So I am blogging from the rooftop bar at my hotel in Beijing. Im not going lie, it is amazing, and I will be forever thankful that I’ve been able to be here. Today, I am the only one up here, yesterday, it was packed. There is a bar tender, who’s speed of service is slower than molasses, but he doesn’t seem to mind that I sit up here and plan the rest of my adventure and blog, and eat my emperor’s fine sandwich and fries. Should I be eating local food? Probably, but I am hungry and this sounded good. Its some sort of club sandwich meets BLT, which means I can make a chicken sandwich and a ham and cheese sandwich. Plus, I had local food for lunch, which was actually pretty similar to western Chinese food, but more about that later. Back to this fabulous bar….really the fabulous hotel and bar.
I found the hotel by reading about the bar on this site http://www.time.com/time/travel/cityguide/article/0,31489,1850076_1850078_1849769,00.html. Once I realized it was pretty much in the middle of everything I wanted to see, I decided to stay here if it wasn’t too expensive. Luckily it wasn’t….well, the exchange rate has shifted a bit, so not as cheap as it once was. But, it is amazing. I have a bunch of photos…will post once I can get back on facebook. If you read the article, it says to come up here during sunset and that there are infamous rice alcohol mixed drinks. It’s true. The view is pretty freaking amazing, and there is an entire menu of signature mixed drinks. I’ve made it my mission to try all of them before I leave – unless I KNOW there’s something in it I don’t like.
The hotel its self is really cool – ultra modern plopped in the middle of Chinese history. Tiananmen square and the Forbidden City are moments away…it didn’t take long to get there on today’s bike tour, but more about that later. The rooms are named after emperors and empresses, rather than having actual room numbers. I am staying in Wu Ze Tian….an empress of some sort. I don’t know much about her, but there is a book in my room about all of them, so I plan to check that out later. There is wireless – first hotel I’ve stayed in to have it, so I can check my email and receive whatsapp messages on my phone without getting nasty texts from AT&T. And the room, well, it looks like something out of the Jetsons. Again, I have pictures and will post once I can access facebook. But, it’s got green couches meet tables meet the bed…and the bathroom is a capsule thing behind it all. It also has the weird card thing that Sanya and my previous Beijing hotel had, but I’m beginning to realize that’s common place. My only complaint is that the doors are really thin, and my room is next to the maids closet, so it gets loud really early.
So, today…I had scheduled a bike tour. And I think maybe I was spoiled by Tokyo. Anyone reading this…if you are in Tokyo, or are going to Tokyo, do the bike tour. It is amazing. It’s a small company, off the beaten path, and the two guides are fantastic. It’s also a group tour, which adds to the fun. This one was an individual tour – I couldn’t find a group one. But, whatever, the idea of riding a bike all over Beijing was just as appealing as riding all over Tokyo. And, the guide was picking me up at the hotel, so I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. But, it was so different….
It started out fine, we rode to the forbidden city and he took a couple of pictures so I could prove I was there. Then we rode over to Tiananmen Square, but he had no qualms about letting me almost get hit by a bus….and yelled at by a bunch of people waiting to get on the bus. Good times especially with the heavy bike. So we looked at the square, but didn’t really stop there, or at the forbidden city. He asked me if lunch at 11 was fine, and I was like sure (it was about 10). Then we stopped and he said he was going to get water. And came back with green tea….yes, cause that’s exactly what I want while cycling in the 90 degree heat. But, it wasn’t that hot, and I was doing ok, so whatever. We rode around some more, and then went to lunch…it couldn’t have been more than 10:30…ok, I guess that’s fine. I didn’t really have breakfast, so I guess this works. I had several plates of food placed in front of me…traditional Chinese meets US Chinese, I guess. It was ok…some sort of chicken dish, fried rice, random veggie thing, soup, all ordered for me…and then whatever potato and meat dishes he ordered. He had me try the potato thing before he would tell me what it was – after I ate it, he was like, its potato…I was like, really? All that drama over potato? They asked me what I wanted to drink, and I said water, so I got a glass as big as my hand sideways. Cause that’s like, one gulp…I asked for more, and they were like, well, that’s 5 yuan. Which is probably less than a dollar, but really, had I taken them up on their offer for beer, it would have been more, and definitely a bigger glass. So we’re eating lunch, and out comes the bottle of 90 proof alcohol from his bag….really??
After lunch, he took me back to the hotel, and went to return the bikes. Later I would find out he rented them from a shop around the corner….what kind of bike tour company doesn’t have bikes….
We met again a little after noon and a driver took us to the summer palace. On the way there, the guide was all like, I would like to show you around tomorrow for free….yeah….ummm….I have plans tomorrow. I have to meet someone for a school project. Really, its not until Wednesday, but what does he know…so we go to the palace, and it was actually pretty cool to see – other than the 90 proof alcohol made another appearance. Lots of photos….we took a boat to one of the islands, and then walked to meet the driver. I started thinking, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all….
Then we went to a tea tasting, which was actually pretty cool, despite the obvious tourist trap. It was interesting to learn about some of the different teas, and what they do…and what the figurines we bought at the great wall are actually meant to do.
After the tea tasting came the foot massage, I was really looking forward to a few minutes without the guide talking at me….or anyone talking at me. It sounded like heaven. Unfortunately, we arrive at this place that looks normal at first, but then goes downhill from there. Once you pass the entryway, its like a hospital. Kid you not, they show me to a room called ‘Surgical Prep’. There were a couple of pretend comfy chairs, but everything else, including the décor made it look like a doctor’s office. And then one came in…and hes talking to me like a doctor…and im wondering where I am and what alternate universe ive stepped into. More importantly ,im wondering when hes going to go away. So he’s telling me about the facility and how its bilingual and who knows what else…I really don’t care. And he’s like we do preventative stuff…do you want your pulse checked? And im like, NO…..and hes like, yeah, you look like an athlete…ewwww…..before he left, he was like, make sure you tip the girl 20-30 RMB….this was the second time this was brought up….and tipping isn’t customary here…..tourist trap much? And really what do they do? Take us all to the sketchy hospital and hope they can get someone to buy into long term care? Everyone coming off the elevator was western, so seems like a faulty business plan to me.
After that, we end up at this Kung Fu thing….another tourist trap it seems. He kept asking me all day if I knew anything about kung fu or did it or anything like that, and I was like, no. And in the back of my mind thinking, I don’t want to go to Kung Fu. I know I didn’t sign up for that. I thought maybe I was out if once we were done with the foot massage since it was already 4, and the email I had said I’d be back at the hotel at 4:30. No such luck…and to make it more fun, he was like, well, it doesn’t start until 5:30, so we can hang out here. Ummmm….no. That means I get back to the hotel really late…and I have dinner plans at 6. And I am not hanging out with you for an hour and a half. So he’s like, we’ll you paid for Kung Fu…and im like, im pretty sure I didn’t….please just take me to the hotel. So he calls the office….and they confirm, that no, in fact, I did not pay for Kung Fu. So we go back to the hotel. On the way hes like, my friend has an office near your hotel…maybe we can go for a walk after your dinner plans. Ummm…yeah, we’re going out….sorry, its not going to happen. Adios…good bye, nice knowing you….
Ugh…my skin was crawling for quite some time. But, nothing some time at the rooftop bar cant solve.
Tomorrow, hopefully a run to the temple of heaven, duck for lunch, and hutongs.
Until next time….