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    Entries in Beijing (30)


    Can you Find Good Dim Sum in Beijing?

    One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to search for new, interesting and delicious foods. As my time in Beijing was wound down, I wanted to see if I could get a couple more good meals before I came home. I had never eaten dim sum in China, so I decided to see if I could find a good restaurant in Beijing. Southern China is more famous for dim sum, but I assumed that you could find some if you knew where to look. I asked my Korean classmate Sangchul, who had been in the Beijing longer than I had, where to find some good dim sum restaurants in the city. He recommended Din Tai Feng (鼎泰). It was located on the 6th floor of the Xinguang Tiandi (新光天地) shopping center, one of the best in the city. The restaurant was a little expensive, he said, but it was worth it.

    Because she didn’t have anything better to do and because she knew she would be hungry, Roberta agreed to go to Din Tai Feng with me. We planned to meet at 7:45 at BLCU’s south gate, but by the time we got in the taxi to leave, it was closer to 8:15. We ran into a huge traffic jam, so it was after nine o’clock by the time we finally arrived at the shopping center. The taxi driver dropped us off in front, and we headed for the front door.

    Entering through tall glass doors, we slipped into one of the elevators immediately to the right, only to realize that the elevator traveled exclusively between the ground floor and the parking garages. Oops. Embarrassed at our recklessness, we hopped off the elevator one floor below and caught a return elevator back to where we started. We knew there had to be a different way to the restaurant, so we made our way into the store in front of us.

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    The Silk Street Market (Last Day, Part 2)

    The second part of my great last day took place at the Silk Street market. At one point, if you had asked me if the market was a must-see place for travelers going to Beijing, I would have told you that it’s interesting, but not that great. After visiting the market this time, I would say that it’s a great experience and you should go. I recommend spending a couple hours there, especially if you aren’t tired from walking for hours before you get there.

    The Silk Street market is a multi-story version of a street market. Inside you will find every type of Chinese souvenir that you could possibly want—fans, statuettes, key chains, t-shirts, etc. The market is also well-known among tourists as a good place to buy false luxury brand goods including clothing, electronic goods and jewelry. You can purchase tailor-made suits, custom-fit and ready to pick up within three days. You pick out the material you want, get measured and the suit will be ready in three days. Be sure to not pay more than half up front in order to make sure that the suit is ready when you come back. Express orders can be made, for a price.

     When you go to the market, be sure to bargain hard. The vendors won’t sell you anything at a loss, so don’t feel bad about walking away after offering a price that seems ridiculously low. You will be called back if they can make even a little money. The next stall has the same stuff and each vendor is under intense pressure to survive. The game can be fun, and it is easy to spend hours there if you enjoy negotiating.

    As you walk in the front door of the market, there is a large red sign that gives you a general idea of what is sold on each floor. These are useful if you know what you’re looking for. If not, it’s fun to just wander into the aisles and just get a feel for the market. You can use the elevators near the main entrance to change floors and there are also escalators in the center of the market.

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    Small-Town Beijing (Last Day, Part 1)

    Have you ever had a day that you still cannot believe happened? My last full day in Beijing was like that. After finally getting to bed at 5am the night before, I woke up at 10am with big plans for my last day. There were still a couple of things I needed to buy for my family so I decided to go to the Silk Street market, a famous place in Beijing where foreigners go to bargain for cheap knock-offs of luxury brand goods. My second goal was to get a haircut. I hadn’t been to the barber in a while, and I figured that between my mediocre language skills and the natural flair for creativity that most hairstylists have, I might end up with a haircut worth writing about.

    BLCU is in the northwestern part of Beijing, and the market is about an hour away by metro, a couple miles east of Tiananmen Square. (I always reference Tiananmen, because on a map of Beijing, Tiananmen sits at the center of the rectangular city that surrounds it). By taxi, it is about 15 miles (22km +/-) and I was too cheap to get a taxi by myself (A taxi costs about $10 US, and the train, $0.30). So I took the train.

