Monday, February 1, 2016

Last full day in Beijing...Lots of Lessons Learned.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

We were excited that this morning and the next we have complimentary breakfast! It's the little things that excite us. :) We made our way to the 4th floor and was welcomed to a buffet breakfast that was beyond what we have ever seen. They had western style food and Chinese style food. We tried a little bit of both. They had a juice bar and everything was very fancy. We enjoyed taking our time and savoring the flavors and smells.

After breakfast, we decided to venture out via taxi to the Silk Street Market. This was a place that we were told would have great items that we could bargain with the sellers. Anyone who knows Ben, knows that this is his kind of shopping. Me on the other hand, not so much. Ha Ha. I've learned to just look the other way and walk a bit away to avoid the negotiating. We ended up getting amazing deals on 2 custom made suits and 2 dresses (1 custom made). Great job Honey! 4 items for less than the price of the original price of 1! We went to get a taxi to go back to the hotel and this is where our day changed for the worse... up until this moment, everything had been going extremely smoothly. All of the people had been very nice, and we were surprised by how many English speaking people we came across. We go to get into this particular taxi and he gives us 60 Yuan (Chinese money). We knew that it cost 40 yuan to get there, so we assumed he was giving us 60 change so we could give him a 100. So we did that but as we gave him the 100, he said what sounded like, “Neeewwww 100, Neewwww 100” and gave us the 100 back. It had a small tear in the top, so we thought he wanted one without a tear. So we gave him a different one. This happened a couple times and by this time, he had pulled over not more than 2km from the silk street and started pointing to a building saying, neeww 100, neeww 100. We were so confused and nothing seemed to work with communication, so we gave him the 60 back and got out of the taxi. We were very excited to ask our guide, Rocky, tomorrow when we saw him what ''neeewww 100” meant. We walked a bit and found another taxi. We got to the hotel and gave him exact change for the trip. He was very kind and surprised by the little Chinese that I knew in regards to Chinese numbers.

We decided to walk around the hotel to see some shops near by and asked the Concierge to recommend some. He said there weren't very many, but there was a mall and a Walmart within a block. We didn't really want to go to Walmart, but then decided to just to see what it was like in comparison to ones in America. We walked there and I was surprised by how much it is different. Rather than blue signs everywhere, there are red ones EVERYWHERE! It was packed with people! The grocery section was on the ground level and then to get to the home goods items, you had to go down a level. Rather than escalators, stairs, or elevators to get down, they had a incline belt that you get on, with your cart, to go down on the moving belt. So, we decide to look at Chinese New Year celebration decorations and candy (it falls on Feb 8 this year and we plan on celebrating it with Lucee when we are back in the US). We blindly choose candy that we can't read what it is, but based of pictures and touch, we chose several kinds. The decorations we decided to wait to get due to our luggage restrictions that will be better once we can add Lucee's bags. We go to pay for the candy and Ben gives a 100 to get change back and the cashier immediately says, “no good!” and hands it back. We are so confused at this point why this money keeps getting rejected and pay with credit card. We realize now, that we can't wait to ask rocky tomorrow, we need to talk with someone at the hotel since that's where we exchanged the money in the first place.

