sam to have this misconception as he is still uncomfortable with the stares and wide eyed looks that we have become so used to. It is quite funny to watch his reaction as the young ladies tell him and us how cute he is, poor guy.

There are many pearl shops in this location, I have not priced pearls and have no idea what a good pearl is and what it isn’t. Even though I am clueless I have decided that I am going to attempt to procure a string of pearls for my wife. I randomly stop and begin looking at the pearls. The shop keeper is a young lady probably about 20ish. She helps me understand the pricing and we come to an agreement on the price of a single strand, standard length of fresh water pearls, about $40RMB (about $6 USD). I am amazed at the price, not that I understand the quality or anything like that but they really are fresh water pearls that are approximately round and they look pretty good as a necklace. Since we have now agreed on that price I begin to tell her what I want and how long. Before you know it I have bought pearls for all the ladies in my life including daughters-in-laws that I don’t even have yet.  

Our time in the Pearl Market is soon done. We have an engagement tonight at one of the local theatres to watch a show. This will be the replacement show for Sarah that would have been Polynesian Culture Center on our trip to Hawaii that she was not able to go on. We had the choice of attending either a kung fu or acrobat show. The vote for the acrobat show was the winner. We are really kind of flying by the seat of our pants on this one. When we were on Tiananmen Square earlier in the week there were a number of people working the crowds as contacts for the shows. I randomly picked one of the cards from my back pocket and called them about the show tickets. The prices were grouped into three scales. I opted for the middle range price and told the person I was talking to on the phone that we wanted the best seats that were available at that price. We have really no idea of what we are going to get.

We take a taxi up the street to the theatre; it is roughly about 10 KM from our hotel. We meet the ticket agent out in front of the theatre and she heads over to the ticket window. Now many of the locals are buying tickets at the front of the ticket window, our agent goes around to the back door and is gone what seems like a long time. I am beginning to worry. Finally, the gal returns with one ticket stub for 6 seats. We pay our fee and head into the theatre. The place is cold, the smells from the toilets are strong, and it looks old. I am beginning to wonder if we are going to regret this. The ushers look at our ticket and motion for us to follow them. We begin walking towards the front of the room towards the stage, and finally stop at the 3rd row from the stage; our seats are just left of center stage. I couldn’t have picked better seats if I had the choice myself. I am certainly happy that we didn’t pay the extra money for the top tier price as these seats are perfect.

Before the show started I decided that I wanted some snacks and something to drink. I saw a snack bar on the way in and have noticed that there were others with tubs of popcorn; just what the doctor ordered for a show. I wander out to the snack bar and get popcorn and drinks with some candy bars. I got a variety of candy but the Snickers was the hit with my crowd.

Once the show started it was really pretty good. I am not the guy that typically like the dancing and singing kind of thing so I was a little concerned about what I was going to be doing for the next couple of hours. I can truly say that everyone, including the almost 3 year old had a wonderful time. The variety of the acts that were done was great, we had everything from tumbling and umbrella juggling to motorcycles. I admit that each was fascinating and enjoyable. I was amazed most by the motorcycles inside a sphere. Now I am not a motorcycle guy, I am not the kind of guy that really enjoys going around in circles (the whole acoustic neuroma thing compounds the motion sickness thing related to going around in circles). These folks ended up with six motorcycles going FAST inside the sphere. It was by far the most amazing display that   I have ever seen. I sat in amazement and wondered how many times they had done this without a wreck at the same time certain that they had wrecked many times in the process of pulling of this stunt.

The show ends and we make our way out to the front of the theatre, not really being in a big hurry to leave. We wander through the gift shop and see that everything for sale there we have seen in the other markets. Once we get to the entrance we notice a small crowd around one of the acrobats, a young lady. She is selling DVDs from one of the other locations that she performs at; we get one for $50RMB. We take pictures with her, Sam and I think it will be funny to stand by her; Makaela is also in the picture. I notice something interesting about the picture, the acrobat is taller than Makaela but about the same amount that Sam and I are taller than her.

Since we went to the early acrobat show it is only just 7:00pm when we get back to the hotel. The old people are tired. We are hungry but we don’t want to go out to even get food. We decide that the best course of action is to send Sarah and Sam over to pizza hut to get something. I give them some money and send them out. Sarah’s explanation on this adventure in China by them follows:

Pizza Hut in China is a very nice, classy restaurant.  Definitely different then how it is depicted in the States!  You walk in and there is a hostess who has to seat you and lo and behold there is a little bit of a wait.  We try and explain the best we can that we want a to-go order.  She finally figures this out and says a take away order.  We place the order which was a little difficult.  My brother wanted plain pepperoni but that is not a normal order and when we finally pick it up it ends up being pineapple and cheese.  While we waited for our order we went to the grocery store just below the mall there and get some food.  We needed more oreos and orange juice.  We get to the check out to pay and the girl asks if I have a one I had given her two $20 and one $10.  Of course, she says it in Chinese and my brother give her the confused look and I panic trying to remember what the word was to say I don’t speak Chinese.  I couldn’t remember if it was “tai gui la,” which too expensive or “ting bu dong” which means I hear but don’t understand.  We finally got it figured out after making a fool of ourselves and she gave me my change back with LOTS of coins.  Thank you for that!  We pick up our pizza and head back to the hotel which is only across the street.  There was a little vendor that had music blaring that I knew and made me want to go dancing.  My brother was a little upset that they didn’t get his pizza right.  It was so delicious and there wasn’t any extra moving things on it either; I was worried because I had seen youtube videos of pizza in China. ”

The day is over and we are headed to sleep, tomorrow is a big day and we leave early. We are headed to the WALL.


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