Monday, April 04, 2005
You cannot eat shark fin soup and bear claw soup at the same time (Chinese proverb)
We saw Beijing wake up today thru the seemingly perpetual haze. First a trickle of early birds on their bicycles, then more bicycles and walking school children, and then all of China got on the same road we were using. It certainly felt that way. However, crowded and confusing to the foreign eye, the morning commute was calm, efficient and productive.
After a kings breakfast of at least 30 buffet choices, we headed out to The Summer Palace. This is where historically, the Chinese nobility of the Qing dynasty vacationed. We took a short cruise on the Kumming lake on a boat shaped like a colorful dragon and walked the length of the longest corridor in the world (half a mile long).
Never could we had finished all the food served to us and left the restaurant wishing we had paced ourselves better. Luckily we got to walk off our gluttony and arrived at the hotel ready to rest. Some in our group ordered massages which are provided right in ones hotel room for about $15-20 for a full body massage. Some relaxed in the hotel pool facility and some turned in early.
Within minutes, David arrived with our waitresses. He ordered for us and the food flood gates broke open. The wait staff brought dish after dish of delicious foods that they placed on the lazy susan. We, of course did not know how things were done but in the spirit of adventure grabbed our chop stickes, spun the giant lazy susan like a wheel of fortune contestant and reached for every thing in our grasp. We were served whole steamed prawns complete with head and staring eyeballs, deliciously spiced roasted shrimp, Chinese salad, a fantastic Schechuan pork dish, 4 different vegetable dishes with impossible spice combinations, chicken with pine nuts, hot and sour soup, beef and broccoli, chrysanthemum tea (with a handful of flowers floating in it) and much, much more. Zach was attacked by a really, really hot chili pepper that had him turning colors, sweating and tearing up at the same time! It was pretty funny to see him squirm.
The dimly lit alley
David wiscked us to our hotel in a private minibus, while giving us tourist tidbits and historical information about Beijing on the way. After freshening up and getting a chance to exchange currency, we walked behind our hotel for a traditional Schechuan dinner. We entered a beautiful restaurant with the typical Chinese décor and were ushered thru and to the back door. There, we found that we had been thrown back into a more traditional China. This was the stuff I saw in dubbed Chinese movies.
We walked thru a dimly lit, very narrow alley, semi covered with corrugated tin roof. The eaves drops were lined with big tasseled red rice paper lanterns and what looked like Christmas lights. We entered a small and very cozy private room. The group was seated in a big round table that took up most of the space. In the middle of the table, there was a very large glass lazy susan.
After a 28 hour trip, we finally arrived at our final destination. It was all very surreal because Beijing airport area looks much like Detroit. We immediately posed for pictures after the passport check point and retrieved our luggage.
After a short delay due to bus troubles, our tour guide, David met us at the airport and made us feel very welcomed. He taught us how to say how do you do? and thank you in Mandarin Chinese. David is young and immediately bonded with the group. His English is great and he tries very hard to use Americanisms whenever possible. This is very funny sometimes.