Yesterday was a full day! Our train arrived at the station at 6 in the morning, and we high tailed it straight to McDonald’s for coffee. From the moment we arrived though you could tell the sky was beautiful- I got lovely pictures of the sunrise. After breakfast we decided to check out the Olympic venues, so we hopped on the subway and when we arrived it turned out you needed special passes to get in! We got on these buses instead with Beijing 2008 on the side, and it basically went in a loop around the venues, stopped at like the Village and outside the Stadium, etc. We didn’t get terribly close to the Water Cube or the Bird’s Nest, but close enough to take pictures- the pictures just have lots of gates and buses in them!
Then we finished off the loop (the buses were really comfortable and the weather was gorgeous-Beijing really did a fantastic job with the air pollution) then went to Yonghe Lama Temple. According to Hack it’s one of the rare temples that a. wasn’t destroyed in the Cultural Revolution and b. is from a particular sect of Buddhism that’s seldom practiced. The biggest sight was this giant Buddha carved from a single sandalwood tree- it actually had a Guinness World Record plaque outside the temple (for what record, I’m not sure, I’m assuming it’s to do with height or building material. Or both).
We took the subway back, and after three trips to Beijing I finally made it to the Silk Market. I spent a good almost hour probably at this one shop debating over jackets- one I didn’t buy, it was a nice dark green Inspector Gadget-type trenchcoat that was 200 rmb, but the one I did buy was a 240 rmb Columbia knock-off, that I’m incredibly pleased with. It’s got two layers, and the inner sweater layer even zips out and can be worn alone, among other awesome features…best 35 dollars I’ve spent in a while. I also bought a ‘silk’ skirt for 35 rmb (the lady was so upset though, she wanted 38 and I just wouldn’t give in for pride’s sake and she said, Where are you from? Are all females from where you live like you? I’ve never met anyone so stubborn/cheap from America.) then Hack and I were nearly threatened by a lady selling jerseys. We went to look at them and when we wouldn’t agree to her prices (90 a pair) we tried to walk away and she got extremely red and wouldn’t let us…I’ve never felt scared of vendors before.
After that we went back to Wang Fu Jing, where we had breakfast, and checked out a tiny little food street that had, among other things, seahorse on a stick. We ate dinner in the giant mall there, where we all made the comment that Beijing was way too Western for us, and how glad we were to be there only a day. Though, it was such a full day we felt ready to head back to Dalian, we had to be reminded there were still five more days to the trip!
We took a 9:20 pm flight to Yinchuan, where we arrived last night about 11:30. When we disembarked, I was realized buying the jacket was the smartest decision I’ve made in a while, it is Freezing here (46 F this morning)! We were picked up by contacts of Danny’s and taken to this hostel where it seems to have been transfomed from an old factory building or something, and there’s No Heat. No hot water for showers either; we asked this morning when hot water would turn on and the owner said probably not today…because their water is heated by the sun! I guess we’re lucky they even have this old laptop for public use. There is this really cute collie here though in the lobby.
We’re spending four full days here, and we’re still not quite sure what we have planned. We could go to Inner Mongolia, or the desert and ride camels and go sand sliding, or raft on the Yellow River…today’s extremely cold and it’s raining outside though, and the girls got about six hours of sleep (I got four because they moved back our pick-up time and I just decided to read books in the lobby instead of going back to sleep), so though it’s not starting off on the right foot, as Hillary said…at least we had a beautiful day in Beijing to remember if nothing else!