Apologies for not keeping this blog updated. Time seems to be flying faster than a fire breathing dragon..which leads me on to the topic of this post, the cultural aspect of China, but more precisely Beijing. Currently I am writing this at where I’m sat in the picture above, so I’m feeling good.
Firstly I want to post about something really funny that happened the night before yesterday. Me and G were starving (as usual) and thought we would go to a Chinese Hot Pot restaurant. We found one with ease and we entered. Feeling like a fish out of water I started filling up my salad bowl with different vegetables, beans and some things I’m not sure what they were. Things were going quite smoothly until I thought my dish looked somewhat dry so I picked up a ladle and started pouring some sauce onto it. For a split second the whole restaurant stopped talking and you could hear a pin drop. Momentarily followed by a roar of laughter. The whole restaurant was laughing at me, the girls at the desk were taking photos, getting the chefs to come out of this kitchen to laugh at the westerner. It was mental, I didn’t even feel embarrassed because I had no idea what I had done so I just stood there laughing with them all feeling abit insane. For what seemed like eternity they all got a grip of themselves and (I think) said I was supposed to put that particular sauce on after the chef had cooked the hot pot. I’m not entirely sure due to broken English/ Chinese conversation. I seemed to make everyone’s night though!
The next day (26th February) Georgia didn’t feel particularly well. I think she had her first episode of having an upset tummy. So we took it easy in the morning and then thought we would admire some religious culture in the afternoon. We walked for 1 hour on one straight road through the DongCheng district. I can’t explain to you how much your 5 senses are in constant overload, the beeping of the cars, the (quite sickly) smell of the street food, the kaleidoscopic, illuminating rainbow of colour on every corner. After a good 3 miles we reached the Lama temple (Yonghegong). A Tibetan influenced Buddist Temple that was (and I don’t use this word often), gorgeous. You pay £2 to enter and are given complimentary incense sticks to burn at each prayer location, and there are dozens of them. We watched the local Buddhists pray and followed suit but did not bow or say prayer visually as to not disrespect. As although I am a firm believer in Buddhist beliefs I do not practise Buddhism myself day to day so it didn’t seem right. I did pray though, for the health of mine and Georgia’s family, the health of my cousin Harriet and her partner Richs baby that is due this year, aswell as Georgia’s Uncle and his girlfriend for the health of their baby which is due around the same time.
400 metres from the Lama temple was the Temple of Confucius. To be fair I didn’t know much about him. I had read a book on Eastern Philosophy once and I remembered the basis of a lot of their thinking was Confucian. A national treasure to the Chinese people he was a icon, educationist and a phenomenal thinker, the Temple did him justice. It was a maze of different shrines, gardens and exhibitions, a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.
We had spent quite a small amount of money that day so we thought we would treat ourselves in the evening. Something that has been on my bucket list for years is to try Peking Duck in China. We hadn’t been eating meat but we wanted to do this as it is something we always have wanted to try. After a quick browse on trip advisor we learned that the 9th best restaurant in Beijing was just a 5 minute walk away and was famous for serving Peking Duck. Now if I felt like a fish out of water before, I certainly did now. This was the poshest restaurant I had been in, wearing a jumper with an oil stain on it, toothpaste on my jeans and dusty shoes I did feel a tad out of place from the tuxedo and dress wearing customers around us. The kitchen was surrounded my a pool with fish (some of them dead which was heartbreaking). We were taught how to eat the duck and wrap it in the pancakes but we completely ignored her because we are no way as skilful as the Chinese in using chop sticks, so we just sort of wrapped in and stuffed in our mouths when no one was looking. Proper British style. Anyway we ate the lot and it was marvellous. Our most expensive meal yet, but totally worth it. A whole duck, condiments for the pancakes and 2 leffes each was £40.
Today we woke up with the most cracked lips, the combination of the cold and the sun really does a number on your face, your skin and lips are always so dry. Being a Saturday we thought we would head down to some of the markets. At first we got the metro to Panjiayuan Antique Market. It was okay, slightly disappointing. The market itself was the biggest I have ever been to but everyone was selling the same stuff, mainly gems, beads, scarfs and China vases and plates.
We pottered round for an hour but got a bit bored so we jumped on the Metro and went to Hongqiao (Pearl) Market. Otherwise known as the fake goods market. It sold everything, from knock off Go Pros to rolexs to Ralph Lauren Hoodys and MAC make up. Georgia actually bought some MAC studio sculpt (she is telling me this) it costs her £25 in the UK and we got it for a tenth of the price for £2.50. Georgia was also really fed up of her snow boots and wanted to get some Nike trainers. She saw the ones she wanted and left the haggling to me. She’ll have no problem telling you that I’m the best haggler out of the two of us. The guy started off my asking for £30 (300yuan) I laughed pretty much in his face and told him forget it, he was going down and down by 50p at a time until he stopped at £25 (250 yuan) I said I’ll give you 50 yuan (£5) he laughed at me and in turn told me to forget it. I walked away and he made me a offer more suited for him, I stood my ground and stuck with 50yuan and this went on for about 10 minutes, literally. Eventually he got so mad at my stubbornness he was kicking chairs, shouting calling me a ‘crazy man’ but he cracked and I got them for the price I wanted.
Georgia was happy and we left the market to go to the Temple of Heaven. The entry fee is 10yuan and the grounds of the temple were great. Not only were there beautiful gardens and shrines to admire but people were doing Tai Chi, singing songs, playing sports, gambling with cards, it felt like festival atmosphere and was probably my favourite thing we have done in China.
We’re off to a Korean restaurant now! Thanks for reading.