A Weekend in the Big City

Like most people, my friends and I had become bored with monotony of our daily routine. We needed to spice things up. One thing that was really shocking was how the nightlife in Qinhuangdao just becomes dead by 9 pm. Nothing is open. So we decided to head into the big city, Beijing, for a little bit of excitement.

Beijing is only a 2 hour train ride from QHD on the express train but it’s kind of expensive so in order to save a few yen (it onlye cost us 32 RMB) we decided to take the local train, which is a lot cheaper and packed with more salt-of-the-earth type of people. But instead of taking 2 hours (like it would with the express train) it was supposed to be a 3-5 hour ride (depending on the train). The only problem was that it left at 7:10 in the morning.

Of course we were late getting out of our apartment and we had to haul ass to the train station, and luckily made it onto the train just a few minutes before it left. Before I left my apartment I debated whether or not to bring my passport. I chose not to, in the event it might be stolen or I would lose it. On the train my friends yelled at me for not bringing it, because I wouldn’t be able to check into the hostel without it.

We spent 4½ hour packed into a very simple train care with hard wooden benches that did not recline and no heat (it was the middle of winter). But we made it to Beijing and all was good. After I was snuck into the hostel, we game planned what we wanted to do next. Matt (who had been to Beijing many times before) decided he needed to sleep off his hangover from the night before, while Sam, James, and I decided to go explore the city.

I was in need of a pair of jeans because all of my pants were too big on me since I lost a fare bit amount of weight, and I needed a microphone for my computer so we headed to the Silk Market. Now to appreciate the Silk Market you need to know that everything there is a knock-off and marked up 200%.

Now I don’t know whether it was my natural Jewish instincts of arguing and haggling or my experience living in Israel and wandering the shuks, but I was I was in my element in the Silk Market and started negotiating with everyone.

It came to the point where I would haggle with shop owners just to see how low they would go on an item even though I really didn’t want it and had no intention on buying it.

I bought the pair of pants and the microphone for pennies on the dollar. But when I got back to the hostel and tried the pants on, they were too small. I ended up having to go back the next day to return them.

On our way back from the Silk Market, James took us to this cool night market called Wan Fujing Market that sells exotic foods. As we entered the market the first thing we saw was a skewer filled with scorpions, sea horses, and starfish. But what was really shocking to see were that the scorpions that were still alive and moving on the sticks. It was a cool market to walk through. Don’t worry; I didn’t eat anything there. It all looked too weird for me.


We knew that we wanted to go out to a club and we were told that one of the better clubs in Beijing is this place called GT Banana. So we decided to head over towards that area of town and get dinner first. On our way their Sam, my roommate, saw a Hooters restaurant. Sam got supper excited and demanded that we eat there. Now, I had never been to a Hooters before but what I know (from having peered through their restaurant windows many times) is that the women are scantly dressed and well endowed. Obviously no one objected.

But nothing is what you would expect here in China. The Chinese people are a very modest people so instead of seeing low cut tops, we walked in and saw the women wearing very baggy, shapeless t-shirts.

While we were at Hooters I could not stop staring at every westerner I saw. there are literally no westerners in QHD, so seeing one in China it seemed a bit out of place for me. After we ate we started up a conversation with a group of westerners. It turned out that they were a theater group from South Africa traveling across China performing the theatrical version of the movie High School Musical. One of the actors asked if I was Jewish, I said I was. He said he was able to tell because of my “Jew nose.” He then proceeded to hit on me by telling me that he liked my beard and my Jew nose. It was weird being insulted and hit on at the same time.

We left Hooters and the High School Musical theater troupe and headed towards the bars.  We wanted to have a few drinks before we headed to the club because we knew drinks would be expensive in the club.

Walking past a few bars we were pulled into one (they literally grab your arm and pull you into their shop or bar). It turned out to be a poll dancing bar (don’t worry mom, there was no nudity). They seated us right up front to watch the show. It was kind of weird because men don’t really go to a bar to watch poll dancing to only watch the artful dancing. We go to see what the women take off while they dance, not the dance itself. It was a little awkward being there but the girls were trying and we applauded along with the crowd when they did a tricky routine.

We were then off the GT Banana. Inside it was supper loud and you could feel the base beat through your entire body. It was a nice club and I had fun dancing. I’m not sure if this is true of all dance clubs in China or just this one, but it reminded me of a bar/bat mitzvah party. The boys were dancing in a group together and the girls were dancing in a group together and occasionally you would see a boy and a girl dance together, but it was rare.

What got really annoying was that about every 30 minutes or so, they would stop everyone from dancing and a platform would be raised and a singer/performer perform. It was really weird because everyone was just standing there watching as this went on.

The next morning James and Matt had to wake up early because they needed to get travel visas to go to Australia, so Sam and I slept in a little bit longer before we headed back to the silk market. I still had to return my pants and Sam wanted to hit on some of the workers there.

I went straight to the jeans lady and asked her if I could exchange my pants for another pair. She was really nice and exchanged them with no hassle. This time I made sure I tried them on. Unfortunately the stalls were extremely small and they had no changing room. So instead she hung up a big sheet to create a partition so that I could change behind it. The pants were a little tight around the thighs but fit around the waste. That’s all I really cared about so I took the bigger pair and left.

Going home we didn’t mess around, we got the express train back to Qinhuangdao and were home within 2 hours. Overall we had a great time. We needed the get away and we were able to experience something new. Now that I know what to expect in Beijing I will be better prepared for next time.

NOTE: Once I got home I tried out the microphone and of course it didn’t work. I made sure to get a warranty receipt but I will have to wait till I go back to Beijing to either get my money back or get a new one. Go figure, something I bought in a knock-off market doesn’t work.



About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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