Yesterday Charis and I went to the Forbidden City, which is right by Tiananmen Square, where I had been a few days earlier. I'm not sure what I was expecting with it, but it was absolutely massive! We got there around noon, and walked around until it closed at five, and hadn't seen everything. It's insane to think about how long the Chinese culture has been around; all during the day, I kept wishing I could go back in time and see what it must have looked like during the Qing dynasty. :)
While visiting the Forbidden City, I also got to experience another first for me - a teenager asked if she could take a picture with me! I was a bit surprised, but it made me feel famous for a few seconds. :)
After the Forbidden City, we went to a street nearby (Guansomething), where they sell everything from fried scorpion to starfish. I had initially thought of trying a scorpion (after a conversation w/ someone at home), but ultimately chickened out when I saw and smelled them (all though the smell may have been the tofu). We did end up getting shrimp dumplings, some beef on a stick, and deep fried cream balls. While not as exotic as chicken feet, it tasted much better. :)
On Saturday evening, I met up with Charis and her business project team, who were also from UChicago. We went to a hot pot restaurant for dinner, which is where they bring boiling bowls of water and seasonings to your table, and you slide the food in and cook it yourself. We had two bowls- one spicy and one plain, and both were really good (again, nothing exotic). The restaurant was only a few blocks down from the Olympic Park, so after dinner we went and walked around, which was really cool. (But then, I'm a sucker for the Olympics!) The Bird's Nest wasn't as complex as I thought it would be - from what I had seen, I thought the strands were a lot smaller and more tightly woven. (If I remember, there actually were supposed to be more, but then they eliminated them from the plan to save money). Charis also said that the Chinese government has been holding that land for years (since the 80s) waiting to use it as an Olympic Park. Lucky for them, I guess, it all worked out.
On our way out, there were vendors selling little toys and flags/kites with the Olympic mascot on it. As we walked past, one of the vendors walked along side us, trying to convince me to buy a little kite. He said, "Hello! Very cheap, only one dollar!". His persistence was admirable, but as he offered it again for only a dollar, I told him, "Tai gui!" (too expensive). Everyone in the group got a kick out of it, and the seller left shortly thereafter. I guess my limited Chinese is good for something, at least. :)