Monday, November 11, 2013

Beijing, China: Our first day and Jake's 29th Birthday!

We had a 3 hour flight from Taipei to Beijing.  It was really nice to land and not have to recover from a long flight or change time zones.

Speaking of time zones it was hard to keep track of time while we were gone.  While we were in Taipei the first weekend Stockholm fell back for daylight savings but Taipei didn't and friends and family in Kansas didn't fall back until the next weekend when we were in Beijing.  We also had two different currencies to figure out on our trip and we would flip flop between converting those currencies to dollars and kronor.  Traveling really forces you to do some serious mental math.

We landed in Beijing around 8:30 pm and got in line for a taxi.  They had a really long line that we had to wait in before we could get a taxi.  We waited for about 30-45 minutes and then we realized that all four of us and our luggage wouldn't fit into one taxi.  So Tim and Henrik took one taxi and Jake and I were in another one.  Thankfully Jake printed off information about our hotel to show the taxi driver but even then he didn't know where to go.  Tim stepped in and told him where to go.  I know I've already said this but I don't know what we would have done without Tim on this trip.

I have mentioned before I think that I really like taking public transportation.  It turns out I really mean that I like taking the metro.  Buses are slow and taxis are scary!  We weren't 100% sure he knew where he was going, his driving was fast and chaotic, and you couldn't use the seat belts in the back of the taxi.  I always wear my seat belt.  Thankfully Jake had a map already downloaded on his phone that we can use without being connected to the internet. Jake already put a pin on the map of where our hotel was and we used the gps on the phone to see where the taxi was.  It was very reassuring to be able to watch the map as we drove to our hotel.  I love that Jake did all of that before this trip and without me even realizing we would need it.  He may not be a planner but he did a great job with the map.

Our room
Our bed

By the time we got to the hotel and checked in it was 10:30 pm.  I was ready to go to bed but the boys wanted to go grab some food.  We took a taxi to an area of town with lots of restaurants.  We walked around there for a while before we stopped to eat and have a few drinks.  We got back to the hotel around 1:30 am.

This band sang Happy Birthday to Jake since we were here past midnight which made it his birthday.
A llama.  That's normal to have out at night right?
Grabbing some breakfast before heading out.
Wow, I look rough in this picture but you can see what we had for breakfast.  It was basically a pancake with another fried piece of bread inside.  It was good.
A busy hutong market in Beijing.  A hutong is a narrow street or alley.
I'm not a coffee drinker (it might be growing on me) and I typically don't go to Starbucks very often but if I do I usually get a kid's hot chocolate.  I saw an advertisement for a salted caramel mocha and thought I would give it a try.  It was great!  

A handmade leather goods store that mostly sold shoes but Jake bought a belt and a wallet there.

Enjoying my salted caramel mocha, but not enjoying the smog.  It was really bad all day Saturday.
Getting ready to head into the Forbidden City.  This is where Chinese emperors lived and ruled from about 1420 to 1920.

Jake had some candied apples on a stick.

We did an audio tour of the Forbidden City.  This map told us which places had something for us to listen to and it would automatically start when we were in the right place.
I look excited, maybe I should work on my facial expressions.

I wore my backpack backwards a couple times during this trip.  I did it when my back started hurting from wearing it too much or when we were in a crowded area so I didn't bump into as many people and to keep a closer eye on it.
An alley full of stands selling food.  I was very overwhelmed.  Some of the food looked pretty good but some stands had scorpions and bugs on sticks and those did not look very appetizing.

We ate lunch really late on Saturday.  We walked through this outdoor market for about 30 minutes and the boys bought some food but I wanted to wait for the food court.  I was ready to sit down and eat food that didn't come from a cart and wasn't on a stick.  We got to the food court around 3:45 and I was way past hungry and tired and walking through the outdoor market with lots of interesting smells did not help the situation.

We walked through the food court trying to decide what to eat and I froze.  I was hungry but couldn't make a decision about food to save my life at that point.  I was tired of Chinese food and I wanted to eat something, anything else.  Every lunch and dinner for the last 9 days was Chinese food, or something very similar and I needed something else.  But I felt like since we were in China I should be eating Chinese food.   On top of the food dilemma, I was done with change.  I was done trying new foods.  I was done experiencing new cultures. I was ready to go home.  But which home did I want to go to?  That's when I started having a small identity crisis.  Did I want to be back in Olathe or Wichita?  Or did I want to be back in Stockholm?  Where is home?  I expected Olathe or Wichita to be the answer but it turns out that Stockholm isn't that different from Kansas after all and being there would at least feel familiar.

We were not prepared for Taiwan or Beijing.  We barely did any research on either culture or what there was to do and see.  The culture shock was more than I was expecting and after a long week of exploring and eating new foods and then having another new city with new foods I was ready to be home.  So I decided to eat Burger King for lunch that day and for dessert I had one of the best ice cream cones ever.  I was in a much better state after lunch but for a few minutes there I wasn't sure it was going to end well.

After lunch we went to an indoor market with lots of knock off shoes, bags, clothes, etc.  It was really overwhelming and we didn't end up buying anything but it was an interesting experience.

We decided to see a Kung Fu show that evening.  It was pretty entertaining and it was nice to be off our feet for a couple of hours.

We headed back to the hotel after the show and had dinner at a restaurant right next to our hotel.
Jake's birthday dinner.

Jake on his birthday by the front desk of our hotel, the date is on the counter.
We had a busy first day in Beijing and the next day we were getting up early to see the Great Wall!

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