Saturday, 27 October 2012

Beijing Day 2 - Beihai Park & Donghuamen Snack Night Market

Was concerned about he hazy condition when we arrived in Beijing in the afternoon. We were assured by James, a Singaporean, who has been working in Beijing for almost 13 years that the low visibility was an exception than the rule.

The low visibility did clear up today (my prayer was answered, occasionally. I squander it needlessly).

I asked the taxi driver to drop us off at Nanhai (南海="South Sea"). The idea was to work our way northwards to Zhonghai (中海="Middle Sea"), and then eventually to Beihai (北海="North Sea"). Sounds logical.

The cabbie didn't understand when I said "Nanhai". I repeated a couple of times, but nothing got tough. I was puzzled as I knew for a fact that I pronounced it correctly, and there's nothing tricky about this pronouncing "Nanhai". Very straight forward. I decided to change tact and said, "Beihai, Zhonghai, Nanhai."
"You mean Behai", he said.
"I wanted to go to Nanhai", I said.
"There's no such place as Nanhai", he grunted.

This is my 1st encounter of the typical Beijing stressful, agro cabbie I heard so much about.

I must have read different Beijing maps more than a dozen times online for my research, and I knew I read it correctly.

map of Beijing with Beihai and Nanhai circled
map of Beijing with Beihai and Nanhai circled
(click to enlarge)

"South Sea" (南海) is shown clearly on the map. I thought to myself, am I so forgetful? And who am I to argue with a Beijing cabbie about local geography?
I relented, and said, "Ok, take me to Beihai".
"There's no such place as Nanhai", he repeated just in case I didn't hear him the first few times.

While I was driven to the Beihai, I put my brain into a self-diagnostics mode just to check for any loose screws. It was clean, and operational normal. And then a lightbulb lit up above my head. I heard about Zhongnanhai (中南海). This is Chinese government administration area, and it's off limit to the public as you can imagine. It never occurred to me until then that Zhongnanhai is a short hand for Zhonghai and Nanhai. This 2 lakes are usual spoken in one breath. Still, to say Nanhai doesn't exist is plain silly.

We were dropped off at the South Gate of Beihai Park.

entry ticket to Beihai park, Beijing, China

The park was relatively quiet considering that it was a wonderfully nice and sunny with a temperature that's perfect for a stroll in the park. In addition to the fine weather, this was also a weekend. I suspect that this relative low crowd turn-out was because of the 8 days holiday break that Beijingers had just a fortnight ago. So mostly local, and foreign tourists were around while the inter-provincial mob was small. Of course, I'm still talking about thousands of tourists, but not in the ten or hundred of thousands, which could easily happen in peak season.

Beihai Park, Beijing, China
Jade Isle in Beihai Park, view from South Gate

After entered the South Gate, your eyes would be graced with this scenery, and it goes without saying that your legs would started to walk towards it. The bridge in this photo is Yong'an Bridge, which connects isle in the Beihai lake to the outside. The island is called Jade Isle. You could say it's a gem of the Beihai Park. If you only have limited time, this isle is the place you need to see.

Beihai Park, Beijing, China

Nine Dragon Wall or Panel, Beihai Park, Beijing, China
Nine Dragon Wall or Panel

After finishing the sightseeing in the isle, we caught a ferry across to see a more touristy spots dotted on the NW corner of Beihai.

Ferry, Behai Park, Beijing
Our ferry ride

White Pagoda, Beihai Park, Beijing, China Beihai Park, Beijing, China White Pagoda, Beihai Park, Beijing, China
Five-Dragon Pavilions, Beihai Park, Beijing, China Glazed tile relief Buddha figure, Beihai Park, Beijing, China Beihai Park, Beijing, China

All in all, it took us the good part of the day to see Beihai. If we could - if only - see Nanhai and Zhonghai, we wouldn't have time. Well, all's well that ends well.

We took a cab home. As I spotted our hotel in the distant from the cab window, I also saw a street with food stalls filled the sidewalks, my nosy self asked the cabbie to stop there. We went and checked out, and saw mostly seafood, but nothing that would be describing as shocking. Where's the deep-fried grasshoppers and Scorpio that I saw on many TV travelogues on Beijing? We were quite disappointed that we missed the chance to be totally grossed out before dinner. The only thing that I would be slightly out of the ordinary are silkworm cocoons . We bought some grilled squids and fried dumpling. After the snack, we ended up in Ajisan in a mall.

Open air food stall or stands, Donghuamen Snack Night Market
Food stalls at Donghuamen Snack Night Market

Silkworm coccoons and squids, Donghuamen Snack Night Market
Silkworm coccoons and squids.

As it turned out, this place was Donghuamen (东华门) Snack Night Market, not Wangfujing Snack Street, which sells the more appetite off-putting snack like creepy crawlies. By the way, DingHuaMen is at the bottom right corner of the blue square in the map at the top.

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