I figured I would get in a word or two about Beijing.  As Jane says, the subway system makes it so easy to get around.  The city has 6 ‘rings’ of highway around it, that go out from the center.  Our hostel was within ring 2, so we were pretty close to city center.  Super cheap, but it was pretty apparent we were going on the cheap side just looking at the room.  We were definately in a back packer’s hostel.

A Stop on the Subway. All Fuxor'd.

 I could deal with the freezing temperature, I could deal with the limited hot water, I could deal with not drinking the tap water, I could deal with the leaky shower, I could deal with the questionable food, I could deal with the all the pollution… and there is tons of smog here.   What I have a problem with the ‘toilets’ here.

**warning, this next section may not be pleasant**

Many of the toilets here are pretty much holes in the ground with foot placement spots(some even have foot traction!) on either sides.  Its funny because they are still made of porcelain/ceramic, and the company that makes them is American Standard.  Not really that Standard in America if you ask me.  There are also normal toilets that you sit on and they can be labelled as obstructed toilets or toilets with barriers.  *shrug* Im ok with either, but I prefer the ones with barriers I guess.

 I had a hard time dealing with is the practice of throwing the ‘used toilet paper’ into a garbage can NEXT to the toilet and not INTO the toilet.  You don’t get to flush it with your other waste, it just sits there in the bin.  Then, the next day the person who comes in to do whatever in the room empties the bin.  This took me a while to get used to, and I still dont like it.  I think I would rather have the bidet.

During our explation of Beijing, we hit up the area of town where the 2008 Summer Olympics were.  I was quite excited to check out the ‘Water Cube’, as I feel its quite the engineering feat, and I imagine that some of this technology will be later used in other biospheres.  Its quite efficient with its power in many different ways, plus it just looks cool.   This is where they had the diving and different swimming events.

The Water Cube.

 They still have the pool that was used for the Olympic races, and a warm up pool as well, however they converted a good chunk of the inside into an enormous water park.  It puts the one at Silver Mountain to shame.  When we walked by the windows inside, there was some Chinese Pop star person singing on a platform in the middle of the park, and people just chilling in the pool surrounding her listening.  It had several slides, and a very large kids area.  They really managed to keep the building self sustaining.

Jane in front of the Olympic pool.

As Jane also posted, we hit up Tienamin square and the forbidden city.  The square was kind of ruined for me by all the different tourist trap people trying to get money out of the tourists.  There were guides looking to be hired, there were various vendors trying to fight for your attention, all around it made it hard to focus on sight seeing an more on getting to the ticket booth for the Forbidden City.

My Artsy shot of the entrance to Tienamin Square.

I don’t have much to add about the Forbidden City, besides it was very large, had old buildings and a ton of thrones for the Emporer an Empress to sit.  I actually had a better time exploring the park behind it than the city itself.  Perhaps if we had ponied up and got one of the tour guides instead of the automatic audio one I would have learned more.  I just wasn’t into it all that much.

The Summer Palace area was really a neat area to visit.  That is, its a nice place to explore once you actually get there.  You can supposedly get there by getting on the 808 Bus and riding it to its end.  The bus systems seem very active here, and one will swing by eery 15 – 20 minutes to pick up waiting passengers.  Once on the bus, you stand or sit if there are spots.  Don’t distract the driver with attempting to pay, you pay at the lady in the middle of the bus who acts as cashier, and the mobile PA system for the bus on external speakers.  She will yell things at people in the way, and do other important work such as that.  This is especially odd when you are standing on the side of the road and you hear an amplified Chinese woman cursing at people crossing the street near the bus.  We tried riding the bus to the Summer Palace, but it didnt work out too well for us.  No one told us that you had to get on the bus going in the right direction…  so we got on the bus, and rode it until the end of the line.  Of course, no one speaks English on the bus, so there Jane and I were, talking to one another with no one else on the bus, and the lady in the middle yelling at us in Chinese to get off the bus…. except we thought she was just yelling at people in the way of the bus again.  We figured it out after her yelling at us 4-5 times.  There we were, at the opposite end of the line, and no transporation.  We eventually took the subway, which made it really easy.

Eric and Jane at the Summer Palace.

The city has quite an impressive layer of smog about it.  Apparently, when it gets cold, everyone and their neighbor light coal and wood fires to stay thawed.  This creates a large amount of haze to go with the naturally occurring fog this time of year.  One sweet biproduct of the two of these are, thick layers of fog for neat looking pictures.  Here are some from the Summer Palace.

A light layer of smog makes for a cool effect at the Summer Palace.

Wicked smog makes for a nice photo.

Traffic in Beijing is insane.  The rule of thumb seems to be, if you need to get somewhere go.  Just because there is a walk signal, does not mean that you will make it across the street alive.  Just because there is a sidewalk, it doesn’t mean a car/moped/bike won’t be on it.  I don’t think I could drive here an stay sane.

This is getting a bit long, so I will stop with the spew until next time after this last thing…

We toboganned down the mountain from the Great Wall.

That is all.