Sometimes it really is worth hitting the built up touristy venues, frankly I think it is worth checking out what gets the top rated touristy vote and risk it being a trap of a money waster. For example, in Cambodia we asked our concierge where we could see some traditional dancing. We got taken too an awful buffet and although traditional dancing was there, there were other more local places that weren't so fabricated to suit tourists. I loved the Dead Fish Restaurant.
But, in the case of the Shanghai acrobats, I found them AMAZING and a MUST SEE! I was leary when all the tourist buses showed up to the arena but... hands-down, amazing. We had actually booked the front row centre VIP seats. I short-sightedly tweeted that you could sit anywhere and still see and not to waste your money. I would like to retract and reword: YES! Buy the VIP seats, if you have the money. Yes you can see from anywhere, it's not a huge venue - so you will have your money's worth anywhere inside BUT the VIP seats are killer. Our daughters at one point had all three jaws dropped to the floor, as did we. No nets, and the acrobats were soaring high, leaping throw hoops, driving 6 motorcycles in a big ball... just WOW. This is the original Cirque Du Soliel.
We left Shanghai with a bang!
Upon our arrival to Beijing I found it very cold in comparison to Shanghai; not in temperature but more uninviting. Bear in mind, this is early spring so the lack of green can certainly add to that feeling. The heritage areas are certainly awe-inspiring.
First stop: The Temple of Heaven. [I used to get here often prior to marriage.. Dear HB, just kidding]
I found it amazing that locals just hang around there playing cards. There was a slight wind in the air and they had tied a piece of string around the wood to help hold down their cards. Hm. Learn something new everyday, right?
Second stop: The Silk Market. Four floors of market shopping, by market shopping I mean factory seconds and knockoffs. Being in the fashion industry I can't condone the purchasing of knockoffs. It's a little funny that when you walk into the front door they have a huge banner that states something about protecting IP (intellectual property) - there is no way these vendors are looking out for anyone's IP. Many vendors have secret shelves that open to back rooms full of mainly LV knockoffs. Why they think we all want LV's is beyond me. LV = Louis Vuitton. I have a real LV, thanks to a special someone; and yes the design/pattern of the classic LVs are lovely - they are getting a little over satuarated in the world; just like Coach. You don't really feel special carrying one unless it has some personal meaning, like mine. I would think all the political / IP arguments would come into play here so I'll bow out of this one.
At the Silk Market I did manage to haggle to buy two more wigs. Yes, more wigs. Very good quality synthetic that originally she was asking for $150 each and I paid $20 each. See the room you have to haggle? (Now I just need a photographer who wants to shoot a wig story as I have MANY!) I looked at the makeup brushes thinking I hit the jackpot spotting Bobbi Brown brushes - the sets were a combinition of crappy hair and nice hair but I own a lot of her brushes and I can tell you the quality is not the same. Another reason why you should just buy the real thing.
The Silk Market had a soft shop called 'Cloarkes' inside. Familiar with Clarke's shoes? Yeah. Same font, just another letter added in.
The market certainly was a little eye opening. One vendor got angry with us - not sure why but she called my husband a 'stupid man' and then yelled at me 'I hate you stupid white people!!' And while I can agree that us 'white people' can be a little annoying individually, it's unfair to lump us altogether.
Interesting experience. Moving on.
As we waiting outside for our driver (yes, we hired a private driver) there was a woman holding a lethargic toddler begging for money. The women/young girls hoding babies gets me everytime. My hb handed her some money. If you travel, ask locals or your concierge about giving money to beggars. Every country has various reputations as to need and where it actually goes; but I think 'small child in rags = dig into your pockets and fork it over. Maybe I'm a sucker and maybe this woman had no thoughts of this money feeding her baby but I can't turn away a mother with a baby. She walked from us to a group of businessmen who ignored her.
Back home to the Grand Hyatt Beijing for a little R&R; room service and rest. We booked a suite with two bedrooms, livingroom and kitchenette. The window views are not as grand as the Marriott in Shanghai but we can deal. We have two TVs too many - there are 3.
We are attached to a mall so the next morning my eldest and youngest came along with me for a grocery shopping / Starbucks adventure. Little tidbit about me: I LOVE to check out grocery stores in other countries. Weird, I know but I find it fun. We were warned not to let Zoie drink the milk here unless we are certain that it's imported - obviously this causes me to stress over the chocolate milk she had already...
Our first stop was the Forbidden City. Stunning. Amazing. Gorgeous. Our teenagers didn't share our opinion. Without markets, haggling or Starbucks they just wanted to fast-track outta there. [Please tell me all teens devalue trips and cultural experiences and not just mine]
We visited a Hutong which is a old alley/street filled with shops and restaurants; I highly recommend this to be on your list, and it will perk up any complaining teenager.
Check out the girl in the BG wearing the ears. Sorry. Don't get it. Yes. Bought them for Zoie. But Zoie is 2 so...
Yup. Mojito to go.
A chicken cart. With heads and everything... from bugs to cotton candy, heck we even saw a churros booth! I just don't recommend peering too close the roasted bugs to eat. I felt so sick after just inhaling the fumes. I'm sure locals love to eat such delicacies but I'll stick to a MARS bar (I know, annoying white girl.)
Getting our ducks in a row.
Our day ended with another must while in Beijing; Peking duck. We ate at Chef Dong's which is supposed to be one of the best. We went with some friends who live locally and say it's their favourite restaurant. It was good but after trying many duck dishes over the years I'd have to officially say that I am a French Duck Confit girl.
*I did have a lovely pic of some 'art' from the Hutong. It was penis sculptures. More funny than art. I'd post it here but I posted it on my twitter and immediately lost two followers who apparently have zero sense of humour. Sorry to offend but keep in mind, I am funny.