(UPDATED AND FIXED PICTURE LINK. THANKS TO EVERYONE THAT E-MAILED!)
Pics of today are at:
Written recap is below.
7:30 AM: I woke up this morning after 3 hours sleep, but feeling well-rested, courtesy of my sleep on the plane. I called my father, grandmother and Peter to check in, and then got a call from Josh at the hotel room saying that he'd be here in 10 or 15 minutes. I woke Tom up and told him, and then went back to my room to play with the internets for a bit, since I'd already showered and dressed. We headed over to the University of International Business and Economics across the street where Josh goes to school to grab breakfast; I had some form of delicious pound cake and an eggy roll, which was very good other than the weird white raisins unexpectedly crammed in the middle.
9:00 AM: We go to a local hotel which has a train ticket branch office in it to buy tickets for the sleeper train to Mongolia; they only have hard seats, no sleepers left, which is not the best option for a 13 hour overnight train. We decide to wait till later in the day to go to the Great Wall, and head for the Beijing train station instead. We are able to procure train tickets there for a hard sleep (2nd class sleeper), although we cannot get tickets back; apparently here in China, they do not have it set up so that all of the systems are networked, hence only being able to purchase tickets for your destination from your departure city. I see a Google bus and geek out again.
12:00: We head over to take the bus to the Great Wall, but the last bus of the day is leaving, and we haven't had lunch and do not have drinks. As a result, we decide we will head to the Forbidden City instead. We get over there, and browse souvenir shops, then go down a side street to eat some really delicious, juicy pork dumplings. A young woman down the street waves her beautiful baby's hand at me and says "Hello!". It was a very sweet encounter with someone who probably just had a few words of English!
2:30: We go into the Forbidden City. It is so huge, I cannot even describe it. It is adjacent to the resting place of Chairman Mao Ze Dong, and it really is a massive city. Over 1,000 rooms, and so many structures that each time you think you've entered the last enormous courtyard, there is another larger one behind it. There are many tourists there; most seem to be Chinese, although we sight some Italians, Portuguese, and Tom spots a couple of possible Mormon missionaries milling about. I am obsessed with both the architecture and the hundreds of sparkly multicolored parasols the woman tourists carry around.
4:30: We decide to head over to the Pedestrian's street market. It's a little awkward; everyone wants us to buy stuff and some vendors are selling fried baby ducklings (with the heads still on) as well as scorpions for food. Some woman gives me a way overblown price for two sets of rosewood chopsticks; I walk away. Another woman does the same thing with a similar pair I really like. I tell her I'll give her 20 yuan ($5) for the pair. She says "don't make me angry", and I turn to walk away. She relents. I hand over the money, she bags up the chopsticks, and doesn't throw in the resting stands for them; starts demanding 5 yuan a piece. I tell her, very loudly, that she needs to then give me my money back as that wasn't the deal. She throws them into the bag, likely because I have at that gone into frugal bitch mode. I learn not to hand over the money until they hand me everything I want, lest I have to get loud.
5:30: We stop in a clothes shop, where I think blouses are 5 yuan a piece. They are, in fact, 50% off, but still a reasonable price. Tom generously gets me one color of the blouse he thinks would be good for business affairs in the fall, while I get another color. We get on the bus to head back.
6:15 PM: The dumplings decide they hate me. My spoiled American stomach rumbles with discontent. I look for a good place to throw up, but thankfully, the urgency passes although the sick feeling doesn't go away. I grab a cucumber and a coke for dinner on the way back to the hotel and decide to stay here for the night, since I'm still feeling unwell.
7:30 PM (now): So here I sit, updating my blog with a trashcan comfortably nearby. My gut (no pun intended) tells me that this will pass by tomorrow; the food I've encountered so far is very good, but quite an adjustment.
All in all, a very good day. After over 9 hours of walking, and a wonderful first full day with Tom and Josh, I'm looking forward to more!