I just got back from a week in China! It was a last-minute trip of sorts… I found out I was going only 2-3 weeks before I left and it took me nearly that long to get a work Visa! The trip was for work but I had a couple of days to sight see as well. The trip was pretty great!
The work portion of my trip was the most important, of course, and I found the 4 days I spent in the office extremely beneficial. I learned so much about our business in China. It was amazing and eye-opening. I was training people there on processes they need to know and I think that doing so in person rather than using virtual meetings and conference calls makes a huge difference. You can really work with people, making sure you are on the same page and understanding, at a level you just cannot achieve over the phone. Also, the relationships you can cultivate in person are so important. Meeting people face to face and spending time together makes for a much better collaboration later when you are working via emails and phone calls. You feel more comfortable asking questions and being upfront about issues.
But enough about work, right? On to my other experiences here in the Orient, complete with lots of pictures!
For starters, I slept 11 hours out of a 14 hour plane ride from Chicago to Beijing. I consider this my travel superpower. I can sleep on a plane like nobody’s business! I had absolutely no jet lag
The hotels I stayed in are gorgeous 5 star places with comfy beds, giant tubs, and HBO in English. Score! I made use of the HBO late at night since the women I am travelling with aren’t quite the night owl that I am.
The hotels have huge breakfast buffets with everything you can imagine. There’s normal breakfast food like eggs and bacon, lots of breads and jams, and even rice and noodles. Most everything at these buffets is delicious.
While walking about Beijing I saw a lot of things. Here are some of my favorite random pictures.
Electrical wires hanging from a tree by the sidewalk. My Chinese coworkers did not understand why we were taking pictures of it!
This was about two blocks from my 5 star hotel. Classy
This is a pizza place called The Kro’s Nest. Looks a little like Herky the Hawkeye, no? Go Iowa!
An Asian flavor of Lays – Numb & Spicy Hot Pot. They were almost spicy enough to numb your tongue, but very tasty.
This was corn drying in the sun. We saw this in several little towns we passed on our way to the Great Wall. I had corn once at lunch in my office there and it was very rubbery and not at all good. I actually think it was field corn, just harvested earlier. Blech.
Speaking of eating… I had a couple of interesting experiences with food in China. First was Day 1 at work when one of the options was “head of fish” complete with eyeballs. Luckily I was warned of that before eating any and had some really tasty dumplings instead. I was not so lucky on Day 3. There was a dish that had a sort of pinkish white ball in it. When I asked what it was I was told it was cooked lotus blossom. Not too shabby, actually.
There was also a soft, dark purple tofu looking stuff in the same dish. I tasted it and it didn’t have much flavor but the texture was squishy and weird. I asked my Chinese coworker what that stuff was and the answer was…duck blood. I thought I misunderstood her and must have been staring at her with my mouth hanging wide open because the two women I traveled there with were laughing hysterically. It was, in fact, dried duck blood. My helpful Chinese coworker then told me that it “cleans the sludge out of your veins” to which I responded “that is NOT a good enough reason for me to eat it!”
And that’s the story of how I unknowingly ate dried blood for not the first, but the second time in my life! (The first was black pudding in Scotland back in 2004).
The markets are really big for shopping in Beijing. The Silk, Pearl, and Yashow markets are the biggest. I went to the Yashow market one day but didn’t buy anything. When I went to the Silk market the day before leaving I kind of went crazy and bought myself all kinds of souvenirs. I also got presents for a couple of friends and my family. Good thing everything is so cheap! They sell all kinds of Chinese wares, silks, pearls, tea sets, etc. But they also have a huge amount of designer purses, watches, and clothes. We’re talking Coach bags for $8 and Ralph Lauren polos for $4. Whether they are good knockoffs (some really good!) or something else… well, I don’t want to know! Here are some of my purchases…
A jade dragon – the symbol of power.
An embroidered picture… amazing huh?
These are the beautiful pearl necklaces I bought. The woman showed us the different sizes, qualities, and colors and when we chose what we wanted she would tie them while we waited in whatever length we desired. This is a very cool (and inexpensive) way to buy jewelry! The white necklace is made of coin pearls, which are pearls they press flat.
This is a silk table runner that I got for $4. It will be going on my new dark wood dining room table…
… and will be the perfect place to display my most favorite of my souvenirs… the porcelain tea set. Isn’t the design gorgeous?
Whew! Okay, that’s probably enough for today. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow and have pictures of the Forbidden City and The Great Wall!