Monday, April 27, 2009

Walking the birds in Beijing

Most Chinese have neither the money or the room for pets such as dogs and cats. Both, in fact, are considered food. We saw dog on the menu a couple of times. Birds are the most popular pets. Men take them "walking'' in their cages. These men relaxed this morning in a park in Beijing while their birds got some fresh air.

We took a six-hour bus ride back to Beijing from Datong - during the day. No more night trains. The ride was simple to arrange. The hotel asked our taxi driver to help us buy the tickets at the station, and female "bus attendants'' in red sashes, were there to direct people to the right buses. .

The surprise came when we arrived in Beijing. The bus let everyone off near the Third Ring Road instead at a bus station. We still don't know why. But the result was that we were let off on a busy street corner in the suburbs, and we had no idea where we were.

Luckily there were taxis. I had the name of our hotel written in Chinese plus a phone number. The taxi driver called and got directions. We were miles from the hotel, and in rush hour traffic, it took us another 45 minutes. The ride cost us $10, only a few dollars less than the six-hour bus ride.

We're staying at a hotel that's around the corner from a subway station, so no hassles getting around to do a little shopping and last-minute sightseeing. Above is the Panjiayuan Market. It's like a giant flea market with all sorts of vendors selling kitschy knicknacks and antiques, some real; some fake.

Theses wooden Buddah figures show all the acupuncture pressure points. We didn't ask for the price, but anyone interested in buying anything has to be prepared to bargain hard. Tom bought a little bronze four-sided face for about $4.50. The vendor's first price was $35. Even more outrageous was the price a woman quoted me on a "real leather'' Prada bag (or if I wanted, she had a Gucci in her drawer) at the Silk Market, a huge market that specializes in designer fakes. She opened at $250 and came down to $9.

The government started an anti-spitting campaign before the Olympics. Apparently it's still going on.

1 comment:

La Modette said...

China has tried for years - decades? -- to stop spitting. I think it's as hard as stopping Parisian dogs from pooping on the sidewalks.