Disclaimer: If you've never been to a non-English speaking country, please remember this is where we were. Also keep in mind we were in a communist country so I was also secretly terrified for my life even though we were told it was fine.
McDonald's and the Americans
We spent our first day (3/6) in China sightseeing Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and taking a Hutong Tour in Beijing. It was an exhausting day, and we got back to the hotel around 3pm. We made plans to meet Flora, our guide, the next morning so dinner was on us. Since we were still jet-lagged, we thought a nap would be appropriate.
(Let me stop here and describe the Chinese beds. I am all for a firm mattress. Give me the firmest you got, but these Chinese mattresses were highly uncomfortable. Maybe it was this particular hotel or maybe we got used to them as the trip went on but I did not sleep well in Beijing. Also, the pillows were terrible and there was a fitted sheet and a down comforter. No top sheet in China. Either you burned up from the covers or you froze from not being covered. True story. And during this time of year, Beijing is cold. It was in the 30s during the day while we were there. Walking around. Walking, people! We rarely took a taxi in Beijing except from the airport, to/from The Great Wall (2 hours from Beijing), and to the train station.)
Back to the story: This nap turned into a 5+ hour nap so it was 9:30pm when we woke up. And we were hungry. I suggested running down to the convenience store next to our hotel. Quick, easy, and very limited time in the cold. Daniel didn't want to do that and wanted "real food". So we decided to walk down the street to see about trying some local cuisine. There were noodle shops every block so it was about trying to decide which restaurant's menu looked the most appetizing. The menus were plastered to the windows for easy view.
We found a restaurant that we both agreed to try so we went in. The guys were in the back cleaning so we looked at the menu to make our final choices. One guy came running to the front when we came in the door. He quickly realized we didn't speak any Mandarin and proceeded to tell us it was "open". We said, "Ok, great! We want numbers..." "No, no, no. We're open." "Yeah, ok. Good. We want..." Then he realized he meant to say closed instead of open. We apologized for not knowing they were closed, and Daniel asked where the closest McDonald's was. (In China, there are noodle restaurants on every block and every few blocks there are McDonald's.) The guy gave us very vague directions with a lot of turns and "crossing of the streets". Frankly, I knew we would get lost. I wasn't confident in this guy's English since he said the store was "open" when it was indeed "closed".
So we made our way to the McDonald's on the streets of Beijing around 10pm. Honestly, all I could think about was how frightened my parents would be if/when they found out we were walking at night the streets of Beijing. Not just any city, but one of the biggest cities in the world in a foreign country with no way to communicate if something happened. Yep, I would be grounded if I wasn't 31 and not living under their roof. In fact, Mom was not pleased to hear this story when I told her weeks later when we were home safe.
As we made our way to McDonald's, I noticed that there were quite a few people out. The streets weren't crowded like they were during the day, but it reminded me of being in downtown Birmingham during the day and all the people out. One thing about China is everyone (unless they interact with foreigners daily) keeps to themselves. No one says "Nihao" or anything when passing by people. The Chinese are focused on where they are going.
After about a mile of walking, we finally made it to the McDonald's! I had never been so happy to see that place ever in my life!! We tried to order but our words were lost in translation and they had to get a paper menu out for us to point to. I got a double cheeseburger combo and Daniel got a Big Mac combo both with Cokes. (We drank a lot of Cokes while in China due to the fact their water is undrinkable. Every day we were given 2 new water bottles at each hotel we stayed.) Let me just say I'm not a big McDonald's fan, but I was forever changed while in China! You have never tasted a more delicious hamburger than at the McDonald's in China. We pretty much ate McDonald's everyday (sometimes 2x a day) during our 2 week stay. It sounds pricy, but everything is so cheap in China especially food. Our 2 combos cost around $7. It was like 2 for 1 over there!
We decided it would be best to eat there before making the cold trek back to our hotel. We found a table facing out the main window with some chairs like a bar type table. As we ate I thought about how hilarious it must be to the locals to see 2 Americans seated at the window table staring out onto the Beijing streets while eating their McDonald's. I will say that we learned that McDonald's delivers in China via a bicycle. And they were making deliveries at 10 o'clock at night.
On our way back to the hotel, we looked at the shops and talked about where we might want to try next. At the end of our street on the corner, we found the next place we would venture to...The Wu-Mart.
Yes, Wu-Mart, not Wal-Mart. That untold China story is next...