We go to the concierge and ask him about it. He says this money is fake. We hand him our money and he begins separating the real money from the fake money. He starts asking us questions about where we were and how we discovered that it was fake. Overall, there were 8 – 100 yuan that were fake. With the exchange rate where it is now, this is equal to $125. Ben thinks it is from the hotel's exchange machine and goes upstairs to get the receipt. Meanwhile, a manger has come over to ask me questions and tell me that the ATM is certified and they have records of all the money that comes in and out of the machine. She shows me how to tell that it is fake and explains that it more than likely happened at either silk street or in the taxi. As I think about it, the taxi seems like the most likely person to have switched the money. In silk street, the money was all in a money belt and only 200 yuan was in Ben's pocket. The purchasing of clothes was not with cash. Ben came back and the manager explained everything to him, Ben is not convinced that it was the taxi driver because he never had 8 100's, maybe only 3 that were ever in his hand. Unless it was a magic trick, there's no way he had access to 8 of them. We called our guide who offered to come over to help and possibly drive to the spot where the taxi driver let us out. Ben and I went upstairs to our room to wait. This is not how we had envisioned spending our last night in Beijing. We had planned on this night being the night that we went to a fancy restaurant for to have an anniversary night out. Instead, we are in our room, waiting for our guide to drive to our hotel. We couldn't do anything because we weren't sure how long it would take him. Thankfully we had a deck of cards, and tried to occupy our thoughts with playing Canasta. We thought it would take him only 20 minutes to get here, it ended up taking over an hour. When he arrived, he and the manager went back and forth talking in Chinese trying to make sense of it all. Rocky was very helpful, but since we didn't have the taxi driver's cab number or a receipt from him, we couldn't turn him in to the police. The manager brought out the list of the numbers of each money that comes out of the ATM and the fake numbers we had, were not on the list, so that was proof that it didn't come from the machine. We realized, there was nothing we could do about it. Chalk this one up as “stupid tax” and a lesson learned with a smaller amount, rather than the big orphanage amount that it could've been! Praise the Lord! $125 is better to learn this lesson on than $5K!
By this time, it's about 730, we decided to still get dressed up and go out to eat. We went to the fancy restaurant Man Ho in our restaurant. We were very surprised that although the rest of the hotel had workers that spoke pretty fluent English, this restaurant did not. The waitresses spoke very little English and didn't understand much either. I ordered a Sauteed Chicken dish, and Ben went to order a steak and the waitress asked if he wanted 1 or 2. he didn't know why she was asking this and changed his mind to order a Kung Pou chicken dish. She said, “No, you already have chicken dish.” In China, they don't really order a dish for each person, they order dishes to share with everyone, so to her, this seemed weird to order 2 chicken dishes. She also said, “you order kung pou chicken anywhere, get something else here.” Ben looks for another beef dish and orders one with garlic and onions. The waitress says, “you get 2 cold dishes (like appetizers) on the house from me, would you like rice cakes? Very good, very special with new year” At this point, we just want to eat and feel so out of our element, we say sure. She asks us what we want to drink, and we order water with lemon. Ben may have gotten a drink, but I don't remember.
The cold dishes come out and we find out they are “spicy turnips” and “black fungus”. They both are spicy. The black fungus was very slippery and rubbery. I ate one, but was done after that. Ben ate a bit more. The spicy turnips were great to me, except they were too spicy :) The texture was crunchy and I wish I could've eaten more. Ben loves spicy foods, and really enjoyed this dish. Then our water comes out. It's hot water in a glass with a lemon slice floating in it. As weird as it seemed to us, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this! From this point on, this is what I ordered and probably will continue to drink hot lemon water when we get back home. Our chicken and beef come out next. The dishes are super hot (heat wise). So here we are trying to eat extremely hot meats and wash it down with almost boiling hot water. Ha Ha... when we are almost done with the meal, our rice cakes come out. By this point we are both pretty full but we try the rice cake anyway. There are about 10 of them on a platter. They look a bit like scones. 5 of them are white with brown seeds or cocoa beans in them. The other 5 are like a cinnamon color, but didn't have much of a taste. Neither one of them really did. The outside texture was crunchy and a bit greasy, but the inside was a mush, like really cooked rice turns to mush. Needless to say we barely finished 2 of the 10. We joked about how the bill would probably be $300 with the day that we've had. We got the amount of the bill but didn't really look at how it was broken down. It wasn't an outrageous amount, signed for it and as we were leaving, the waitress asked if we wanted them to box the leftovers and send them to our room, we explained that we were full and had to fly tomorrow so didn't want to take them. We took pictures and got on the elevator to go to our room. We get up there and are looking at the bill broken down and find out the rice cakes were $50, more than half of the bill!!! No wonder they were so insistent on boxing the rest of them up for us. Oh my, what a day. Thankfully we were able to laugh it off and enjoy the rest of the night, despite being woken up at 330AM because Ben's suits and my dress were delivered at that time after being custom made. The man had us try them on right then to make sure that they fit. They did, just like a glove. I was able to go back to sleep, but unfortunately, Ben wasn't.
"This is the way we wash our clothes..." due to the fact that it costs a ton to have it done there...                                             $5 for 1 pr of pants, $2 for pr of socks, etc. ! 

Picture in our 1st taxi in Beijing...

Walmart... the meat is just out in the open...

Walmart, they have these flat escalators so people can take their carts between the 2 levels.

Fancy Dinner

Happy Early Anniversary dinner

3:30AM Ben and his suit

Gotta take a picture of our custom made items...  :)

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