My Adventure in China - Day 2 / by Simmon Li

Today was fun. The day started off slow, but worked out for the better. Did a bit of walking around on my own this morning, to kind of check out the neighbourhood around where I'm staying. Unfortuantely for me, they don't drink coffee here as much as I would like. Consequently, it's hard to find and expensive as hell when you do find it. (Though I should note, that at 24RMB a cup, it works out to about 2.50 Canadian. It's just that everything else is so damn cheap in comparison.) I didn't take any pictures, because I forgot to bring my camera. And really, if I want to take pictures of just walking around, I can do that any time. After the morning, things picked up. I went to the grocery store today, and was able to check out some of how people get food and stuff. I managed to stumble upon a wicked little bakery called "BreadTalk" that makes delicious Chinese style buns (you know, the kind with filling or stuff on the top) for super cheap. I have a feeling I will be eating there a lot if I have to eat out. The super market was also very fun. It's completely unlike the Western proto-typical market. Loud, busy, and girls in short skirts shouting advertisements at you. But ya, it was interesting. I ended up having to buy a 12 pack of bottled water, because the tap water is not drinkable and the hotel's complimentary water bottles are small and inconsistently granted. Long story short, it was kind of exciting going to a grocery store.

After that, I met up with my cousin's friend and his cousin, and we went for food. That was an adventure and a half. First, we decided to go out for dinner. It was fun. I ate dog meat today. I wasn't too crazy about the idea of eating dog meat, but I figured I'm in China, what the hell. I know I sure as hell won't get to eat dog meat any other time soon, seeing as I plan on returning to North America. Turns out, it tastes like beef brisket. The texture (though I do grant it may be the way it was cooked) also reminded me of beef brisket. All in all, it wasn't actually as bad as I thought it was. It was like when I ate horse, that was very good too. Of course, horses are something that North Americans don't eat (like dogs) because of the percieved value that the animal adds to our lives on a post-consumption level (horses for labour, dogs for companionship, etc). In any case, getting to the place was a lot of fun too because we took the Beijing subway a few stops across a couple of different lines.

I was actually really worried that it would be super terrible and annoying, but I believe that aspect of the experience was oversold to me by a country boy (aka, my cousin). The experience of the Beijing subway was not all that different from Toronto's TTC during rush hour. The major difference is that in Beijing, people will shove and push if you don't let them through. On the TTC, people are generally more considerate and less pushy. Though if you know where you need to go, getting to where you need to be by the right time isn't a challenge, and you can even be nice about it. But yea, the subway was really nice. The trains are smaller than the TTC's trains, but they're the spiffy teched up ones that the TTC is putting on the YUS line, so it was kind of cool to see a bit of a preview of what we were in for. The Beijing subway system seems really solid, actually. Compared to the TTC, it is much smoother. Fares are handled by machines, from what I can tell, the trains are driven by computers, and whole process of access is comparatively a better experience. On the Beijing subway, you can either have a flex pass (ie, the Presto-like device), or you can pay a fare. When you pay a fare, you are issued a card for the duration of the ride. It is basically a key card that opens up all the turnstyles, etc. At the end of the trip, you return the card to the system. I like it. I realize that it sounds really dumb having to worry about carrying a card around, but to be frank, we already do it for the TTC. Either you have some sort of pass, and don't need transfers, or you need to remember to get transfers, not lose them, etc. Also, transfers are easy to pass on, whereas a system that requires you to return your card makes it a bit more difficult to game the system. All in all, I was actually very impressed with the Beijing subway system. I'd wager that it's years ahead of what we have in Toronto, though we're slowly getting there technology-wise.