Dong Hua Men Night Market, the Lakes of Beijing, and perils of registering a SIM card


Scorpions (gross)


Dong Hua Men Night Market

Picking up from last night’s post, we headed to the Dong Hua Men Night Market for “dinner”. For anyone that’s seen Anthony Bordain or Amazing Race, the Night Market would seem like a familiar place. There were about 60 vendors, all set up side-by-side, selling “shock food,” or food that most Westerners image Chinese people eating. This includes things like (in progressive order of gross-ness), starfish, crickets, snakes, silk worms, scorpions, and gigantic spiders.

It was gross. And I’m not grossed out by much.

Snakes and silk-worms

Snakes and silk-worms (grosser)

So, before you ask, we didn’t eat anything there. Neither do the vast majority of Chinese people, who don’t ever set foot in this “market”. It’s almost 100% a tourist trap designed to gross people out. Granted, if I were taking this trip when I was 20, I would have probably eaten things. But now, I know that most of this food had been sitting out, raw, in the heat, likely for days, and we are going to be traveling for too long to be incapacitated in bed for days on end. So, we skipped it and found a restaurant where some locals were eating instead.

Spiders (this was gross)

Spiders (this was definitely the grossest)

We managed to sleep from 10pm until 6am this morning, so I feel like we’re getting the best of the jet-lag. It’s already 11pm so we’re acclimating quickly. Anyway, we spent the first part of the day trying to get a SIM card for my phone. Apparently before September 1, this used to be as easy as buying a card and popping it in, but now you have to register your card with the government. This meant going to three different offices to find someone that could process my US passport and activate my SIM and data plan. We covered about 2-3 miles by foot between places, asking for directions, etc.

Beautiful Balhai Park

Beautiful Balhai Park

What Sara and I were both impressed with was how technology made what could have been a much more frustrating process much easier. At the first office, the employee spoke no English. We got started with a few gestures, but once he couldn’t help us, communication broke down. So, he quickly pulled up Google Translate and we started typing back and forth to each other. He gave me an address to go, and I used the Google Translate app on my phone, with downloaded offline English to Mandarin language pack, to translate, “do you know where this address is?” and responses. Very cool – I can’t imagine traveling without a smart-phone.

Sara ringing the bell at the Buddhist bell tour for good luck

Sara ringing the bell at the Buddhist bell tour for good luck

The rest of the day we spent exploring some of the lakes inside the city of Beijing. We first went to beautiful Beihai park, which has a large jade tower overlooking a giant lake, with boats you could rent, delicious food vendors, and peaceful willow trees. It was really relaxing, especially since we ended up with a beautiful sunny day. Also, you had to pay to go in ($3/pp) so there were no annoying touts. After that we went to Houhai, a public lake surrounded by well preserved hutongs, or alley neighborhoods. It was nice, but it was very commercialized and not as peaceful as Beihai.

All together, we walked about 6 miles today which is more than we probably walked totally in the 3 weeks we were home in Missouri. We spent the rest of the night in the bar at the hostel talking with some Swedes about the Trans-Siberian railroad and drinking cheap Chinese beer. It was perfect! Tomorrow, we are meeting an old friend of mine from the Peace Corps, and visiting the Olympic Village that was off limits to me last time I was here.

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3 Responses to Dong Hua Men Night Market, the Lakes of Beijing, and perils of registering a SIM card

  1. Judy Barnes says:

    Sara you look like you are really enjoying the bell. You must not have eaten at the food market!