04.08.2014 - 04.08.2014
To get a visa to China costs around $140 and, unless you live near a Chinese embassy, another $60 to use a courier to hand deliver it. This all needs to be done before you leave the country. However, they have now added in an interesting option. There is a special transit stamp which does not cost anything. If you fly from one country thru China to a third country you can get a 72 hour one if you go through certain hubs like Beijing and Chengdu. However, we flew into Urumqi first and had to settle for the 24 hour one that really gave us until the next day to get on a flight. If you time it well you could actually get two days out of it.
So what do you do with only 24 hours in Beijing? It helps if you have a friend (thanks Amy) and little to no sleep. First we got ourselves a enormous dinner. Peking Duck was the main dish, cut up infront of you and served with tiny pancakes and a variety of sauces and toppings. The skin is dipped in sugar to give a sweet and savory flavor. The rest of the carcass was made into a light soup thickened with starch. This helps to cut the greasiness of the duck.
For sides we had steamed broccoli with soy sauce, house made soft tofu with black vinegar and scallion dipping sauce and dumplings with a chili sauce. To wash it all down we ordered a pitcher of juice made of dried fruit and spices. It had a nice full flavor that paired well with the meatiness of the duck.
Dumplings not pictured as they were eaten to fast.
For desert we went to get a specialty snack Ben wanted. Not even the Chinese were ordering the five poisonous animals. We bought the scorpion and dusted it with cumin. The body was the best part, actually having meat inside, while the claws were just crunchy. Other options were snake, centipede, gecko, starfish and seahorses.
In the morning we got up early to rush to the train station to find a long line and trains cancelled. So we waited and after several hours if sitting around and a mad dash to get seats on the train we finally got to the Great Wall of China. With the transit stamp you are not allowed to leave the city limits but portions of the Great Wall are in Beijing. Being short on time we opted for the cable car to the top.
After this was a good meal of Sichuan food and security not liking my bag of souvenir coins. Despite the hold up we finished our layover and boarded the plane to South Korea.