Thus far, my excursions around the city of Beijing have been nothing but plain old fun. I feel I have seen so much, yet haven’t even grazed the surface. A few highlights have been the Sanlitun district, Wudaokou, and the Silk Street.
Sanlitun is one of the major bar districts in Beijing. It is also an extremely “Western” area—the Apple Store is there! It‘s really interesting peering into an Apple Store and seeing nothing but Chinese characters. The bars there are lively, eclectic, and just plain fun.
Last weekend we ate at a restaurant in Sanlitun, The Blue Frog. The Blue Frog has a very American menu, which is nice to see every so often just for the nostalgic feelings. We all ordered big juicy hamburgers with cheese and bacon. It’s hard not feeding in to the craving when it’s right there in front of you. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the Chinese food even more than I ever expected. Dumpling houses are always a safe bet. This place, West Gate, perfectly situated at the West Gate of Beida, is a favorite of everyone in the program. To top it off, street food in Beijing, while maybe completely unsanitary, is by far some of the tastiest stuff that you’ll find here. After our burgers at Blue Frog, we headed to the bar street in Sanlitun where we talked, danced, and met folks from all across the globe. Below is a video of some street food in Wudaokou!
Wudaokou is the district just east of the Beida campus. With restaurants, bars, and shops aplenty, it is a hot spot for most students. There is a subway stop in Wudaokou that for 2 RMB can get you almost anywhere in the city. On a lazy day, it’s fun to grab a cab from the East Gate of Beida to the subway and practice our limited Chinese with the drivers. Most of the drivers tend to enjoy hearing us mispronounce words and tell them ten times that we are Americans.
Juan and Harry on the subway with their new guitars
Another favorite of mine is the Silk Street Market. It is located only a few blocks away from my internship at the Yonganli subway stop. The market is a building with floor after floor of vendors selling knock-off anything from iPods to North Face jackets to fancy Italian shoes for close to nothing. As you walk through the isles, it’s easy to tell that the vendors have developed a keen eye for naïve Americans. They yell as you pass, “Hello, sir. Come look here. You want shoes? Special price for you,” and “You need pants? I give you good price, just come look!” At first it’s a bit frightening, but once you get used to the screaming it’s actually an incredibly fun time. I’ve found that the most fun you can have at the Silk Market is hanging around a few vendors for about 15 minutes without any interest in their products but instead start speaking in Chinese to them. Soon, they stop prodding you to buy something and just want to talk. They may stop the conversation to yell at another passing naïve shopper, but they come back to continue the mini Chinese lesson you’ve somehow gotten into.
The deals you can bargain for at the Silk Street Market are also found at many other local shops. I went with two friends the other day on an excursion to purchase guitars. They each bought well-made and good-looking guitars for a fraction of the price they would in America. On our way back that night on the subway, we pulled ‘em out to occupy ourselves.
There is so much more to tell about this city. I will keep updating on different areas of the city! I’m sure I will see plenty. I’m also sure that I’ll be back writing about more stories from these three fabulous spots.