Dave Sohigian

8Apr/090

Beijing Day 3

Today was not nearly as touristy as yesterday. In the morning I made my way around Beijing on my own while Robert headed to work for the morning. I took a bus from in front of Robert's place and just got off when the area looked interesting. I did a little shopping (found a couple gifts for my Son, Caleb) and then realized that the bus I had taken did not run in the other direction. Although I actually quite enjoy making my way around a new city, even when I don't know the language, I remembered that I did not even know how to describe Robert's place to a taxi driver. Normally I would have gotten a native to write down my address for use in taxis, but I was being lazy and had decided not to bother.

I went down a side-street and found a place to buy live seafood. The choices included turtle, eel and several different species of fish:

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I am not sure why, but I saw a couple reminders of Oregon while out on the town. The first was this worker wearing an Oregon shirt:

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And the second was found in a high-end bike shop, which featured several Bike Friday's (made in Eugene, OR) in their showroom:

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Given the number of cheap folding bikes you can buy in China, it was really surprising to see a US made bike. Especially at a price of over $1500 US!

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Eventually I traced the bus line back for about 1 mile until I found the line running in the other direction, so I made it home without difficulty.

Later in the afternoon we headed out to buy a new electric bike for Robert. This is his old bike:
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And this is the new one:
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Once he purchased the bike, we went for a ride around town together on the two bikes. Riding a bike (even an electric one) in Beijing is quite different than riding in the States. Cars, bikes, peds, carts, strollers, and whatever else all crowd together on the right side of the street. Horns honk, people weave and it all seems very casual. The good news is that they move rather slow and even though they can be unpredictable there is enough time to react. That said, it is not for the faint of heart and I warned Robert about trying to get my Mom up on one of the bikes when she visits: not sure if that would be wise.

We stopped by one of Robert's favorite shopping places: Top Electronics City. It's a huge mall purely for electronics. From complete computer systems to any part you can imagine, they have what seem like miles of stalls selling it all. Some example of what you can purchase there:

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On the ride back home we heard the clattering noise coming from the car lanes and turned around to see a tow truck pulling a pickup with a flat tire. The tire was disintegrating further (almost down to the bare metal) as it drove along. The thing was clattering along as it was being pulled. The hilarious thing was that they had someone in the driver's seat of the pickup being towed!

The evening was eventful as well. After a brief rest at home we headed out again by bike to catch the subway. The subway was crowded with people who move very smoothly as they transfer between trains:

Our destination was the Lao Tse Teahouse, a popular local restaurant with a variety show. The entire program is in Chinese and although there were translations for some of the acts, it was entertaining just to see the traditional chinese performance arts. The performances included shadow puppets, kung fu, comedy, Peking opera and a magic show. The highlight of the evening was when the magician picked Robert's friend, Eric, to go on stage. Eric looks like the typical American and seemed willing enough. They had him help in tying up a woman for the act, and I suspect they picked him to poke a little fun at the "LaoWai", or foreigner. They got a surprise when they asked him whether the ropes were tight (in Chinese) and he responded in Chinese (I am not sure what he said). Eric, despite his appearance, is fluent in Chinese after studying it for over 10 years. His response got a round of applause from the audience.

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Some photos of the other acts:

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A quick video of the shadow puppets:

The show was entertaining and gave a great taste of Chinese culture. Eric translated and explained several of the acts which gave it more meaning.

Here is a slideshow with all the photos I took on Day 3:

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