Our first real day in Beijing started out with the staff of the hotel restaurant refusing to let us into the breakfast area because we weren’t on their list so we headed down to the lobby and checked that our booking had been sorted and got one of their staff to set the restaurant staff straigh which took it’s time but in the end we got our buffet breakfast. After feasting on dumplings and Bacon and eggs and various fruits we discovered that the subway is actually a very easy to use and rode it to the zoo.
On our way out of the subway on the zoo end was an impromptu market selling all sorts of goods from silly hats to rockmellon on sticks to infeasibly large numbers of pairs of stockings. It was a bit intense and it was nice to emerge onto the slightly less manic sidewalk. The zoo was dirt cheap but a more regular price for if you wanted to include the aquarium (still much cheaper than zoos at home). The reason for this became apparent soon after entering.
Don’t go to the Beijing Zoo. Just don’t. It is a largely depressing experience that Emily and I got through by making a joke of and laughing at the just how shit the zoo was. The aviaries were particularly depressing. Huge black cages filled with depressed looking birds losing feathers. In the Australian section this was especially heartbreaking and Emily and I were so upset and offended it brought tears to our eyes. The rule of the zoo appeared to be randomly arranged animals fed and managed according to their popularity which led to images of zebras standing in pools of fecal waste eating scraps of food from the hands of visitors, kangaroos in completely bare indoor rooms and toddlers spitting on tapirs.
The Aquarium was impressive in comparison to the zoo but that can be considered no great achievement when entering is immediately preceded by seeing an elephant standing forlornly in a dusty yard with nothing but an electric fence in it. Though the various stupid faced fish were amusing to watch, the highlight was a pair of unlabelled large marine mammals that were beautifully graceful to watch but after a while the smallness and bleakness of even their enclosure was hard to ignore. After looking at some native Chinese nosy type fish we took a brief look at the fake fossils created from the national craft of cement sculpting and the similarly bleakly housed dolphins before deciding to leave.
After the depressing zoo we headed to the Xidan shopping district to try and find dinner and a sim card for my phone. After discovering that without knowing more than a handful of words from one another’s languages conversations such as “I would like to buy a prepaid sim card with internet access” and “what is in this meal?” are nearly impossible, we emerged, bemused with a KFC meal containing two burgers and a pork curry with rice. We ate it in the main dining area as several of the cleaning staff took up posts in a ring around us, apparently stopping other diners from bothering us. Once we had finished our meal we decided we’d had enough weird for the day and headed back o the hotel.