One of the must sees in Beijing is Tiananmen square. We had made our way past Tiananmen square during one of our night tours but it’s not really a night tour area and most things are off limits during that time. Once you get to Tiananmen square you quickly figure out that it’s truly just a square. There is a lot of historical significance to the location, but it’s really a huge open area in the middle with a large buildings all around it. Security in the area is higher than other locations. We had to pass through metal detectors and have our bags checked. Once you get to the square itself, there really isn’t a ton to see other than a huge float type thing in the middle which seemed rather temporary.
At the north end of Tiananmen square is the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Nearly everyone has seen this red structure which was originally built in 1420. This gate servers as the entrance to the forbidden city. We also recognized the place from the propaganda video they play on a loop in the subway system. Much of the video is centered around their military in Tiananmen square and it seems to end at the Gate of Heavenly Peace. As you pass over the bridge that takes you to the Forbidden city there are CIA dudes all along the sides. You can see them in the black suits below. They wouldn’t let you stop on the bridge for selfies so this was the best pic we could get!
After we crossed over we headed into the Forbidden city. Perhaps we should have done a tour because we walked through the whole compound and there wasn’t really interesting to see. It was basically a large square with a court yard in the middle, you pass through it, and you come to another large square and court yard. This sequence repeats 4 or 5 times in total so the size of the place is very impressive. However, you don’t get to see a lot of what’s inside anywhere.
After we made our way through Tiananmen square and the Forbidden city, we decided to head back to the Hostel. We were hanging out at the rooftop bar and we starting chatting with a couple Australian people. It was one guy and one girl and they were just passing through Beijing on their way to North Korea for a tour. We asked them what inspired the trip and they said they had been a lot of places and wanted something different. From what they understood about the tour, it was basically going to be a party the whole time they were there and they would have guides that made sure they had a good time and had good things to say about North Korea. Not sure how that turned out for them but sounded like an interesting experience! We had heard about a night market nearby and asked our new Australian friends if they wanted to join us. They agreed and off we went!
Visiting the Night Market
We made our way to the night market to see what we could find. We heard from other travelers that there was some “crazy food and insects” to eat so we were interested to see what it was. We arrived and it was a long street full of stalls serving food. The first few stalls were pretty normal and had some interesting food. The fried banana stuck out in my head as interesting. We grabbed a pork sandwich looking thing and it turned out to be pretty decent.
We made our way down the stalls and that’s when the real fun started. Ashley and I had both decided we were up for trying some crazy food so that we could at least say we had done something new. We were not exactly prepared for the wide variety of food that we had the option of eating. The first thing we stumbled across was scorpion. The scorpion’s were relatively small and they fry them for you before eating. We decided to go for it and it actually turned out to not be bad! They were basically just crunchy with no real flavor at all so it was just friend crunchyness. As weird insect food goes, I give Scorps a 9/10!
After we tried the scorpions and had some success (or something) we got a little more adventurous. Next up we decided to try silk worms. This is where things went from good to terrible. The silk worms were also friend. Silk worms generally look a bit like a massive cockroach with small legs. That doesn’t help you mentally get in the mood to eat something you’ve never had and honestly it should have been a red flag. With our newfound spirit of adventure form eating scorpion we hastily bite into the silk worms. What we failed to realize is that scorpions are skinny little things and silk worms are the opposite. As we bite into the silk worms the insides of their friend bodies oozed out. We both struggled to keep them down and were quickly drinking to try and wash away the flavor.
After the first three weird things we tried we stumbled across the spiders. Ashley and I were both interested in trying new things but we couldn’t bring ourselves to eat a Tarantula. Also, these things we just as terrifying in real life as the photo depicts below:
Our last crazy food item to eat was snake. The snake was fried as well but there was no batter added to it, it was simply to heat it up. They put a good amount of spice on the outside of the snake as well. Ashley and I were both nearing the end of our desire to eat weird things but we figured we should give it a shot. The snake tasted predictably like tough dry chicken and wasn’t necessarily horrible, but it also wasn’t good.
Having triumphed over the weird food, yet still hungry, our group made it’s way over to our favorite place and picked up a real dinner for $5. Everyone enjoyed the experience and we were all happy we gave it a shot! Overall the night was a success! We said our goodbye’s, wished them the best in North Korea and called it a night.
I abruptly woke up at 2 in the morning. My heart was pounding and I was sweating. I feel a strange rumbling in my stomach. My mind instantly races back to the silk worm. I spring out of bed and make my way towards our broken toilet which aides me in quickly throwing up everything in my stomach. I instantly feel better and I know that my body is telling me not to eat that stuff again. Months later I still have no desire to eat any weird food! Ashley made it through the night no problem and never got sick at all!