For those of you who read my posts frequently, you'll recall the last time I was in Beijing I was scammed by one of the biggest scams to Westerns -- Tea Scams. Admittedly it left a slight bitter taste in my mouth but I knew it was not representative of the city as a whole.
On Monday morning I head over with a +1 for Monday and Tuesday. Monday we arrive and intend to visit the Great Wall but when we go to purchase the tickets for the train there, we discover they're sold out, with a 2 hour wait and at least an hour of travel. Given it was already 11am, this would mean arriving, at the earliest, by 2pm.
Instead we head over to the Beijing Zoo which was close by. Typically I don't go to zoos, I've been to a couple in Canada, literally like 2-4 in my entire life. Thankfully it was close, entrance fare was reasonable, and there were a decent number of animals and animal types to investigate.
Over the past two years I've been much more spiritual, environmentally aware and a bigger believer in animal rights. As we toured through the zoo, it became apparent these animals didn't have many.
It dawned on me how frustrated it would be if kept in an environment similar to theirs. Some such as alligators had these reasonable sized spaces (other alligators/crocodiles didn't), but many had little and dirty water, plants were dead or nearly and were often alone. Other animals were in similar conditions.
If I had to be an animal in such conditions I'd choose to be Dori (Finding Nemo), because I'd constantly forget how spiritually draining my situation is -- just keep swimming (even if it is back and forth in the same 3' x 2' x 1.5' box).
What was worse were the bigger animals. There were zebras, giraffes, tigers, gorillas and bison all in small spaces for animals their size. The worst were deer/antelope/zebras and similar type animals. In a small area, often with no grass, covers or water available. If there was water it was dirty, their shit and piss was not cleaned up, and they just layer there motionless. Seeing other African animals such as tigers and gorillas had bigger areas with vegetation but no water access. Imagine being a 1000lb beast of wild killing fury and at best you're fed some antibiotic stuffed chicken which is already dead! I mean, let the damn thing slaughter something. Even if it is entertaining for the onlookers throwing carrots and frisking for a photo; at least you could kill something!
After the zoo, which had us both oddly exhausted, we contemplated a nice massage but there wasn't anything reasonably priced options nearby the hotel so we head back for an afternoon nap instead.
Having a short nap usually does provide me a decent amount of energy, and up until my move, I didn't take them. Now, I do regularly, at least twice a week. I'm not sure if it's the sun/heat or what but they help a lot. This time however, it didn't, I still felt tired.
Once I'd cleared my grogginess, we left for a nice meal nearby Tiananmen Square, consisting of braised (I think) duck, soup, a delicious veggies salad and this one other thing I can't remember. The duck was fantastic! You take this little piece of dough (like a small flimsy taco shell), take a piece of duck, dip it in this really thick sauce, spread the sauce on the dough and repeat 4-6 times. Up next is the long thin slices of cucumber, some uncooked bean sprouts and (my personal favourite part) add a fresh mint leaf before rolling it up!!!
Wow, I was actually blown away by how good it was! The combination of flavours was so vibrant. The sweet duck, the sauce, slight crunch of the sprouts, the wet cucumber and the mint all culminated into a pallet orgasm!
Once we stuffed ourselves, and I topped mine off with a great local Beijing beer, we left for a food street behind the restaurant. As we wandered, a Peugeot store came into view, and I saw an epic Peugeot Onyx! What a fantastic car! I was also interested in the Peugeot scooter... That is, until I observed it wasn't electric.
A few blocks more and we were at Tiananmen Square. We took a few photos then went back to the hotel to call it a night. We planned to visit the Great Wall the next morning given the cancellation and wanted to be there early, so I set an alarm for six.
We get up, go to the train station and discover the tickets are again sold out! This time we take the subway to a different station so we can jump on a bus.
Upon arrival, there was a decent sized line up which had me contemplating paying a desperate taxi driver to drive us there. But to my wrongful assumption, the line moved quickly and within 15 minutes we were on the bus. Not bad.
During the line, there were a few people selling various things such as small hats which has a slot cut in the visor for a tiny fan powered by an solar panel the size of your pinky finger.
Once we arrive at the hill, we get some tickets and head up a roller coaster like car to the tower we started at. I was told this was the way up but at $20 up (and down supposedly), with only a few people there I was curious as to the authenticity of this claim. Alas, we take these cars up (think roller coaster but single person pods), and see the view -- which was beautiful but covered in pollution.
Scanning the area, I decided we should head in the direction away from where the most concentrated areas were. There appeared to be a fairly long descent then a few more towers I wanted to reach. The path of the Great Wall visible below was the distance I covered.
The person I was with was slightly hesitant but agreed to try. It became clear to me the level of energy needed to keep up with my pace was not available and small breaks were required quite frequently. About 60% of the way to my initial destination, I was told to proceed by myself and they would wait for my return. Fair enough, I don't need to be told twice, nor do I hesitate when given this option.
It also impressed upon me just how much I like doing these kinds of things myself so I can set my own pace and not hold anyone back or make anyone feel as if they are holding me back.
I proceed with my climb and reached my predetermined destination along the wall. As nice as it is to travel on these trips with someone, I also find value exploring on my own. I'm very directionally confident, have no problem approaching others for help or directions and if things really came down to the wire, I could keep myself safe and navigate to where I needed by creative means.
Once we left the Great Wall, we started the journey back to Tianjin. This involved a 70 minute bus ride, about half an hour on the subway, and another half hour on the high speed train (at 294km/h) then a taxi to my apartment.
It was nice to be back in Tianjin, you know the transition has been successful when you want to be home, in bed and have that comfort feeling of being back in 'your city'!
Although I don't enjoy the vibe of Beijing as much as Tianjin, Toronto or Vancouver, I still want to give the city a few more chances. This is largely due to the many districts the city has and some cool photos I've seen posted on IG showcasing some awesome buildings. For right now, I wouldn't be rushing to see the city again but am open to my mind being changed. The lack of large clean bodies of water nearby is something I will not get over.