Alright. I've got my last pictures edited from the trip and I'm finishing my posts (2). Going over all of these pictures again makes me realize just how AMAZING my vacation was. China is SUCH a fascinating place. and full of so much. I'm usually not a do over type of girl. If I see or do something once, I check it off my list and I move on so I can add to my bucket list! But I really want to go back to China. I'd even go back to Beijing. It was beyond fun. In fact- I think I could live in China for awhile! Kent needs to see it all, too!!
There are a few things that Beijing is famous for. If you visit- you absolutely MUST do these things or your experience is not authentic. We definitely wanted an authentic experience- so we did everything in just a few short days.
#1 See the Beijing Acrobats.
This show was so insane. The entire time I was shrieking and gasping out loud. Hollering things like: "no way!!" "that was AMAZING!" "this is CRAZY!!". Half the time I wanted to look away! I loved every minute of it.
here are 8 girls riding a bike. and they started as one. It was unreal watching them climb and move and create these formations all while the bikes were riding in a circle.
these guys in the moving wheel were terrifying. the wheels turned and so did the giant contraption! I think I shrieked the loudest here!! these guys jumped outside of the rings and nearly died several times! and- of course- we weren't supposed to take pictures at all! but all of the Chinese people were, so I did, too :)
Beijing acrobats are world reknown and it's obvious why. I can't believe the things they can do with their bodies. It was like an all human circus.
the young girls were the most impressive. the body manipulation was creepy.
#2 must do in Beijing.
Visit the Hutongs.
This was by far my favorite part of the trip. We loved it so much that we came back the following day! and visited night hutongs one evening.
A hutong is traditional narrow alleyway neighborhood. There are rows and rows of super skinny streets full of small residences. Some of the Hutongs are historically preserved and more commercial now, but there are still plenty of actual residences down the narrow streets.
We got up one morning at 6 so we could go and check them out while it wasn't so crowded and we could see real life amongst them. Most of the homes/rooms down the hutongs are very small and don't have full kitchens or bathrooms. Each narrow street has a public bathroom at the end for the residents. It was fascinating.
And walking around them felt a little invasive that early in the morning. People were just waking up walking down to the bathrooms in their pajamas and headed to the corner bake shop for breakfast. I could have taken pictures there for days and days!
I was so ignorant to different Asian cultures before moving to Japan! China is SO SO SO different from Japan. In many ways they are as different as the USA is to either of them.
Everthing in China is red. Our translator, Miley, kept referring to red as 'auspicious'- which means 'conducive to success or favorable and prosperous'. China uses it as a national color and it is EVERYwhere in industry, decor, government, etc. Japanese use it mostly for their shrines and temples for more sacred purposes.
China is FULL of silk red lanterns.
they line homes and businesses and streets.
In the mornings, the hutongs were full of delivery trucks that squoze through the narrow alleyways. I took this picture as we were squished up against a brick wall standing on a little ledge allowing the truck to get through!
this little bakery we found on a corner was delicious. So tasty, in fact, that we returned the next morning early to get breakfast again! I was excited to eat street food finally since we'd held off pre race! we didn't want to end up sick before the race- but once it was over we let caution to the wind :) the breads were full of sugary and savory mixtures. Some had red bean, eggplant, meats, and all sorts of items we couldn't identify. Some were fabulous, others not so much.
the Chinese love soy milk for breakfast. Most of the trucks we saw early in the morning were delivering fresh milk to the Hutongs.
They drink the milk with these giant fry breads that are made fresh on every corner!
I found this Metta statue on one of the streets!
Here are more people gathered playing games. Parts of China reminded me so much of Russia! The older people love to gather and sit and talk and drink and play games. They were everywhere just hanging out.
they also love to eat Dim Sum in the morning (and at all meals). Dim Sum is steamed food in bite size portions- usually in little bread pouches. Those shiny metal stacked containers are full of the Dim Sum. I didn't love it. It isn't bad tasting at all- I just found that the steaming process left the bread a little soggy and flavorless.
we passed several of these large boiling pots in the Hutongs. I'm assuming it was food cooking for meals later in the day. Some sort of stew or soup full of strange animal body parts! They always had lots of intestines in them!! the smells in China are pretty intense and strange. that also reminded me of Russia! Japan has plenty smells- but usually they are good ones! It is considered very rude in Japan to be stinky- especially on the subways. And that is definitely not the case in China or Russia!
the commerical hutongs were full of shops and bigger restaurants. this one has a case of cooking ducks out front.
and a McDonalds, or course. It's amazing how comforting that giant M has become :) I know I'm ever far from recognizable food if I really need it!!
several of the older streets have buildings that are hundreds of years old and hold a lot of historical value. the street and buildings are gorgeous. If you go to Beijing, block out a morning/day to wander the hutongs.
we looked very touristy with all of our selfie sticks and matching race shirts!
Later that evening, after a LONG day of seeing Beijing- we decided to check out the 'night hutongs'. We had met a few Americans living in Beijing on the bus returning from the Great Wall and they gave us a list of fun things to do. Nightlife in the Hutongs was a must.
these are ice cream roses!
the streets are full of bars and cafes with bands playing live music.
I got to ride in front with the driver in this one. He was a riot. and let me take a selfie with him while we were driving.
we got one final ride from the nicest old man. We were trying to get a taxi ride home but they were all trying to rip us off since it was midnight and the subways had closed down. So, we found this incredibly nice old man who drove us quite a long ways home to our hotel. We ended up tipping him a large amount because I think we almost broke his little car and we laughed and giggled the entire 30 minute ride home because we barely fit inside the thing.