Must Have Item To Make You Look Like Less Of A Dumbass Tourist: The Tea Jar
Tea (Cha) is the national drink of China. It's everywhere, from restaurants, to convenience stores, to highly specialized Tea shops which are often the nicest store on the block. You get tea for free with your meals at nicer restaurants (where it costs upwards of a whole $7 to get two people stuffed with food), but if you are rambling the hutongs and living off of street food, you need to get your caffeine kick somehow... which is where the Tea Jar comes in. Everyone carries these here, especially cab drivers and shop owners (ok, that's like 70% of the population) and because they are all clear glass or plastic you can check out all the different brews, the leaf style and color. Basically they are like Eugene's omnipresent Nalgene bottles, but usually a bit smaller and almost always clear. Because our hostel charges a whole 40 cents per cup of tea (!) we bought a bunch of jasmine tea and brew our own using the handy water boiler, and hike around town with a constantly-caffienated spring in our step.
Street Food Of The Day: Jiang Bing
Imagine a paper-thin crepe with an egg, a piece of fried dough, a savory soy-like sauce, a spicy chili sauce, green onions and cilantro all rolled up and made right in front of you... for breakfast. Our vendor was delighted to rip us off by charging us 5 yuan instead of the usual 3 (60 cents instead of 40... oh damn), and was even happier to see us swoon at the delicousness of it all. It made our noses run, and our tastebuds tingle, but it kept us full all morning. Guess what we are having for breakfast again today?
Must Have Item That Will Definately Make You Look More Like A Dumbass Tourist: Faux-Tiger Skin Rug
I had this idea a while ago, and although I was thinking of something a little more kid-friendly, this would definately do. Now, how the hell am I gonna get it into my suitcase?
Cutest Beijinger Of The Day: Kitteh!
Pets are hugely popular here, and we've already seen cats, dogs, rabbits and several different bird species. None came close to this little guy in terms of sheer cuteness, though.
Smell Of The Day: Seed and Nut Stands
Beijing is a never-ending olfactory experience, and often times smell will be the most stimulated sense as you walk around the streets and hutongs. One of my favorite smells has got to be the shops and stands that sell a wide variety of nuts and seeds. Chestnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hazlenuts and much more are very popular in Beijing, and these stands often have long lines of customers. It's not at all surprising, as the smell of these nuts and seeds slow-roasting is delicate, complex and totally enticing.
So, as I'm sure you can tell by now, Beijing is an amazing city with an endless amount of things to see and do before you need to even consider going near a tourist spot. The only downside is that you can only physically walk so many hours in a day before you simply collapse from exhaustion. The benefit to this is that you reach a point in the evening where you just have to go home, regroup for a few hours with some tea and always-tasty Tsingtao beer before heading back out to check out the wild and crazy hutong night market scene. This provides the perfect opportunity to practice the Mandarin (people seem to love it if you make any effort at all, especially if you don't mind joining them in a laugh at your expense) and write down a few thoughts. Hopefully you all enjoy reading them.
Bye for now!
(picture: me and the bell tower, taken from the drum tower)