|Here we come to -10 degree Beijing!! We were frozen head to toe as soon as we arrived at Beijing airport. Lexi has never been in such cold weather, and we were so used to warm weather in South Asia, so it was pretty tough for us to adjust.
We were lucky to stay with Hiro’s cousin Mari in Beijing, she is a music teacher at an International school. We really enjoyed grocery shopping and cooking. Surprisingly one thing we really missed while we are on our trip is cooking.
On our first day we visited local antiques market and walked through the stalls full of antiques and artworks. They were all amazingly cheap and there were so many things we wanted to buy, but it was just too cold to stay outside and we hadn’t bought gloves and stuff yet. Hiro bargained down 3 oil paintings pretty cheap (3 for AU$25!!)to give to his Dad. Lexi also bought a nice butterfly artwork.
On Sunday we visited famous Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden Palace. It was very busy as it is the most popular sightseeing attraction for Chinese themselves. We walked through the Forbidden Palace, it was impressively huge. It took us about one hour just to walk through to the other end.
Next day we did what we had come to Beijing for, climbing the Great Wall. After speaking to a few locals, we decided to go to further part of the Great Wall rather than the one close to the Beijing city as further one is located up high on the mountain and much less tourists there. We hired a taxi for the day, it took more than 2 hours to get to the entrance point of the Great Wall. Then we had to take the gondola lift up for 30mins, and climbed on foot for another 45mins to get up to the Great Wall covered with snow. It all paid off when we got up to the top. It was insanely long, goes on and on to the horizon going over mountains after mountains. We were so glad to choose this point of the Great Wall as there was hardly anyone there apart from us. It was just unbelievable (and freezing).
We also tried a bit of “bargain fight” at cheap fake market which sells fakes of pretty much everything you can think of, from brand clothes, bags, shoes and sunnies to I pod, watches, DVDs and CDs.
The tip here is to bargain down to 1/10 of what they say, and stick with your price. If they say a pair of shoes is $100, you say $10. They will laugh you away and tell you to go away. When you are actually leaving the shop, they will stop you saying “ok, $80 for you”. This is the sign that your price is ok. You just need to stick to your price $10, they will keep taking the price down $50, $30, $20... but you need to be patient and stick to your price. At the end it will come down to $10, and it normally takes about 10-15 mins for one shopping. If you don’t come to the agreement, that’s ok, there are thousands of other shops that sell same stuff. Try again next door.
Lexi bought a quite few stuff here really cheap, and we enjoyed this fun bargaining game with Chinese until we came to the boots shop. Lexi tried a couple of pairs at this shop and started bargaining as usual. When we finally agreed to AU$20 for a pair of nice long boots the incident happened. Lexi realised she was given the wrong pair of boots in her shopping bag just after Hiro paid for it. She told them that it wasn’t right one, but they refused to change the boots. They said they don’t change item after purchase. What a joke! We didn’t even leave the shop! This would not happen anywhere else in the world. We then wanted to leave the boots and get money back, but this request was refused as well. So basically they gave us the wrong item, they won’t swap it to the right one nor refund money. Welcome to China. We kept fighting with shop assistant for over 30mins. Hiro went to get help from security and market manager, but no one speaks good English and they kept saying “no refund”. I have never seen Lexi being that angry, she was furious!! But after nearly 1hour we gave up and agreed to further $10 discount and take the wrong pair. Cheeky bastards!!
Anyway we did buy some really cheap stuff, and learnt a good lesson not to give money until you receive the product.
Hiro had a mixed feeling of Beijing, as first advice he was given from his cousin was not to tell anyone that he was Japanese as some Chinese dislike Japanese due to their historical backgrounds. He also hated air pollution in Beijing just like many Olympic athletes complained. One day it was so bad that visibility was less than 10m. We were covered with dust after walking around Beijing city even inside the nose.
However we enjoyed great Chinese food such as delicious Peking duck and Mapo Tofu (spicy tofu with minced pork), and also felt the long history of China from some architectures. It was great country at the end.
Now we are finally heading to Tokyo, where we are going to stay for a while. It will be a good break after 3 months travel from Port Douglas.