    There were seventeen stops between me and my destination, plus two transfers, so the trip was going to take a little over an hour. I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, and there was only one stop after the second transfer, so I decided to skip the last stop and walk to the market. That way I could get something to eat and see a new neighborhood (another opportunity to wander). Including the subway ride, the walking and lunch, I expected to be at the market by 1pm.

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    Two Observations about PDX

    After a 24-hour voyage, I made it back in Portland on Friday evening. I have a few more stories about China to share with you over the next couple days, but I will also be looking for other adventures around the Pacific Northwest. More on that in the future. For now, these are my first two impressions about Portland: it has better air and is much more polite than Beijing.

    The best thing about arriving back in Portland, other than seeing friends and family, is that I can breathe easily again. You cannot see the air in Portland, and that is a wonderful thing. I enjoyed my run yesterday morning because when I took a deep breath, my lungs did not feel like they were under siege. If you breathe the air here all the time, you might not realize that Portland air has a smooth, velvety finish, similar to a fine whisky. Beijing air is more like a cheap bottle of convenience-store gut-rot. It makes you cough and sputter if you try to breathe too deeply.

    A common sight, until the rainy season. . .

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    Why Would Anyone Want to Study Chinese?

    Some of you have asked me why people come to BLCU for a one-month (or longer) intensive Chinese language study. I’ve been meaning to write about the topic for a while—sorry for the delay. Here are some of my classmates’ stories (unfortunately, I didn’t have pictures of everyone).

    The first student I want to introduce to you is Lee Dong-Deuk. Lee is a 53 year-old businessman from Seoul, South Korea. Twenty years ago, he started a business importing wall coverings into South Korea (the company’s website is here). Lee is taking a month off from the day to day operations of the company to come here and study. Lee has studied Chinese in Korea for the last two years with an online Chinese teacher. He is studying because he likes languages and also because he sees potential business opportunities in China. He knows that being able to speak Mandarin will help him build relationships and conduct negotiations with Chinese buyers and suppliers.


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    Bright Lights and Late Nights

    On Tuesday night after finals, everyone wanted to go out to celebrate, so we decided to go to Houhai district to celebrate. I’m not going to tell you all the details, but if you ever want to go out drinking and dancing, Houhai is not a bad place to do that. The area consists of dozens of small bars that line the edges of a lake. At night it is a sea of flashing lights and blaring music.

    Our group consisted of about 20 Italians, four Spaniards, one Greek (Konstantina, my one and only Greek friend), one Irish guy and one American. We ended up outside a place called Reggae Bar, and that night there happened to be a couple guitarists playing flamenco inside.  Upon hearing the music, the Spaniards set to dancing in the streets. The Italians sat down on the couches that were outside the bar’s door, not quite yet ready to dance.

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    Exporting America

    The other night, I managed to catch up with some Italian friends for the last couple songs of a night out singing karaoke. When I got there, they wanted to sing an American song so that I could sing along with them. They started scrolling through some American songs—I think they picked one by the Black-Eyed Peas—and they were surprised when I said I didn’t know it. “But how can you not know it? You’re American!” was the remark that captured the sentiment of the group. I was a little embarrassed and I pretended it was just that one song, but I doubt they believed my act. The truth is, this group of Italian twenty-somethings knew way more about recent American pop music than I did.

    KTV in Beijing

    In addition to music, I also found out that American television and movies are very popular abroad. On our long bus ride back from the Inner Mongolia trip, one of the conversation topics that came up was American television and cinema. Shows like the OC, CSI, Calfornication, Sex and the City, The Sopranos and Twilight were all well-known by my classmates. So were the Simpsons. I laughed when they said that they think of Americans as rich, beautiful people who live in on either of the coasts (of course, they also stereotype American tourists as being fat and loud). They wanted to visit California, because on television it looked like such a great place to be. I assured them that everything they see on TV is true.

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