Monday, January 3, 2011

First Stop in China: Beijing

Ben and I have only been married 3 years now, so it should come as no surprise that beside roadtrips, this is the first big family vacation we've had.  Honestly, we wouldn't have even thought of doing it if we didn't live so close to China...or without Crystal and Aaron living there as well.  Anyway, it was a huge adventure and went without a hiccup...until the last few hours in Shanghai (but we'll get to that later).
I thought for my sanity and your's I'd break down my posts into the sites we saw, because we crammed a lot into a few days.

Really, our first stop was the airport, where we caught this in action.

We landed in Beijing on Friday night and took a taxi to our hotel. The first thing I learned about China is that their drivers are INSANE.  I thought Rome was crazy, but it was nothing compared to the speeding, law-ignoring chaos that was Chinese traffic.  Never in my life have I been so afraid for my life.  But we arrived intact and had a moderately decent rest on the second hardest bed I've ever encountered.  Apparently the Chinese believe that the firmer the mattress the better this is for your back.  I weep for pregnant Chinese women everywhere.

Lama Temple-Honestly, I'd never heard of this place, but it was really close to our hotel, and was recommended to us by some of Crystal and Aaron's friends.  I looked it up on wikipedia, and is it one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world.  And it was huge.  I wish I had known more about it before going, because I think that always makes things more interesting to see.
 So here are the three of us, fresh from bed, as you can tell by Ben's hair.

After the temple we had a wonderful traditional Chinese meal with the family of Crystal's Chinese tutor, Annie.  My favorite part was the duck, while Ellie was all over the red-bean paste hedgehog shaped dumplings.

And then Ellie passed out during the taxi ride back to the subway station.  It was wonderful, and a skill she continued to hone during our trip (thank heavens)!

That night we went to the Silk Street Market to do some souvenir shopping.  We let Aaron do the bargaining for us (he speaks Chinese) and picked up some great stuff for really cheap (*pashmina scarf-$5, cultured pearl necklace-$13, hanging cherry blossom painting-$30ish).  We discovered that the key for us was deciding beforehand what you would pay and walking away if you couldn't get it.  Invariably they shouted prices down the aisle as we walked away until they caved to our price.  We win!

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