Thursday, March 25, 2010

Beijing Journal Day 4 Around the Hotel Part 1

Hello Thursday! Our China midweek series escapes to... the neighborhood around our hotel. I had ingested a pesky bacteria and could not leave the hotel for 24 hours. We came prepared with medicine from Canada which made me feel better, David chose to wander around the hotel area alone while I rested. There is quite a few things I would like to share about our china trip, I am splitting our last day in Beijing into 2 posts.

The streets below are right outside our hotel. We stayed at Beijing HWA Apartment Hotel in the Xidan area. We came across positive reviews on Trip Advisor before booking through Travel China Guide. It was a good thing we took the public transit to get around as it made us feel we belong. Our hotel room came equipped with a full kitchen and this felt like home. The staff were polite and genuinely helpful but spoke very little English, I got by with what little Mandarin I knew. The hotel was a terrific find.
Our hotel package included complimentary Western and Chinese breakfast buffet style. We helped ourselves to the huge variety of dishes: cereals, toast, fried rice, noodles, pot stickers, wonton, steamed white buns with different fillings like red bean paste, soup, congee (porridge made of rice) with all the trimmings, cooked green vegetables, ham, eggs, sausages, fresh fruit, red and yellow tomatoes, cucumber, milk, juice, etc. Breakfast was so filling we sometimes skipped lunch. Dinner however was very disappointing, we should have known as no customer was in sight compared to the full house at breakfast time.

So we decided to venture out... to the Asian style fast food chain next door. Set meals of rice with teriyaki meats, veggies, soup or drink cost around 30 RMB ($4.50 Canadian.) Portions were fair but the taste was just average. In general we found Beijing food to be quite bland. We also found similar meals for 20 RMB elsewhere. As this was our first stop in China, we were overly cautious with our food and ate at places that had a Western appeal. In fact the prices we paid were relatively high for China as we gained more experience eating out on our journey.
A few steps from the hotel, some workers repaving the sidewalk, it seemed construction projects of all kinds were common everywhere we went, keeping people employed. We noticed a lot of the work is still done by hand.
Having stayed in Beijing for a few days, we found most locals friendly and easy going. They have a thick accent, a lot of 'R' sounds which took some getting used to. Sometimes it was best to write down the Chinese characters for clearer communication.
When riding the public transit, we found there is no such thing as a lineup. The government had built metal railings to encourage the locals to queue, instead everyone stood on the street in front of it so they could be first!

Crossing the street was interesting too, there were crosswalks but people and cars shared it simultaneously as no one bothered to stop. We were intimidated at first but witnessed no accidents so we got brave and followed the locals as they travelled across. Check out the video to observe the proper method.
Some workers hooking up new electrical wiring in residential areas locally known as Hutong.
An elderly buying fruit from a stand. Small businesses such as these were scattered throughout the Hutongs.
A local saw David exploring the neighborhood. The man in the brown jacket below motioned with his hands the clicking of a camera and signaled to follow him to a game of chess. The locals were crazy over this game, sometimes there would be a bigger crowd and boy did it ever get intense!
I am leaving you with a short video that shows Xidan area in motion, a taste of modern China with a largely Western influence, click on the picture to play. There is a 39 RMB jean shop blaring Shania Twain's I'm Gonna Getcha Good, not exactly what we expect to hear on our first few days in China.
Beijing Journal Day 4 to be continued next week...


  1. This is so interesting, thank you for sharing this, I am enjoying your China journal very much.

  2. P.K.: Thank you for the feedback, it means a lot to me to hear you say that. :)