asia · travel

Day 4: The Good, the Bad, and the Forbidden

Early morn:

The Good: Finally indulging our itch to shop after being in China for several days already. Shortly after we arrive from Xian, Phoebe and I freshen up and dart for Qianmen Shopping Street, south of Tiananmen Square.

When Phoebe and I laid eyes on the long row of shops lining the boulevard, we knew we've arrived. The main street holds the posh shops alongside the kitsch; take a random turn into the perpendicular alleys, and you'll be greeted by stalls with cheaper bargains and a whole lot of interesting stands for snacks.

Mime spotted greeting shoppers at Qianmen.

The Bad: Simply not having enough time! Bargains can keep you hostage for the whole day, especially at the Beijing Zoo Market, haven of wholesale clothes, where we headed for next. There was hardly a fellow tourist in sight; locals seemed to comprise the whole swarm of shoppers. When you find where the locals shop, you know you’ve found the motherload.

Looks like couple shirts are all the rage currently. Interestingly enough, Korean fashion stalls fairly dominated this market, too.

The Forbidden: Not bothering to haggle. It’s quite the tradition to spar over the price when in markets; the Chinese seem to cherish a worthy challenge. Countering their first price down to 20% is common. All in all, be sure to have an idea first of what you’re willing to pay and then take it from there.

We've found Mushu!

At High noon:

The Good: Traipsing along one of China’s most recognizable landmarks. Apparently, the best way to make sure people flock to your city is to call it forbidden. Mao’s iconic portrait looms over the mass of people entering the Forbidden City gates, which at a certain time resembled an Exodus scene from a Lenten movie.

The intricate carvings in the roofs, beams and banisters make for interesting shadows. Whereas the Summer Palace exudes a calming charm, I found the Forbidden City to be a bit stern, more concerned with braggadocio and projecting power.
More cool shadows.

The Bad: Getting lost from the Tiananmen West subway station to the city’s South Gate. But then again, it certainly wasn’t a first for us on this trip. Luckily, the filling Chinese chow we had at the home-cooked style restaurant by the gate quickly dispelled the grumpiness into so-glad-it’s-over laughter.

After a time, it became pagoda after pagoda after another austere pagoda --- until we reached the Inner Courts and the Imperial Gardens. Wow. With its bright blooms and curious rock gardens, this was certainly the palace's place of cheer.
A dragon looms from above in one of the garden gazebos.

The Forbidden: Umm, duh.

Twilight food trip at the Donghuamen Night Market:

The Good: Mouth-watering dumplings, oh-la-la oysters, steaming crabs and festive candied fruit.

The Bad: Moving scorpions. Sheep penis. Skewered starfish. Sheep penis.

The Forbidden: Walking away without buying anything. The crazy BBQ critters made me realize that when it comes to food, I’m not as fearless as I thought. I didn’t have the heart to bite into the pretty starfish, either. My compromise? Downing this feast of curiosities for the eyes with some good-old sidewalk brew! Cheers!

Hungry for more of Donghuamen? Then click here for the full food-trip post!

Pictures please!
At Qianmen Shopping Street and the Beijing Zoo Market
At the Forbidden City
Food-Tripping at Donghuamen Night Market

Casualty Assessment:
Forbidden City (a.k.a. Palace Museum) admission fee – RMB 60 peak season, RMB 40 off-peak

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