So, I have safely arrived in Beijing and I have quickly learned many things. Here’s a quick update on what I’ve been up to for the last two days. I arrived before the program started so I got the chance to take my time getting to know the city and the people. The first thing I did when I got to my dorm room, was to buy lots and lots of water. Tap water in Beijing is not safe to drink unless it is boiled. I got these things at C楼, which is the student resources building on campus. It’s similar to StudentExchange at Sadler. You can buy groceries, toilet paper, clothes, and shoes. I took my time walking through the store, realizing that even the labels for goods were in Chinese. I even bought a bike for a mere 150 kuai- it is rusty and I fear that at every sharp turn the steering wheel might fall apart.
After my shopping spree at C楼, I decided to hit up Wodaokou. The hip and hottest things in Beijing are here. This district is known for being close to Beijing University and Tsinghua University and its high number of foreign students who meander through the streets in search of pubs and clubs. There is a huge shopping mall called the U-Center, unsurprisingly named because of its shape. While I was there, I tested my taste buds with a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant, which I fell in love with almost immediately. It had myriad of vegetarian options and the lady that runs it is understanding of my broken Chinese.
My friend and I decided to take the subway to the Silk Market, another large shopping center in Chaoyang district. A side comment on transportation: in Beijing you can buy a subway ticket for 2kuai to anywhere on the circuit. These tickets are plastic cards which you have to return to the machine before you leave the subway. I personally, found this method to be very efficient in saving paper. But the subway is crowded- even if the AC is on, the body heat emitting from the person next to you is enough to make you feel like you are standing in a desert. Back to the silk market. If you love to bargain and play the game of tug of war with prices, the silk market is the place for you.
Most of the goods do not have a price on it allowing you to bargain. Many of the shopkeepers seek out foreigners because we don’t know the worth of the goods there- total tourist trap. The silk market is also the place to find counterfeit designer bags, dresses, and shoes.
I came back from the trip, exhausted and feeling like my feet were going to fall off. Long day walking around the city also had covered me in grime and pollution. At the dorms, there are set times for when the hot water is available. The toilets are squat toilets- a little different from what one would see in America. As I was travelling the city, I kept saying to myself, “This reminds me so much of India.” And it is true. There were many aspects of Beijing that reminded me of the cities in India. The traffic, the pollution, the toilets. Maybe these observations will help in with my research of the two countries.
Till next time!