Pearl Market

Spent the afternoon at the pearl market – 4 stories of ‘rocks’ interspersed with electronics, watches, cosmetics, folk arts rolls of material (silk, cotton, linen, denim and clothing, from t-shirts to wedding gowns to suits to funky multi coloured fur coats).

Managed to purchase a number of beautiful hand painted silk kites from tiny insects a couple of inches across to eagles with a 2 meter wing span, and a goldfish, butterfly and 3 meter long dragon.

…and my favorite, a magic ’snow dome’ of the Great Wall of China for 10 Yuan

I also managed to find some, cotton, canvas and linen with traditional designs for the kids (Tom and Halzska)

Then the best spicy pork ribs cooked in masses of garlic and chilli – YUM

Sleepy now…

Beijing Zoo

What an adventure…hired a bike and rode out to the Beijing zoo this morning, freezing day, wearing three layers and a scarf.

All the best laid plans… worked out my route, up ‘my’ road cut across the top of the forbidden city, round the moat then on to Guanzhou park where, according to the NY Times in 2000 they have a fabulous pet; market on weekends, rode around for a hour or so until I finally got completely lost and ended up at the 3rd ring road to the north of Beijing, luckily I always enjoy the journey… after carrying my bike across a wide stretch of railway tracks, then clambering over a bridge, I rediscovered my way and found the Zoo.

90 Yuan to get in, bitterly cold, the pandas were asleep, the otters thought it was spring, the reptile pavilion was horrid (very depressing, I’m sure all of those poor creatures agree) and then it started to rain… that was fine for a while until it got heavier and all the animals decided to go ‘home’… i.e. I was the only animal silly enough to be wandering around in the rain!

It was at about this stage that I remembered I had my ‘Sydney Olympic Volunteer Raincoat’ in my bag, which I put over my sodden clothes and started to steam.

Finally found the front gate and hopped back on my bike to ride home – through the puddles and mud in the dark without bike lights or reflectors or a helmet, 1 large exotic Australian women dressed in red, swathed in a clear plastic bag, flapping in the wind as she trundled home…


Train Travel

I caught the train to Beijing last night, a soft sleeper… that means you can live/sleep with 3 complete strangers for 15 hours in an area of 3 square meters… it becomes particularly interesting if your three companions are middle aged men who like to sit up all night smoking and gambling…Actually I have not yet had that pleasure… my ‘travel companions’ (to Shanghai) have been a young couple with a hyperactive 7 year old – David, who proved to be an excellent Chinese tutor… and (Beijing) two students who sat up giggling and whispering shyly most of the night (the throes of a budding romance?)

I really enjoy the opportunity to ‘met the locals’ and learn a little Chinese… so I make my way straight to the dining car … this allows you to order some quite good food, drink a bottle of local beer (yes I have reacquired my taste for beer – the local beer ‘Tsingtao’ is made a brewery in the coastal town of Qingtao in Shandong province, using local spring water – so I’m pretending its like Cascade – only much cheaper; a long neck costs 2 Yuan (12 Yuan = 2 dollars)