Sunday was set aside for a full day of relaxation……we needed it. Bill had not felt 100% since Friday afternoon and my feet and knees hurt, so we thought it wise to take it easy for the day. Our major activity of the day was walking to a department store 6 blocks away from our hotel. I was curious what a Chinese big city department store would be like.
Turns out that their department stores are very similar to our department stores, even sell a few of the same brands like Adidas, Converse and New Balance. They even had a section devoted to Tupperware, and I have never seen a brand name Tupperware section of any store. But most of the brands of all categories of items were unfamiliar to us. Everything in the department store was expensively priced. A simple man's polo type shirt of unknown manufacturer was roughly $100 USD. Quite obviously, the local population does not shop in department stores as everything was well out of the average citizen's price range. One thing struck me as somewhat odd for communist China…..they had a large section of one floor devoted to Playboy brand clothing. Maybe things have changed in the States since we left 4 years ago, but Playboy brand clothing was not sold in regular department stores back then. Just seems like an odd brand for a communist country to be selling.
The other thing that was unusual was that in the shoe section there were many young women wearing yellow shirts who were yelling at customers. They were all yelling at the same time, and yelling very loudly.. They were attempting to bring customers to see the shoes in different sections of the very large shoe department on the first floor. Maybe this is just a Chinese culture thing, but it was very annoying to me. This yelling did not make me want to shop for shoes. Instead, it made me want to get away from the shoe section of that store.
On our walk to the department store we saw many more motorcycles with gloves permanently affixed to the handles. This is a common practice in both Shanghai and in Beijing. Why bother to put gloves on and off and then have to deal with putting them somewhere or carrying them, when you can just put the gloves onto the handlebars and leave them there. I probably would never have thought to do this, but it makes perfect sense.
Here are a few random thoughts about Beijing or China in general:
The Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms. Nine is one of the special numbers important to Chinese and was the number reserved strictly for the emperor. Having 9,999 rooms meant the emperor should have the best luck or best fortune.
The young women and teenage girls in both Beijing and Shanghai wear the funkiest clothes. One very popular mode of dress is to wear leggings or black pantyhose beneath shorts, usually accompanied by high heels. Paired with all kinds of combinations of tops, vests, jackets or multiple tops or multiple shirts. They do know how to put together an unusual style.
The first electric light bulb in China was placed in the Empress Dowager's living chambers in the Summer Palace. The light bulb was purchased from a German business. That light bulb is still in the Empress Dowager's chambers in the Summer Palace and is in a lantern fixture with flowers painted on the glass. I assume both the light bulb and the fixture were purchased from the Germans, but neither the guides nor the guide books mention the fixture itself. The light fixture in hanging from the ceiling just inside the doorway on the left side in this photo.
Electric bicycles and electric motorbikes are everywhere in Beijing. We also saw a lot of these in Shanghai, but many more are in Beijing. The bicycle rickshaws we rode between the subway station and the Summer Palace yesterday were both electric bicycles. The rickshaw we rode in the Hutong was a regular old-fashioned pedal bicycle. There are only 48 automobiles per 1,000 population in Beijing. You see many, many more old-fashioned and electric bicycles in Beijing. And, quite frankly, this city of 30 million does not need more private cars on the streets. The traffic is heavy enough already. The public transport system is excellent in both Shanghai and Beijing.
You see these electric bicycles everywhere parked on the sidewalks, often with the battery plugged into an electrical outlet in a nearby shop for recharging. Electricity must be inexpensive in China; maybe they use nuclear power plants. Here in Beijing we have seen many bicycles wrapped with tape. We call these tapecicyles. Click on the photo for larger view for full effect.
Visitors must remember which country they are in when crossing a street!!! Pedestrians have no rights whatsoever in China. Forget those 'Walk' and 'Don't Walk' signs and the marked pedestrian crossings --- they don't mean a thing in China. In Vietnam one walks across the street without regard to the traffic; just maintain a constant pace and the traffic works its way around pedestrians. We never saw a pedestrian/vehicle accident anywhere in Vietnam. In Cambodia, the traffic also works around pedestrians but does follow traffic lights. In Malaysia, the traffic respects pedestrians and follows traffic lights. Singapore is the most organized country on earth; if pedestrians follow the traffic lights there should be no accidents. Not true in China. As the guy we met in Shanghai pointed out, there are so many people in China that people are considered to be the least important thing on the street. A vehicle of any kind has the right-of-way at all times on all streets and pedestrians better watch out!!!
Window washers in Beijing are a different breed altogether. They think they are Spidermen. We saw a couple of window washers rappelling down the side of a high-rise building while swinging side to side as they cleaned the windows. No platforms to stand on for these guys. They were swinging free as they washed their way down the side of the very tall glass-walled exterior of the high-rise building. Gutsy guys.
There are 2 well-known foods from Beijing. One is Peking Duck, or Beijing Duck as they now call it. I have never tasted duck and won't be trying any here in Beijing either. The other well-known food is called Beijing Hot Pot. Hot Pot is served on many plates and reminds me a lot of the real traditional Pho served in Hanoi. There is a pot of boiling water on or in the center of the table. Meat, usually lamb but can also be beef, is sliced very thin and about 4-inches wide and then rolled. A large stack of these meat rolls are put on a plate and served raw. Plates of leafy green vegetables, usually 3 or 4 different kinds, are served. Also presented are plates of rice vermicelli and a plate of long sheets of very wide noodles. There might also be whole eggs in the shells and maybe squares of tofu. Using chopsticks, place into the boiling water whatever combination of the ingredients you might like. When each ingredient is cooked to the degree you wish, place several into your small eating bowl. Swirl and eat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Try eating a leafy vegetable the size of a romaine lettuce leaf with chopsticks while it is dripping liquid.
Bill really likes the local beer in both Shanghai and Beijing that is called Yanjing Beer. Our guide had told us that this is just the common beer and that there are 2 other beers that are much better. We never saw the other 2 brands he mentioned, or maybe we just did not understand what he was saying. The label on the everyday common Yanjing beer states that it is 'Super Refreshing' ..........but Bill calls it the champagne of beers. This could easily be his favorite beer encountered thus far in our world travels. If you see Yanjing brand in your local shop, try it.
Oh, and you can recognize Coca-Cola products anywhere, regardless of the language printed on the label or can. I enjoyed what I am sure was a Coke Zero when we visited the Summer Palace.