China.... A Completely Different World.

Jun 18, 2010

June has not provided much refuge from dusty, sweaty Dubai. On average I spend at least half of the month in other countries, busy with a crammed schedule of flights. Not this month. I've spent days sitting around my apartment, wandering the malls aimlessly, watching DVD's, lying around the pool... heck, I've even took up running! I'm sure that for all of you hard working people working 9-5 jobs, this sounds like a perfect break. Unfortunately, I despise the city that I live in and thoroughly enjoy when my job takes me elsewhere. My friends have been busy making their way around the globe, while I've sat all by my lonesome in Dubai. All of my waiting finally paid off when I received a call at midnight informing me that I'd been pulled out for a flight to Beijing, China. CHINA!! My thoughts raced to beautiful temples, the Great Wall of China, and all sorts of cheap things to spend my money on. I happily headed for the airport, thrilled at the notion of leaving Dubai. My recent lack of human interaction has made me a little bit loopy. I chattered non-stop as I met the crew, happy to have somebody to talk to... finally! It was a long 7 1/2 hour flight to Beijing, but the passengers were lovely and I managed to fight my fatigue despite the ridiculous time of day that we'd departed. Once we landed, I quickly established the plans for the afternoon. On the bus ride to the hotel we all stared wide eyed out the windows, some of us (okay, just me) taking photos of everything. It reminded me of the tour buses full of Chinese tourists that line the streets of Banff in the summer back home... only this time I was the tourist, in their country. Once we'd reached the hotel I met up with Eva from Greece and Vicky from Ireland to head out in search of great bargains at a local market. We hopped in a taxi and made our way to a huge building with 6 floors full of everything imaginable. First, however, was lunch. We circled the food court a few times before deciding on what to order. After reading dishes such as "Mushrooms with 2 types of meat" and "Cooked meat", I opted for vegetarian fried noodles and spring rolls. It seemed like a safe bet. After we'd filled up on our grease saturated meals, we set out to shop. Eva was on a mission and went her own way as Vicky and I slowly wandered. We weren't as intent on spending all of our money. I'm terrible when it comes to bargaining. I give in far too easily. After a great deal of arguing with a very persistent (but adorable and sweet) sales lady, I gave in and forked over the cash for a fake designer bag. It was more than I'd offered to pay, but after she started going on about how she was very poor and had a family to feed, guilt got the best of me. I'm such a sucker... I probably paid triple what any smart local would have, and a big family to support? China has a one child policy. Regardless, my new bag is pretty and it was cheaper than I would have paid in Canada. My other purchase was the entire 6 seasons of Dawson's Creek, complete with 23 disks to keep me occupied and reliving my childhood for the rest of my reserve month. Satisfied with our purchases, we met Eva who showed up with quite the haul. Apparently she's far better at bargaining than we are. We headed back to the hotel, where I was extremely excited to book a tour to the Great Wall of China for the next day. Sadly, Eva changed her mind after seeing the prices. It wasn't overly expensive, but she'd spent her entire allowance already and decided that she'd rather save her money the next day. To pay for the tour alone would have been quite the splurge for me, as we needed to hire a driver and a car. I tried my best to persuade her before I miserably accepted that I wouldn't be seeing the Wall this time around. Back to my room I went, gloomily staring out onto the rainy streets, thinking that life was over because things didn't go as I'd wanted them to. I'm quite dramatic when I'm upset. I was determined to still enjoy my layover, so I headed to bed thinking of what I could do with the day ahead.
I woke up early the next morning to the sound of rain. I opened the blinds to see grey skies and wet streets. Well, this could put a damper on my plans. I decided to meet up with Eva once again, catching a taxi to the giant silk market. They were far more aggressive sales people than the market the previous evening. Walking down the crammed aisles they would grab our arms and try to drag us into their shops. I was a bit overwhelmed and the endless sea of colorful handbags and silk garments was making me dizzy. I watched Eva bargain like a pro, wishing that I was capable of such persuasion. She left with a pile of goods while I walked out empty handed. There was nothing that I particularly needed. I'll save my money for my next Beijing trip... hello, Great Wall. Hungry from a busy morning, we set out in search of a place to have lunch. We found a nice little restaurant down the street, where the staff spoke no English and waited for us to point out what items on the menu we'd like. We declined chicken legs and boiled frog, requesting a dish with "vegetables only". Our polite waiter reassured us "No meat. Beef!". Well, as long as I wasn't being served some breed of canine, I was happy. We stuck with prawns and eggs, lacking a bit in the adventurous spirit. When we asked the waiter for "Fried noodles", he nodded knowingly and returned with 2 cans of Sprite. Well, I suppose that will do. Though we were a bit nervous for what was to come, we were satisfied when we received our delicious meals. The skies had cleared and we decided to make the most of the few hours that we had left by heading to the Lama Temple. In the midst of the busy city was a huge and very spiritual cluster of buildings, making up one beautiful Tibetan style temple. It's been around since the 1700's. Tourists wandered while Buddhist worshipers lit incense and prayed. When I think of China and temples, it's exactly what I would picture. Beautifully detailed red buildings surrounded by bamboo. After we'd seen it all we headed back to the hotel. Before heading back to Dubai, I insisted on going to, you guessed it... the supermarket. I'd discovered a Carrefour (Asia's version of a Walmart super-center) directly behind the hotel. I was amused by an entire aisle dedicated to soya sauce, and another to cooking oil. People scooped rice from huge bulk bins. I grabbed some green tea and a few random candies to bring back to Dubai. We headed back to the hotel, where I was unable to sleep before the flight. Needless to say, it was a long 8 hour journey back to Dubai. I can't wait to go back to Beijing and explore some more... it's definitely the highest ranking destination in terms of culture shock.


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