Mar 28, 2008

Some local activity in Xian

Here's some local scenes from Xian when I took my sister there to see the Terracotta Warriors. I like the street activity in Xian, especially the Muslim area.

A local knife sharpener:

The Great Mosque was very lively on Friday around 1 PM. I'm surprised they actually let us in to look around during that time. It's the main prayer time of the week.

Saw these two folks near the Large Wild Goose Pagoda. They reminded me of American Gothic so I had to sneak a photo of my own. They stood there pretty much in the same pose for about five minutes.

These are some local Muslim sweets made from green bean flour.

Mar 24, 2008

Great Wall hiking

Going to the reconstructed and touristy parts of the Great Wall is something I don't really like to do, but it's always a lot of fun to hike in a section of the wall I've not been to before. When my sister visited recently we did the hike from Jinshanling to Simatai.

There's a bus that goes from Beijing to Chengde, and you can have the driver dump you off at the entrace of Jinshanling. It's a real countryside place, but luckily a found a driver from Haidian district in Beijing where I live who drove us the two clicks to the park entrace, and then picked us up at the Simatai side, a three hour hike away. A couple Italian backpackers already had booked his van so the two of us were an added bonus for him to take back. The driver told me the price the Italians paid him. It turns out they're not the skilled bargainers that I had thought.

The hike is really scenic and a little challenging in places, and I think it took about two and a half hours total to do it. Here's a couple photos that I like:

Mar 23, 2008

An authentic Beijing snack

I had some time to kill nearby the north gate of Temple of Heaven park, when I saw a restaurant with a Beijing specialty snack, mung bean milk or douzhi (豆汁). The description from this page explains:
It is actually remnant of mung bean when it is used to make starch. It looks grey-green and tastes sour and a little sweet. When served, it must go with pickles, which are thinly cut and sprayed with cayenne pepper oil. It will taste better, especially for those who try it for the first time. Most people will find it hard to swallow because of its flavor, but if you could manage to try for the second time, maybe you will like it.
From what my local friends tell me, douzhi is more appreciated by senior citizens. From what I saw in the douzhi shop I was in, old Chinese men were the primary target audience. It wasn't that bad to drink, but I wouldn't go looking for it on a regular basis. I think I drank about 75% of what was in the bowl, and I was pretty full and wasted the rest. At about two kuai for all the delicious food and the bowl of liquid in my photo, it's not a bad deal.

Dolls for the kids

Saw these at Grifted store in Nanluoguxiang in Beijing. A while back I posted one of their unique Christmas cards. Looks like from left to right we've got Castro, Che Guevara, Lenin, and Marx. I can just picture someone buying these for their kid and them getting dragged all around. Hilarious!

Mar 22, 2008

China Water Polo Open

I went to see a few men's and women's matches of the The "Good Luck Beijing" 2008 Water Polo China Open at Ying Tung Natatorium. It's a dry run for the real Olympic event. Overall they seemed to do a pretty good job. Security was professional, and everything was running on time.

Signs directing people to the event. I imagine they'll have similar signs during the actual Olympics.

The Australian Olympic team against the Shanghai club team.

When you're playing water polo at a professional level, they've got a neat little buoy to hold the ball in place. After the initial sprint is underway, it gets pulled under water, leaving the ball exactly in the middle of the pool.

Mar 19, 2008

McDonald's cup

As I was sitting in McDonald's eating my hamburger and fries and drinking my Coke, I got some amusement from reading the Olympic-themed paper cup that my beverage was served in.

I first saw this portion pictured below, which shows an Olympic road bicyclist. "This is appropriate. Road biking is a tough endurance sport", I thought to myself. You can tell from the photo that that person is a real athlete and not just some weekend warrior.

Then I rotated my cup a little, and saw the next event pictured, fencing. "A classic Olympic event", I thought. I rotated the cup another time, and saw...

...badminton. I did some research, and sure enough, badminton is indeed an Olympic event as of Barcelona. Very intriguing. I wonder why badminton made the cut, but the other backyard games didn't. Where's the bocce event, the horseshoes event, the lawn darts event?

Look at this guy's professional racquet, shirt, and shorty-shorts! Maybe this isn't the kind of badminton that we had so much fun playing in the backyard.

As a parting note, I'll admit that I have played real badminton in a gym before while in China, and I can say that I completely got my butt kicked.

I will say that I think the reason I lost is because my shorts weren't short enough, or possibly because my grip on the badminton racquet wasn't quite dainty enough.

Mar 15, 2008

Car sticker

Here's a sticker I came across on the back side window of an SUV parked in Beijing recently:

The two crossed out characters say "Japanese goods", and around the top it says "Boycotting Japanese goods is the sacred duty of every Chinese citizen".