Niujie Mosque

I forgot to mention that on Boxing Day we had Tai Ji. Our instructor didn’t speak English so one of the students translated for us, and also laughed at us when we failed to copy his moves. After about half an hour of attempting tai ji he decided that we should try kung fu as  the instructor thought it would be easier. It wasn’t really. We weren’t dressed for it either – long, snow boots are not ideal for tai ji/kung fu as well as coats because it was still cold outside despite all the running/warming up we did.

After our uneventful Thursday lessons, my friend said he wanted to visit the Niujie Mosque which we had failed to find earlier. We took a taxi this time which was a bad and good idea as we actually got the Mosque but there was insane traffic on the way.

The Mosque seems quite easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it, as it’s tucked away slightly from the main road and I didn’t notice until my friend pointed it out. It is very pretty though, you have to pay to enter unless you’re Muslim but that shouldn’t stop you, unless you’re wearing inappropriate clothing…The ‘guard’ (for lack of better word) gave us a leaflet about the Mosque too for us to read whilst some of our friends were taking a bit longer to look around.

Afterwards we went to the infamous ‘Lakers’ that our group of Study China participants had grown to love. It was a log-cabin restaurant serving pizza (which is pretty big…19 inches for a large!) but it’s not cheap, almost as expensive as Western prices but it was worth one visit. They had some…interesting books that you can read too – all in English but some very strange ones…

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Christmas!

So my plans of posting everyday sort of went down the drain yesterday because I’m sick so I just slept for the entire day so I’ll roll the post into this one and do Christmas and boxing day in one post.
Christmas day didn’t feel like Christmas at all. I had Mandarin lessons in the morning and an economics lecture in the afternoon and the lack of decorations didn’t help either. However, we all decided to go out for dinner and have Chinese for Christmas! We went to a relatively fancy restaurant and had duck, fish, some kind of dumplings and lots of great food! There were some steamed vegetables that were really soft and sweet too. The only awkward part was asking for more menus as the waiter didn’t speak English so we had to use a translation app to ask for us. Finding the place took slightly more effort than usual since I had no idea what the place looked like/was called in Chinese so if we got lost I couldn’t ask for directions but we found it thanks to our taxi driver who pointed at it for us! 😀

On Boxing Day we were taken to an acrobatic show, which was part of the programme and it was really cool. They were doing so many crazy stunts and it was so precise.

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This is a sneaky photo as technically we weren’t supposed to take any in case it distracted the performers and even then some people still used flash! At least turn the flash off! The security guards had a laser to point at people who were using cameras and if you ignored them they told you to stop taking pictures. It’s understandable in case something happened but I snuck one in anyway.

We then went out clubbing as Wednesday is ‘ladies’ night so girls get free entry and free drinks that are on the list at the bar. Guys have to pay though! Sorry! We didn’t get too drunk though since we had lessons in the morning but it was good to experience clubbing in Beijing as opposed to the UK. Gangnam style still comes on though! It was a different way to spend Christmas and Boxing Day but I’m glad I got the opportunity to try something new.

Karaoke

Hello!
After spending an entire week in Beijing, we all began to feel more at home and slightly less foreign (despite the stares we got). Since it was also christmas eve, we decided to go to karaoke which is a big thing in China, and went to a club that was recommended by our student volunteers.
I don’t have a picture of the place unfortunately, but it was very cool. You get your own little room which is soundproofed with sofas, a table, microphones – including a standing one, a tv where the video/lyrics come up and two tambourines (which made it just that little bit more fun). It was pretty cheap, £5 for two hours with food but the food wasn’t really worth it. Despite being a Korean place, they had lots of English songs to choose from, and we filled two hours with English songs and one round of Gangnam Style. A very good night 😀

Forbidden City

The next day was our first full, entirely free day! So we got up super early to try and make the flag raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square but we were too late, sadly. That didn’t mean it wasn’t cold, no, it was apparently -15 degrees (celsius) and was supposedly the coldest it had been in years! And we were crazy enough to go to Tiananmen Square anyway to see Mao’s body, which is only open 9am-12pm and has really strict security. No bags or cameras and you have to take your hat off too (which I understand really…) and you had to have ID aswell. Despite that we made it through and had a look…it was…interesting, that’s for sure.

We decided to go to the Forbidden City after since we were there already, and most of us had been told it would take at least a day to go around. If you’ve got a student card from a Chinese University then use it! You get a special price 🙂 (it’s pretty cheap anyway).

