3Nations: Silk Road

Friday 17th July 2009
Wakey wakey rise and shine, its 7:30am and it doesn't matter if you have jet lag you've got to get up... you've got a country to explore!

Breakfast, I'll admit, was a bit of a culture shock. Yes, everyone who travels abroad expects the food, especially the breakfasts, to be a tad different. And you usually expect your international breakfast at a hotel will contain certain staple elements; toast and cereal and the like. What we weren't expecting was stuff like: corn on the cob, dumplings, watermelon, steamed celery, egg fried rice and beef in black bean sauce with onions and green peppers. Not that these things are bad! I think most of us have had these as cold left overs in the morning when hungover, but having it hot and freshly cooked just seamed somehow... weird.

It was during this more-Chinese-than-we-had-expected breakfast that we were told that there was a slight change in plans due to the weather. Given that it was supposed to rain we were going to go to swap the Silk Road and general tourist days. So this afternoon we would be heading out to the Silk Road market, but the morning we would have free to explorer/settle in.

Please note: our plans were changed because of the rain, but being from Britain we're used to rain! We're weren't going to let a little bit of precipitation to stop us exploring Beijing...

ok... maybe we should of! Who would have known that waterproofs don't like acid rain...

In fact, none of our waterproofs worked, and this on day 2 in China. It no real surprise that there was so many locals either laughing at the wet white people or trying to sell us umbrellas. So it was with failed waterproofs and a rather soggy outlook we retreated back to the hotel to try and dry off before the afternoon.

It was back at the hotel, sitting in the foyer to be exact, that we were introduced to the wonders that is the doobb. It's a cartoon in China, about beansprouts that fall in love.

Look, we can be Doobb too...
The most worrying thing about this photo is that it's not the only one with us in this pose!

After getting suitably dried and amused by Chinese cartoons we set of by coach to the Silk Road market. This was to prove to be full of surprises; first off... its not a road! It's actually a huge 6 storey building.

Before being ushered in by our tour guides we were warned that the sellers would be pushy and that we should barter for everything, never accept the first price. We'll I doubt I have been more complimented in my life, ever... or ever will be again. Mind you, them asking me if I wanted to buy stuff for my wife was a tad off putting!

'Pushy' is what Seriena our guide said... 'pushy'... I would have loved pushy. The Chinese stall holders would actually reach out and grab our arm to try to direct you into their stall; which is not too bad until you take into account that there are about 1000 stalls in this building, each vying for and literally grabbing your attention.

But once you got used to it, it started to become fun bartering with the stall holders and working on a price for something.
It really was a little treasure trove of wonders

Pretty much, if you wanted it then you could find it in this building. I personally got offered everything from designer watches, to suit cases, bags, and even Cashmere and Armani. There were several guys that got suits, made to measure... some of the girls got dresses made too.

Dinner was something rather special, as we were treated to a Chinese Hot Pot. Take any illusions of a dish with meat and potatoes right out of your head.
To start with, this is how your place setting was.

The bowl was kept with a literal 'hot pot' of boiling stock. That is because the food was served in the middle of the table like this:
yup... that is waffer thin RAW meat people!

We were to pick it up with the chop sticks, bung it raw into our pot of boiling stock, wait about 30seconds, fish it out and enjoy! (you can actually see my claw like hand doing just that in the photo above) 

 This also awaited us... no, I am assured that it is NOT poo. It is actually satay sauce

... or so I am led to believe!

Note: I've actually ran a meal like this for COLDnet for their Chinese night. Everyone had eaten Chinese food before, but no one had even heard of a Chinese Hot Pot before. I would highly recommend this as an activity!

Things I have learned today:
  • The Doobb are fantastic
  • The Chinese don't do breakfast like we do, in any way shape or form
  • "Waa Eye Knee" is Chinese for "I love you"
  • Scary begger boys only know one phrase in english... "F**k you"
  • Starbucks are everywhere, and they are all the same
  • In the battle between acid rain and waterproofs, the acid rain is going to win... every time
  • Calculators are a God send when bartering
  • Colgate makes fruit flavoured toothpaste (including watermelon)
  • There is such a thing as pineapple flavoured milk... and it comes in a bag!

 Again, thank you for those that helped by donating photos


Anonymous said...

Nice one Stew - good reading!