After crashing hard that first night in Shichahai we set out to do some sight seeing. This was only my second trip, and Stephon’s first, so we needed to get some of the big stuff checked off. We ruled out the great wall because of time constraints, and I had been to the summer palace, so we opted for the Forbidden City. This also had the bonus of being right next to Tiananmen square, which was another place I wanted to visit.
After struggling to get a cab we rolled up and hopped out across the street from the infamous plaza. The moment our feet hit the ground we were mobbed by people trying to sell us an odd assortment of gloves and Beijing 2008 ski caps. This was OK by us, as we wanted to get some Beijing 2008 ski caps. We bargained with the first guy, who wanted 10 kuai each. We got 3 for 20. The next guy with the nicer hats gave use 5 for 30. 8 ski caps in our bag later (well, 7+1 on Stephon’s nearly bald head) we were off. We took a few touristy pictures around the square. I got my au batido picture in front of Mao’s picture on the southern gate. We gave the mausoleum disapproving looks. And tried to not think about tanks if we could help it. We did send one street vender on a mission for a scarf for Stephon. She promptly made a call and came a running with a small selection. Setphon picked one and we figured we couldn’t talk her down too much (I think she wanted 40 kuai) so we just got her to throw in a free pair of gloves. And set out to discover what only eunuchs could see, in the years of yore. (Does China have years of yore?).
We found us some self guided audio tours, as read by Rodger Moore (yeah 007!) and paid our entry fee. The audio tour was probably the best 45 kuai we spent the entire time there. We wondered around, discovering all sorts of coolness. Including proof that at least one Emperor was a UMD fan.
After the forbidden city, we hopped in a cab which took us the long way ‘round to get to Wang Fu Jing. Did some shopping. Ate some dumplings. Drank Starbucks. It was good. We had a great time wandering thought he ally ways bargaining for all sorts of crazy crap.
I think that about rounds up our day.
Next day we got up and chaise brought us over to the wushu guan for some demo practice watching. Mark was there, as well as Joanna. We hung out and video taped for some time before the coach caught us and made us stop taping, so we just watched after that. Beijing, Siquan and Fujian (?) teams were getting ready for some big demo. So we basically got to see the demo that BJWT did for their US tour as well as some extra fun.
After they were finished we got s few pictures with some of the extra cool team members and headed our for lunch. Chase took us to what I figure is his favorite place to eat, Hu Tong Pizza. I was surprised, it was good pizza, in Beijing. Apparently it is owned by some American guy that bought a little hutong and converted it to his restaurant. Very cool place to visit. Oh, and free hot water.
Post lunch meant buying weapons. Marck rounded up Wudi and Tiff and we headed out to the sports university to get the stuff. We found the little shop, and they agreed that we could go to the real shop and get the real stuff. So we followed some guy who lead us a few blocks away, down and ally, through some disturbing steel door into what I think is the shop owner’s house. There was a busted old building next to it with a big padlock on the door. They cracked it open and we went in. There were actually two rooms. The main room with a display case and a bunch of VCDs, and the sketchier room next to it with more wushu weapons then you can shake a gun at. (gunshu de gun)
We gathered our loot and made a big pile. I asked for VCDs of competition, but they said they had none (I hear Mark made out with their entire stock, sneaky guy). They added our stuff up and it came to a grand total of 2045 kuai. I bargained. This guy was tuff. At first he was going to take off a nice 45 kuai. I laughed at him. I offered 1700 kuai and he laughed at me. Eventually we settled on 1900 kuai and I figure I did just fine. This was good, because all the money we had left we needed the taxi ride back. During said taxi ride we decided to strike a deal with the driver to take us the airport, as we tend to have trouble getting a taxi to take our long weapons (they often say no, and drive away). We told him to meet use outside of Shichahai the next morning. I even gave him 50 kuai instead of the 28 for the fair as a bonus. We were now broke.
Did more shopping.
Later we met up with Mark again for dinner. He took us to a sweet Korean place where everything they serve is on a stick. Chicken on a stick, lamb on a stick, bread on a stick, chicken neck on a stick. You name it. I didn’t care for the neck, too many bones.
After dinner we hit up one of the many new bars in hohai. It was a little quite pub, with four or five tables. Mark taught us some fun games, Stephon discovered Long Island Iced Tea. It was great fun, and much needed relaxing after all the stress.
The final day involved hauling all our stuff to the sidewalk out front of the school. I was standing there with a huge pile of luggage waiting for Stephon to bring the long weapons around when a taxi pulled up and offered to take me to the airport. I faced a little problem. This guys was here now. He drove a beat ups 1.60 red cab which made him more likely to take the long weapons. I could load all our stuff before Stephon came ‘round with the long weapons, so I figured he was unlikely to refuse us and unload us. And we had no way of getting on touch with the other guy to make sure he was going to make it. I decided I needed the sure thing. I felt really bad, but I needed to get to the airport. Once we were fully loaded and started to go our guy showed up. I covered my face and said ‘zuo le’ a few times real quick. Man, I felt horrible. I had decided if he showed up while we were loading, I was gonna give him a few bucks to make it worth his wile, but were already rolling. Dang it, he even showed up early.
We were properly punished in the airport with some absurdly long waits. WE waited something like 3 hours before Continental even got a counter for our flight. Once they did we stood there milling around before they actually did anything. One thing they did do was rearrange the queue, moving those little seat-belt like barriers on us. Making our third in like more like fifth in line. No real harm, just a bit annoying.
Long, long plane ride home. Long wait for luggage in Newark. Barely made it to the gate in time, they were literally shutting the door as we got there. Needless to say, our oversized baggage didn’t show up in National. We filed a claim and went home. All our stuff was delivered the next morning.
We were greeted in DC by family holding signs saying “Welcome Home” and “Jiayou” — they even had a little chant. It was awesome. And his mom.
Let me tell you what I like: Signs in English. American food, well, food made in America, I am including Mexican, Italian and the like in this. My own bed. My cats. My wife. Heck, even my job (weird).
I think Stephon would have been happy staying in Beijing.