At around 4:30 PM, my friends and coworkers Allison and Jeremy showed up at the hostel- we thought Bernie and Char would be arriving the same day but their train came around 6 AM the next morning.
Allison and Jer had spent the last few days in Hong Kong, so needless to say, Beijing was a literal shock to the system. They were wearing tee shirts all week and suddenly were thrown into the sub-zero temperatures of Northern China (which, even coming from chilly Korea, was a shock to the system for me). We decided to rest for a bit and then head out into the cold night to find a place for dinner and have a look around Wangfujing. We met up about an hour later and I led them to the eating street and market area where we found a nice little restaurant (or, rather, the restaurant found us as the owner practically dragged us in by the elbows) where we were seated with a family of three we assumed were from Beijing. As we struggled to order, the mother asked us, in perfect English, if we could use some help. Um... yes. It turned out that the mother and her two daughters were visiting from Hong Kong and all three spoke English and Mandarin on top of their native Cantonese. They ordered us some dumplings, soup and fried rice and we thoroughly enjoyed our meals.
In Chinese cuisine they tend to be very liberal with the spices and seasoning- this is not so in Korea. Usually it is left up to the one eating to season their food, so soy sauce or dipping sauce or salt is often provided with your meal. It was nice, however, not to have to dip my dumplings in slippery soy sauce before eating. Having said this, my love affair ended with Chinese food after about day two, when I started missing Korean food again. It's so oily!
After dinner we tried our hand at haggling in the market. Chinese vendors start their prices ridiculously high and you are expected to go extremely low in retaliation, often though, your price is more accurate to the actual value of what you are buying so you need to stick with your gut and try not to go above the bare minimum. This is, coming from a polite, non haggling country, more difficult than it sounds and I was pretty bad at first. After awhile, though, I got sick of the vendors bugging me and got a little more aggressive with it. Jeremy was a natural and helped me with some of my initial purchases.
When we were tired of spending money, we decided to take a different route back to the hostel where we found the massive street food market about a block from what I initially thought (mistakenly, and to my disappointment) was the eating street. No way. THIS was the eating street. Vendors were shouting all kinds of obsceneties at us, trying to make us buy their scorpion kebabs or sheep testicles.
"Hey! Pretty lady! You like penis?" was a common jeer. They also weren't afraid to make thrusting motions to make sure we understood.
There were all kinds of delicacies on the menus- some appetizing to a Western palate, like the delicious rose flavoured tea with a piece of dry ice added to make it all smoky and bubbly; and some not so appetizing to a Western palate, like the sea snake kebabs. Or the penis kebabs (surprisingly small). Or the seahorse kebabs. I could go on.
This was, by far, my favourite place in all of Wangfujing. You cannot go to Beijing and miss out on the experience. It was hilarious and extremely cool.
After, when we could no longer feel our legs, we decided to head back to the hostel. Only instead we got lost in a hutong. It maybe wasn't the warmest adventure, but I still had fun with it. You could look into people's houses and see a real live Beijing community. People were out walking their dogs, restaurants with grills outside provided some interesting aromas, people were out drinking and walking with their families. It was pretty cool. We eventually found our way back to the hostel and got a good night's sleep before tackling the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Pearl and Silk Markets the next day.
Sleepin' on the job. Wangfujing market area.