Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 | 0 comments

Brian Rests

Sweet Potato Vendor

Dress Store Entrance

Window Screen Stencil

Public Phone Booth

Ancient Bicycles 1

Ancient Bicycles 2

Ancient Bicycles 3

Wangfujing Vendors 1

Wangfujing Vendors 2

Wangfujing Vendors 3

Wangfujing Vendors 4

Wangfujing Vendors 5

Wangfujing Vendors 6

Wangfujing Vendors 7

Wangfujing Vendors 8

Wangfujing Vendors 9

Wangfujing Vendors 10

Starfish

Wangfujing Vendors 11

Wangfujing Vendors 12

Crabs

Wangfujing Vendors 13

Wangfujing Vendors 14

Wangfujing Vendors 15

Wangfujing Vendors 16

Wangfujing Vendors 17

Wangfujing Vendors 18

Wangfujing Vendors 19

Wangfujing Vendors 20

Wangfujing Vendors 21

Pedestrian Shopping Area

Beijing Foreign Languages Bookstore

Omega and Blancpain

Rickshaw Statue

Musicians Statue

Wangfujing Shopping 1

Wangfujing Shopping 2

Wangfujing Shopping 3

Wanfujing and KFC

Wangfujing Tour Bus

Colorful Entryway

Wangfujing Food Alley

Meat On Sticks

Insect Larvae On Sticks

Scorpions On Sticks

Wriggling Scorpions

Roasted Chestnuts

Barber Statue

Food Alley Decor

Walking along the moat surrounding the Forbidden City, it was quiet and peaceful. The sun was shining and the air was cool. There were very few people around. We continued walking, heading into the old section of town to have a look around. We walked down a street with a lot of government buildings, gates with guards behind them, and black cars parked on the sidewalk. Many of the cars were German (BMW, Mercedes, VW, Audi), but I saw at least a couple of Buicks. We entered a charming neighborhood and sat down to rest. We had been doing a lot of walking already today, and we still had a lot more walking to do. Continuing on, we passed a street vendor roasting sweet potatoes. Many of the shops had elaborately decorated entryways, a phenomenon that I was seeing everywhere in Beijing. One store had an intricately stenciled screen over the window. These unique and personal artistic touches make Chinese neighborhoods so entertaining to explore.

On one street I came across something I hadn’t seen in years in the U.S.: a public phone booth. In another place I saw rows of really old bicycles, many with carts attached. It looked like they were being rented out. These bikes were so ancient, they were practically antiques. I felt like I had traveled back a hundred years in time.

Finally we came upon a street with a very long line of food vendors. This was the famous Wangfujing Street.

Wangfujing Street

I used to be a vegetarian, before I met Yuan. I still try to eat lower on the food chain whenever possible, but tend to break that rule more often than not when eating in restaurants, especially given Yuan’s fondness for meat. And being a vegetarian in China tends to really limit your options. The Chinese have very little awareness or sympathy for those who prefer to forego animal products altogether. Unlike Americans, the Chinese don’t often make meat the center of attention. They do, however, include meat with almost every meal in one way or another. And they are well known for their willingness to eat pretty much any part of any creature imaginable. As the saying goes, if something has wings but is not an airplane, or if it has four legs but is not a table, the Chinese will eat it.

Wangfujing Street is the ultimate example of this anything-goes attitude towards food. Everything imaginable is available on a stick here. Anything that flies, crawls or swims will be skewered and served up for your consumption here. It is a fascinating and dizzying display of sights, smells and sounds, as the vendors all compete for your attention while you walk past. By the end of it I was feeling rather nauseous.

We got past the food line and entered an upscale shopping area. There were many expensive European brands represented here, and huge advertising billboards. There was even a Beijing Foreign Languages Bookstore. And of course, in the middle of it all, there was a KFC.

In several places there were iron statues representing scenes from old Beijing, and people gathered around taking turns getting their pictures taken in front of the statues.

Then we turned down an alley that was heavily crowded with tourists, and lined with more food vendors. This area had much more traditional Chinese decor, but the food offerings were very similar to what we had seen earlier. My favorites were the scorpions, which were still alive and wriggling on their skewers. I watched one guy purchase one of these, and with his companion urging him on, he put the scorpion stick into his mouth, pulled one of the creatures off and started munching away. It was all very entertaining, but it was making me feel rather sick to my stomach, and I had completely lost my appetite for dinner. Before leaving we bought a bag of roasted chestnuts from another vendor, although I kept half-expecting that they would turn out to be insect larvae or some such thing.

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