ImageThis is near the front, it’s such a beautiful place and it’s so huge as well! Despite the cold weather there were still quite a lot of visitors but it wasn’t too bad. I can imagine it being very busy in the summer. We walked around most of it before deciding that we were all probably going to freeze but there were still some things we hadn’t seen, so I may go back in the future. It was definitely worth braving the cold though 🙂

Beijing Zoo

Our first Saturday there wasn’t even an entire free day, so my friend decided to be super organised and we went to the zoo and aquarium for 9am, when it opened. It was pricey for what we expected but that’s because of the aquarium which was about £12 by itself, the combined ticket we bought was about £13 (zoo, aquarium and panda sanctuary) which was cheaper than the UK but we felt slightly ripped off.

We headed straight for the pandas (when in China…) and I was a little disappointed, yes, I saw pandas closer than before (although a friend of mine got behind the scenes…) but they looked really sad. One kept pacing around because he/she was unhappy which made us sad too so we went around fairly quickly. Image

This is probably the happiest picture of them I can find, there was even one outside! With the snow and everything! The red pandas were very cute though.
So after that we went around the zoo quickly too, having spent nearly half an hour there and only have two hours left.

A funny thing happened at the zoo too… Image

This is the golden monkey, and literally the second before it jumped at us! It hit the window and then ran away! Scared the daylights out of all of us, but none of us got it on camera! I don’t get why it did that though? It seemed to be a regular thing too as the glass had lots of marks on it…

We then went to the ‘cat house’ – tigers and lions but it’s not like zoos in the UK at all, they don’t really have anywhere to walk and it’s not their natural habitat at all, even in the outdoor ones. 

Hoping for something slightly less depressing we headed to the aquarium as we had paid for that, and were going to get the most out of it. It is supposed to be the largest indoor aquarium in the world…which is strange because it doesn’t really feel like it. There was a beluga show on though which was really cool, my friend spent about half an hour watching them whilst I went around to the other parts. There was a lack of whales though, which disappointed one of my friends but they had dolphins and the usual fish, albeit some slightly uglier ones than I’m used to.

After having spent at least an hour in the aquarium we went around as much of the zoo as possible in the half an hour we had left, which included some crazy pictures (of us climbing/sitting on random statues…the security guards just looked at us and moved on! What’s the point of the sign if you’re not even going to tell us off?) and realising just how much of the zoo was missing because it was winter. I might go back in the summer sometime to see if it’s better and more lively.

After the zoo we had a homevisit, the University organised for small groups of us to visit a Chinese host family and I was very fortunate to get an incredibly nice family. 

ImageI mean, look at dinner! We made dumplings too (which was also hilarious, with the little girl pointing out how much of a fail we all are…) but they were still being cooked at this point. We played lots of games, talked alot about the cultural differences and what we had done on our stay so far. They even gave us a small gift to take home, and took us around Beijing before dropping us back at the University, meaning we saw the Olympic stadiums at night – the lights make them look pretty cool, despite the fact it was windy and cold, we were crazy and went to take pictures anyway. 
This feels like a long post…but I did so much in that one day, and this is just a quick summary of it but I’m genuinely so happy I got to go on Study China as it was the best three weeks ever!

 

More shopping and…?

We went to a very expensive, western style mall after one of our economics lectures to find the famous ‘food street’ and failed. Not miserably though, as we did discover something we weren’t expecting to find…Image

In general, when we were out and about in Beijing there was a distinct lack of Christmas decorations and being from the UK, most of us forgot the fact that we were there during the Christmas holidays, until we saw this. I reckon because it’s a big, glamorous mall they had this to appeal to foreigners like us (there was a pretty posh hotel there too) and it made us all feel a little bit more like it was Christmas soon. It was even snowing! 

Tiananmen Square

After a rather uneventful day of lectures and Mandarin classes, my friends wanted to go to Tiananmen Square at night, actually the picture is the front of the Forbidden City, where the portrait of Mao is but we saw the square from afar. We weren’t allowed to go in because of the flag ceremony which we missed so we just looked around the front of the Forbidden City.Image

 

As you can see I actually was aiming to take a picture of the Fu dog for my family. This was actually the second time I had been, having been on the first day I arrived and again we were constantly followed by sellers selling hats and other touristy things to which we declined and walked off as fast as we could. It was also really cold, being evening and all that, probably the coldest we felt (so far anyway) and some people went back to the University straight after because they were so cold.

I noticed I said I’d post a picture of Tianjin but I’m going to wait until it comes up chronologically in case I forget to say something.