Travelling in November really had its upside because a lot of the touristy places were less crowded. I was only in the north (Beijing-Tianjin-Xian), so it was fairly cold. I went with my dad who was there for work (he's kind of like a guest professor at various universities).. we therefore had a lot of contacts, and I didn't get to venture off on my own, like at all! o_0 It was definitely weird for me since I'm used to going solo and being totally lost in translation.
We ate so much. I'm not sure if it's a chinese thing, but everyone we met seemed pretty keen on the eating culture. For my first lunch with the students, they brought me to an all-you-can-eat hotpot/bbq place. It had a buffet with so many different veggies, meats, noodles, buns, dumplings.... it was so overwhelming! Actually, it reminded me of the scene in Spirited Away when Chihiro's parents turn into pigs.
One of the weirdest things I ate was congealed blood. It honestly just tasted like meat. I'm not really big on food... but I do love pastries and baked goods! The bao over there were excellent, and I also love the deep-fried bread thing (that I forget its chinese name):
My main purpose for this trip was to check out the fine arts scene. Whatwith Ai Weiwei being in such the spotlight and with China's booming economy, I really wanted to see it for myself. I was a little dissapointed because I think I was too hyped...but I did see some cool things. The 798 district is a must-see. I posted a photo impression on my memory-imprint art blog.
I was also really curious to check out Beijing's Museum of Contemporary Art. With a name like that, you'd think it was in the center of town, but nope. It was in the middle of nowhere! No joke, it was so hard to get to that normal cabs wouldn't bring us there; we had to get one of those private (sketchy) ones. o_0
We went to a number of the must-see places... I wasn't big of the Forbidden City, so I didn't take many photos, but I absolutely loved the Great Wall. I wish I could visit it on a regular basis because it'd be the perfect workout! I'm such a nerd though....my first thought while walking on it was Snake Way from Dragon Ball Z, lol.
In Xian, we didn't have that much time to check out the city, but we managed to visit the Famen Temple. I personally loved it. It was so relaxing. We however got lost and bumped into the same monk twice (he gave us directions, in mandarin which I didn't understand)... but the second time he explained, I actually understood what he was saying based on his hand gestures, lol.
I wouldn't have gotten lost if my spirit animal followed me... This dog followed me for a quite a distance, but then when we passed the threshold of the temple, it didn't go any further. :( (I'm convinced that had it been with us, we wouldn't have gotten lost!)
And of course, we went to see the Terracotta soldiers. I had actually seen a bunch of the sculptures when they came to the Montreal Fine Arts Museum, so it helped to be at least acquainted with what I saw because the tour guide wasn't that great (she just recited things like a tape-recorder). o_0
One thing that I loved about the landscape was all the MIST. Oh my, it made beautiful aerial perspective and it was reminiscent of those ink paintings that China is famous for. The air quality was pretty bad...but it was gorgeous with such a mysterious atmosphere!
- Beijing traffic is retarded. In fact, driving culture over there is just ridiculous; every time I went into a car (which was often!), I said my prayers because holy crap, they drive like maniacs! And the honking. o_0 Gah! Beijing's highways are set up really differently than in canadian cities; they're in CIRCLES! Needless to say, I'm glad that I don't have to drive.
- The toilets weren't that bad. I mean, there are a bunch of squatters, and I totally saw someone take a shit because they didn't, for some reason, CLOSE THEIR STALL DOOR, but whatever. It wasn't as bad as my mom said it would be.
- Karaoke in China is called KTV!
I didn't go shopping at all. o_0 Their currency is much weaker than the canadian dollar, so I could have totally taken advantage of it, but meh! We had no time. I did however see this hilarious pyjama set: