Parks and Recreation - The Beijing Experience: Day 2.0
Saturday, August 30th (part 1)
We're at the Jingshan Garden Hotel in Beijing. The hotel is tucked away behind a main road and behind the road behind that. It is beyond quiet. All we can hear are the quiet shufflings of hotel staff and the occasional guest. You walk into the hotel and past reception to a very open area which feels exactly like you'd expect for China. Lanterns hang from the roof, a koi pond is in the middle of the outdoor area, and plenty of touches scream "YOU ARE IN BEIJING!!"
I know I was awake until 230a. Then I looked at the clock at 630a. We were meeting Adele and Fay for breakfast at 830a. I took a preventative Aleve (ok, two) and began the day.
Last night, Adele, Danielle and I plotted our day. Adele and Fay were too tired from the Mongolia leg of their trip to deal with much. Danielle and I would be jet lagged and needed to acclimate to the time difference. Which meant today would be spent figuring out how Beijing works. But first, breakfast.
We climbed up the stairs to a breakfast area which was also quiet. The occasional guest would enter and exit, but overall, it was us and the two staff members. The room was very similar to the hotels we had in Peru. There was nothing to write home about, decor-wise, but there were plenty of options to choose from. There was a rice porridge, Chinese veggies and baos, plus sausages and bacon, some little cookies, and plenty of toast. We also had a choice of a made to order foods. Everyone in the group chose the green onion pancake. It was like a savory crepe. Perfect. And the more I thought about it, the more I was impressed with the breakfast. We didn't eat again until 2p. And even then, I wasn't super hungry. Say what you will about the "American Breakfast"...a Chinese breakfast gets the job done.
The main goal for today was to get a feel for Beijing. More specifically, our neighborhood. And what was better to start with than a park??
Our hotel was a few blocks away from Jingshan Garden. For ¥2 (about $0.40 USD), we entered a park where people of all ages and socioeconomic classes gathered in various sections. Some were dancing a tango-like dance with accompanying music. Others were playing a hackey sack kind of game with a shuttlecock. But old and young played and danced together. It was great to see everyone doing outdoor things with each other.
We wandered the grounds and found several vantage points where we could get high enough to see the Forbidden City. It was here where we started to play everyone's favorite game, "Smog or Fog??" Adele and I both said it was like we had on a faulty pair of contact lenses. Everything looked so muted. And the next day (Full Disclosure - I am on Day 2 and already behind in telling stories. Then again, China doesn't allow Google in their country, so my blog is on hold until I get home anyway, so there), we all seemed to comment that it felt like we were taking pictures in black and white. Again, I'm jumping ahead, but our guide for the a Night Market Food Tour said that the smog was pretty bad today, but that's normal for this time of year. Beijing is in a "basin" and the heat and pollution made for smoggy situations.
I know what you're asking...Food Tour?? Yes. Stick with me. I'll get to it soon...
|Fay needed a moment to hover|
|The story of the tree where the Emperor hung himself is interesting. The tree was "charged" with his death and was manacled. Unfortunately, the tree is no longer there. Just a sign. A sign that was just there for people to take pictures.|
Danielle had saved a place for dumplings from TripAdvisor that we were all pretty jazzed to consider for lunch. The decision was made to find them. First though, we stopped back at our hotel for a pit stop. Every one of us had been warned about the toilet situation. "It's a hole in the ground." "Bring your own toilet paper." No one was ready to attempt the Chinese Toilet Situation at this point. So we didn't. We dropped our crap off at the hotel, then took a moment for a...ummm...moment. And then we started looking for dumplings.
|But first, we stopped at a park, where Fay and Danielle took a moment to exercise with a kid.|
|This statue was actually watching people play mahjong. Though to me, the statue looked like it was puking.|
Mr Shi's Dumplings was, in theory, easy enough to find. We knew where it would be. It just took a while to get there. But we kept stopping for shoes and souvenirs and other stuff. There was even a stop to get snacks before getting dumplings. Adele bought a "sandwich" called the Exploding Chicken. It was like a KFC Double Down, but with cheese in the middle. It was also undercooked...possibly giving a double meaning to "exploding."
But we walked and walked and finally made it to Mr Shi's. We ordered several types of both fried and steamed dumplings, plus a smoked tofu salad. Here's the thing...tofu salad is amazing. I want to eat this every day. Every day. The dumplings were good as well. I think I thought I would be happier with the steamed dumplings, but the fried ones...so good.
|I need to find tofu salad at home.|
|Mutton and Pork fried dumplings|
|No idea which one this was. I ate it very quickly after this picture was taken.|
On the way back from the dumplings, we stopped at the Drum and Bell Tower, a pair of structures from the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty, which if climbed, can give people a great view of the city. Unfortunately, as we were researching last night, the towers are closed until October. We still walked by the towers. So that accounts for something, right??
Post lunch, we walked near Qianhai, a lake near Jingshan Garden. This was definitely a place to come for a night on the town, as bars and clubs were everywhere along the lake. It was also most noticeable for the fact that Fay was the first one to break the seal (as it were) on using the public toilets. It was mostly ok, as Fay was laughing hysterically when she came out. Turns out, she had used the Men's Toilet instead. Oh well, right?? She says it wasn't that bad. I'm still not sure.
While we all wanted to take a boat ride with a rubber duckie boat (who doesn't??) we didn't. And we went back to the hotel, where I totally took a Disco Nap. It was great. So great. But soon enough, it was time to leave for our big event of the day. We were going on a Night Market Tour.
Yes, I realize I took the wind out of my own sails earlier when I talked about the tour in during our "Smog or Fog??" game, but these things happen. "Smog or Fog" is a very important game. And the Night Market Tour is an important part of the day. Which will be continued in another post. Yes, I'm a total tease...