Tuesday, March 15, 2011

China Day 2 - Assaults A-plenty

We wake up early, around 8am. The city looks so different in the day time. We couldn’t see a bit of Beijing last night. In the day there was so much to see. We first walked to the forbidden city. On the way an art student stopped us, having overheard us speaking in English. He implores us to follow him to his art studio, and shows us his paintings. Says he is coming to NYC next week – a week at NYU for art school with his classmates. If we want, we can buy a painting to help them with a fundraiser! We book it out of there and head to the forbidden city.

The city is breath-taking. The story behind it is unreal – a city for the emperor and his officials, and no one else… except for the spare concubine. There is so much to see, you could stay all day. All characteristic Chinese architecture that I never thought I would ever see up close.

After we go through the forbidden city, we cross the giant walk way and head up to an overlook to view it from above. There are many, many stairs – but the view is worth it.

First we just look at the city – it’s unreal. We don’t realize that we can enter the building at the top, which turns out to be a temple. Inside there is a gold-plated Buddha that is so striking. I kind of want to hang out with him all day.

Heading back down we look for lunch. We choose a bigger restaurant, and the food is pretty crappy. Pancakes, tofu, and scallion dumplings. It doesn’t sit well in my stomach and I feel ill the rest of the afternoon. We head back to the hotel to add more layers before heading to Tiennaman square.

The square is just that, a large square – but again, it’s overwhelming to think about this infamous place, which is plastered with pictures of general Mao.

To cross the street to get anywhere, you have to go underground and enter back onto the street, Each of these corridors is accompanied by a homeless cripple, who is dangling their stump and crying for money. I learn to hate going down into them.

After the square we head to go shopping, which isn’t that far of a hike. We go to the tea distract, where I learn that my friend has developed quite an affliction for tea and tea related products. Shopping is filled with haggling, like many third-world countries (of which classification China is not), and the salespeople are extremely aggressive. They follow you like a shadow around the entire store, to be sure you don’t buy something without their approval. We shop and decide to take a rickshaw back. Of course, the rickshaw takes us on the exact route we just walked in order to find the rickshaw in the first place. He takes us a little further then where we originated, to an old part of town with lots of stereotypical Asian shops full of crap. I visited many of the public squat toilets, which are exactly what they sound like- holes in the ground that you have to squat over. They all have doors, but locals choose to ignore them, they just squat on over and start pooping… and they have terrible aim. The smell is like Slumdog Millionaire incarnate. Also, there is no toilet tissue whatsoever - you must carry it with you – if you don’t have any, you just shake I guess.

After another dinner in a shady-looking hole in the wall, my friend suggests massages, which are about $10 American for 1 hour. She says she gets them here all of the time and they are glorious. This sounds like a bad idea to me, but I am along for the ride. The massage is scarring and upsetting. You don’t take your clothes off, but they put my friend and I in one room, and just start assaulting us- literally. Punching, jumping, kicking. I ask them to stop, but they pretend not to speak English. The pain is unbearable. The desire to bolt out of the room and never look back is the only thing on my mind. As the little girl “masseuse” climbs onto my back and starts jumping, I know I will never fully recover from this experience. Because I can barely walk after the beating my legs and back took – we grab a Gitney (a bike with a motor with a metal contraption on the back) back to the hotel. Ingrid asks how much and he says “3.” We agree and hop in – ready to put an end to the night and forget about the terrible and scarring massage. The ride is about 5 miles an hour, barely over walking pace. We are passed by every other bicycle on the road.

We get to our hotel 5 minuets later, though it was no distance at all. When we get out, my friend hands the driver 3 Yuen. Apparently, when he said 3, he meant 30. He starts yelling, my friend yells back. He yells again and she says take it or leave it. He offers us ten for both of us to get rid of him, and Ingrid turns and walks into the hotel. I follow, more uncomfortable than I was earlier when I was being jumped on. He follows us into the elevator, yelling to be paid. She refuses, saying $3 or nothing. He is livid, yelling and throwing a fit. She tells him she knows he won’t assault us, and I’m not so sure. Finally he takes the $3 and leaves, and we ride back up to our hotel room. I am scared shitless and would have just handed over the 10 he asked for. I am afraid he will follow us back up to the room but we appeared safe enough.


2 glasses of wine and some sleep is a good way to end the first full day in China. J

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