A day on our own...
I think I am more used to the time change now, but I'm still waking up very early.
Lihao and his family have been so wonderful and helpful to us exploring China. His mother remarried and lives with her new husband but kept her old apartment, so we have the place to ourselves. Its very big and beautiful. Yesterday we went to Lihao's moms house (where she lives) and she showed us the view out her window of the big important bank buildings, then we went shopping to this crazy 7 story mall that was all little booths of funny knick knacks. Kailey bought a watch, the rest of us just looked. We went to dinner last night with Lihao's step brother, and it was a strange but amazing meal, we each had an individual boiling pan of soup on a little burner, and then they brought us meat that we could dip in the soup to cook it and then eat it. It was delicious! Afterwards we took a taxi to go check out the downtown bar scene and Alex lost his camera in the taxi. We were sure it was gone, but Lihao called the taxi service and they contacted the driver and he brought the camera back to us! It was soooo lucky that he got it back. Today he's wearing his dorky camera case on his belt so it won't fall out of his pocket again. We went to a few different bars but they were obviously tourist trap bars- 500RMB min on most of the tables, so we ended up at a smaller bar where this crazy band was playing US pop songs. A 5 year old girl sang "Umbrella" by Rihanna (Yes Adam, I took a video for you!). I got a pina colata which was very good, but halfway though the drink it occured to me that while I'd been careful not to drink the water here that I didn't know where this ice had come from! So I didn't finish it. But I didn't get sick, so I'm not too worried. We also got these spicy burrito things from the street vendors and we were ok after that too, so I'm feeling less paranoid about the food. Last night we also rented a paddle boat and paddled all over the lake. We got in quite a few collisions with other boats but nothing serious, it was a very croweded lake.
Today Lihao went to go visit his aunt, so we were on our own all day. We decided to go to the Forbidden City, thinking that a bigger tourist spot would be a good place to go. We managed to take the subway all by ourselves, the subways are amazing here- very convenient and easy to understand, and they all have AC. A lot of people stare at us though. So we went to the Forbidden City and it was beautiful! And HUGE. It took us hours to get across the whole thing. We weren't sure we were going to make it until we got to a popcicle stand about halfway that saved our lives. But we made it all the way across to the garden at the other side. After that we went to Tiananmen Square, and then took a taxi to meet Lihao and his aunt for another amazing dinner. It has suprised me how much people eat beans here- green bean popcicles, pastries with bean paste, giant cooked beans- all really delicious. We've also been eating these funny crossants with hot dogs in the middle for breakfast every day.
I have so many amazing pictures so far but I'm still unable to post them! I am writing this from Lihao's aunts computer, which does not have an SD card reader and I don't have a USB cord with me. We bought the Eee PC just for the purpose of posting pictures, but because we are staying at Lihao's moms old apartment the internet is not turned back on there, and we haven't had time to go to a wifi cafe because we've been doing too many fun things! But soon, hopefully tomorrow there will be a massive picture post of the awesome things we've done so far.
We are also trying to decide what to do next- we are discussing throwing all our plans out the window and going to Tibet, because they are letting tourists in at the moment, but it is very far, 36 hours by train. We will decide in the next few days if we're going there or not. We're definitely going to Shanghi at the end of our trip, and we might just fly there from Beijing. Its about 60USD to fly and 70USD to take a crappy train for a few days, so its probably the better option. Soon we're going to the Great Wall, hopefully tomorrow- after the awesomeness of the Forbidden City, I can't wait to see it!