Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beijing, April 8

"You are gonna be OK," says Weijing. "Just don't go to any drinking places with strangers, don't ride homemade taxis, and don't eat any scorpions."

These are probably sensible instructions for life in general, not just in Beijing.

"What's wrong with the scorpions?"
"Nothing really, it's just that you Westerners are not accustommed to them. In fact don't eat any kind of meat that you wouldn't eat in the West. Snakes, frogs..."
"I've eaten frogs. Tastes like chicken."

Weijing is appalled: "Then you have eaten entirely wrong kind of frogs! They are much better than chicken!"

The hotel room is fine, and internet works. They ask for 1000 yuan (about 110€) deposit for the minibar contents. This is a practice that I'd heard about, but never seen before, and I wonder what they have in their minibar for that money.

Evian bottle, 40 yuan. Gotta be fucking kidding. I drink a bit from the tap (unadvisable unless you are me) and head outside.

These are the taxis that Weijing warned me about, a metal box on a three-wheel motorcycle.

The hotel is in Dongcheng, right off Wangfujing st., the main touristy shopping street or whatever. There are very few people, considering that this is the main shopping street at noon. Everything looks a bit faded, and the air smells weird and is not quite transparent.

The street is full of stores calling itself "supermarket" or "local food supermarket" and selling unidentifiable stuff.

A little further down is a fairly large pedestrian area, guarded by a lot of police for no obvious reason.

One really nice thing about the street is lots of benches.

The stroll down the street reveals no obvious convenience stores, supremarkets with real food, or restaurants, and I figure they must be inside the big department stores, like in many other places in Asia. Exploration of the stores, which are eerily empty of people, reveals restaurants, food courts and some grocery stores not quite deserving of the name "supermarket". I buy a huge water bottle, some black tea and beer, and bring it to the hotel.

For a late lunch or early dinner I choose Xiabu-Xiabu, the only place in a certain food court that has customers. I assume that this is a Chinese version of shabu shabu, a concept I am familiar with but never actually tried.

The thing consists of a big soup saucepan and meats/vegetables/noodles one buys and puts in the kettle to cook. Turns out I am not good at catching things with chopsticks while they try to escape from me around the saucepan, but I had ordered so much food that I am quite full with the half of it. All for 41 yuan, including beer.

Later I explore the area, the side alleys, the courtyard with a lot of food stands where they sell, among other things, scorpions, and go to the Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen square turns out to be closed for the night, but the Tiananmen gate is there, and well-lit for the viewing public.

My parents arrive in the hotel at midnight, and with two sausages.


pjt said...

*food envy*.

Try the jing jiangrou si (pork), and gong bao ji ding (chicken). Even the bai cai cabbage in oyster sauce is great, though simple. Often it's the small, inexpensive restaurants that have better food, rather than the grand, luxurious places. I never got sick from food in China.

pjt said...

Oh, and of course you need to order these as
I tend to forget that these days it's no problem to write these characters in everyday communication. It used to be more difficult.

Lambert said...

Wow, there is a great deal of effective material above!
Vegetables recipes