I’ve come to a strange realization: There’s no better feeling than being a tourist.
Not many locals are fond of tourists and I can definitely see why. The khaki shorts, running shoes, bulky cameras, Ray Ban’s with the neck strap. Oooh’s and aaaah’s, finger-pointing, the overly-exaggerated “shee shee” when trying to say “thank you” in Mandarin.
It is indeed painful to watch, but you can always tell a tourist is 100% comfortable with themselves between snapping photos and adapting to chopsticks. They should trade in their neon polos for shirts that say, “I know I’m a tourist. I don’t give a sh*t”
For the first time in over a year, I had the pleasure of being a tourist. The camera on my phone was ready in the blink of an eye. My jaw was dropping at all the Beijing tourist attractions I didn’t know I lived right next to.
I had to ask myself one question: What is better than being a tourist? By the end of the day I found my answer after taking a peek at my wallet.
Four Beijing Tourist Attractions, $50, 12 hours.
Slow Boat Brunch – $22-$25/person
What can I say about Slow Boat that I haven’t already said before? I’m thinking of carving a “Seat Reserved for Monica” into one of their consistently busy tables.
Incase you weren’t sold on how great this place is from my last article, then you’ll be blown away by what I’m about to tell you: All You Can Drink for 100RMB with the purchase of brunch (35RMB). This was my biggest expense all day. Less than $22 for a three-hour drinking window and an awesome mantou sandwich.
When 2 o’clock came around, we decided we needed something to do with our boozy selves without being too obnoxious to the public.
We threw around a few ideas but wanted to keep it on the affordable side since we’d be showing one of our newest teachers around Beijing.
Hou Hai Lake – $10/person
I’ll be honest, I know Hou Hai is close to Slow Boat, but I can totally not remember if we had to take a taxi to get there. If we did, I’ll say it was less than 20RMB ($3). If we didn’t, then we had a gorgeous and quick walk on a day with nothing but blue skies and crisp air.
I’m again taking a jab at the $10/person estimate. There was a deposit of around 200RMB ($32) that you got back after you returned the boat. After that, it was around 30RMB ($5) to use the paddleboat itself. The other $5 is incorporated into any beverages you might want to take with you on the boat. We chose some 10RMB ($1.60) local brews and soaked up the views that were inescapable no matter which direction you looked in.
My favorite part was the paddle boat traffic jam that required a team effort of people shouting, “Move!” or “To the left!” and “No! To the right!”
Instead of shouting anything useful, my boyfriend just did what he always does when he gets the opportunity to raise his voice: scream until you can’t scream anymore.
Not to say that Hou Hai wasn’t an amazing experience and that we couldn’t have gone on a more appropriate day, but it was getting cold, and as usual, I was getting hungry. And cranky.
Mr. Shi’s Dumpling ($10/person)
We hopped in a taxi from Houhai, another $3 or so, and got that special tourist treatment – getting dropped off in the wrong place.
Luckily, it wasn’t too far and allowed us to have another brisk walk with lots of sight-seeing in Nanluoguxiang. A great shopping and bar street with lots of local knick-knacks to bring back home for friends and family. This made me forget I was hungry for around six minutes.
Our friend had been to Mr. Shi’s before, and since I’m still new to Beijing I had no idea it was an expat hotspot. There are some great debates about who has the best dumplings in Beijing. It’s clear why Mr. Shi has been in the Top 5 cut numerous times.
Between four people we had 30 fried dumplings (we typically get steamed, but, hey, vaycay!) with heaps of fillings, a plate of green onion tofu to cleanse the palate between bites of dumplings soaked in garlicky vinegar and pepper, spicy cold lotus root, thinly sliced potatoes, fried shrimp, and some cold Tsingdao’s for 247RMB ($40).
Yes. $10 a person for everything you want as a tourist eating new foods.
Let your mouth water with this Flickr find:
Nan Luo Gu Xiang – $8
After stuffing my face full of dumplings, another walk was in order.
Don’t be intimidated by the pronunciation of this well-known area. With everything ranging from gorgeous hand-crafted fans to traditional Chinese jewelers, you will be in souvenir heaven. You can easily spend a fortune on this street, but we were just window shopping and still had a blast.
After stumbling through every nook in this shopping district, we stopped off for a night cap at a French-operated bar called Salud, which had good music, surprisingly smooth cinnamon/apple infused brandy shots, and a not-so-good shandy.
We clearly dun had too many.
With a 12-hour day under our belts, loads of laughs, incredible sights, full bellies, and a camera full of photos, we decided to call it a day.
We often get asked if drinking is the only thing most foreigners do in China. I can assure you, it’s not. We just like to do things + drink.
We spent our 12 hours in what was probably a square mile in Dongcheng district, just another small section of Chaoyang. I joked about how I’ve been to Beijing countless times and have still only seen roughly 5% of what this city alone has to offer.
For the drinkers and over-eaters like us, our day inexplicably affordable (seriously, I woke up terrified to look at my wallet). For those of you with self control, just imagine how many date nights, staycations, family trips, etc. you can afford.