Adventurous…trying to be at least

I woke up this morning and realized that I’ve been a day ahead for the last 2 days. Don’t quite know how that happened, but it dawned on me this morning that I was scheduled to be in Beijing longer…I think that when I reset my watch I reset it too far ahead…like 12 hours isn’t already enough, LOL. But since I realized I had another day it definitely took the pressure of trying to rush out of the city and back before my 6:30 pm train (which actually leaves tomorrow) to Xi’an.

So I decided to go to the Summer Palace today. The Summer Palace was the Beijing “get away” for several Emperors of China. It’s about 45 minutes from Beijing city center where I’m staying. I decided to “rough it” and take the city bus out there. I had to get on a bus then transfer to another to get out there. A bus ride costs 1 yuan…about 12.5 cents. But what you don’t pay in dollars, you definitely pay in comfort. I knew the ride would be…uncomfortable…when the bus didn’t come for 20 minutes (even though I saw about 4 of every other bus come through). When the bus came–it was crowded. Pretty much like a NYC bus that didn’t come on schedule. The funny thing about the bus though was that it was NOT air conditioned but had a TV on it. Isn’t that the oddest thing. Damn, you can spring for a color, flat screen television, but you can’t fill up the bus with some AC fluid so that I can enjoy watching the TV?

The second bus wasn’t quite as bad…but still no AC. I finally got to the Summer Palace after about 1 hour and 45 minutes. I have to say, the Summer Palace was, by far, the best sight I’ve seen so far. The place is HUGE and is right off of a lake. The palace itself is pretty much like every other palace and temple–red in color (to symbolize power) and a yellow roof (can’t remember what the yellow is for). The scenery around it definitely made the trip worth while.

While I was at the summer palace, I had, yet another person ask to take my picture. I actually felt bad, because I was rude to her at first. I thought she was “a student from Mongolia who had an art exhibit” or a “tour guide” approaching me. Then after I walked away, I thought that she looked kinda young to try and get a scam over…cute little 12 year old girl probably scared for life that the mean African-American ignored her, LOL. Luckily for my conscience, she saw me again and came up to me again to asked to take my picture…which of course I said yes to.

While out there, I noticed that several people were eating these green colored popsicles. Then, I walked by someone else with one and they still had their bag for the popsicle…which looked like it had beans on it. Of course I was curious. So I headed over to one of the many refreshment stands…and sure enough they had bean ice cream. The stand that I was at was out of the green ones (which looked like peas), but lucky for me, they had red bean popsicles. (Yes I said red beans, like in red beans and rice). I figured that I like red beans, so I might as well try one. I kid you not, the popcicle had beans in it. I can’t really describe the taste–it was kinda sweet…and kinda gritty…and I can’t forget the “whole bean” treats in the middle. I didn’t eat much of it…it cost 2 yuan (about 25 cents) so I figured it wasn’t a big waste if I didn’t like it. Now ya’ll know I don’t like to waste food…so I was really not excited about having to eat the rest of this popsicle…LOL. Luckily (or unluckily) for me, I took a glance at the expiration date. July 27, 2006. Yeah, I ate some 12 day expired ice cream. You can’t imagine how excited I was to throw that thing away!

I decided to cab it back to the city. After walking around for several hours in the hot ass sun, standing on a crowded bus was the last thing on my mind. The cab driver was kinda sketch…based on information I’d gotten the day before, the ride was supposed to be about 80 yuan…but my meter said 108. That didn’t really bother me because it was the end of the day, there was a lot of traffic, and he took some back roads to avoid it. He actually spoke pretty good english–so you woulda thought he would have mentioned it…but I wasn’t going to fault him for trying to drop me off as quickly as possible so that he could get his next fare. (A taxi around the city is about 15 yuan average–around $2.) What did irritate me was when he pulled up to my place. I gave him 150 yuan because I didn’t have anything smaller. He took my money, threw it to the side of him then pulled out these crispy bills saying that he couldn’t take the money because it was ripped–and wanted me to give him another set of bills. Odd. So then I had to explain to him that I didn’t give him the ripped money because my money was folded in my pocket all day and since I have over-active sweat glands, most certainly were not crispy and barely folded. And it really wasn’t making any sense why he couldn’t take “ripped bills” anyway. The whole thing was sketch–then of course, he said he didn’t have any change–and pulled out a big wallet with MANY bills–but none of them change for a 50? How does a taxi driver not have change? Anyway, the street that I’m on is next to a police station–so when several of them started walking by he just shooed me out of the cab. Damn, the drivers here are SOOOO sketch. My stories aren’t even as bad as some other folks I’d talked to. Beijing really needs to work that out before the Olympics in 2008…

I totally got off on a tangent. This post was NOT supposed to be about the dodgy cab driver I had today….

So anyway, after the Summer Palace I went to the Chinese Opera. The show, I’m sure was very good–I only caught about 20 minutes of the 1 hour show because I couldn’t stay awake. I knew that was going to happen. I was so tired after walking around all day–but I booked the ticket this morning before I left for the Summer Palace. Afterwards, me and the only other person who booked the show, a guy named Felix from Australia, decided to go to the Night Market.

Now, the night market is sort of like the Chinese fair without the rides. It’s a long row of vendors, selling traditional Chinese food. And I’m not talking about the food you get when you go to “Little China Restaurant.” Instead of funnel cakes and popcorn, they have liver and squid, LOL.

So…trying to be adventurous..I started at the beginning of the row and made my way down. The first thing I had was squid. I know I know, not all that insane, but the fact that all the meat is raw and on display (they fry it really quickly in front of you) made it interesting. So the first thing I had was squid. Then I had some sort of roll–sort of like an egg roll with some sort of meat and sauce in the middle. Then I had dumplings–couldn’t resist…

Then…well…I saw this kid with a yellow shirt on with this look on his face and his parents taking pictures. I forgot to mention that in addition to seafood and mystery meats…they also have insects. This kid was about to eat a cricket. Then his mom ate one. So I asked her what it tasted like–and she said shrimp. Shrimp? Hey, I like shrimp, so I tried one too. I promise to try and get some pictures on here tomorrow so you can see. I ate a fried cricket tonight. And it did, indeed, taste sort of like shrimp. I had to eat it really fast though–before my brain caught up with what my mouth was doing!

The only other thing I ate–and I just tasted someone else’s (can’t remember his name–but he’s staying at the same place and we ran into him on the street…) was snake. The snake was absolutely NASTY. My stomach started to turn a little after that one–and I only had a small bite. Or maybe my stomach started to turn because there were some parts of the market that really smelled like a bathroom more than a place where food was being prepared…

Soooo….even though the snake was really gross, I did want to go back and try some starfish. YES, the cute little things you use to pick up on the beach when you were little, they fry those and eat those too!

I am completely exhausted. I leave Beijing tomorrow–13 hour train ride to Xi’an…should be interesting. I’ll keep ya’ll posted!