Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday in Beijing

Andy and I spent yesterday letting our bodies adjust to the time change. We got up super early and went for a walk, came back and grabbed a bite to eat (not sure what it was, but it was good!) and then crashed. Got up and went for a walk (found a GREAT children's toy store), found a place for lunch (had fried shrimp--only it was bait size with the heads and shell still on!!--actually quite tasty once you got past the idea) and then crashed again. At 5pm, Ping (Xie Ping officially) arrived to visit. She is a Yantai student who we met at FGCU and is in Beijing taking classes for the GMAT (she plans to attend graduate school in the U.S.). She introduced us to a hot pot restaurant. A cloisonne pot with a vent in the center is brought to the table filled with boiling water. Then the meal arrives and you add whatever you want. We tossed in 3 types of mushrooms, garlic, lamb, beef, 2 types of green leafy vegetables (still don't know what they are but really tasty!), rice noodles and tofu (I'll pass, thank you!). It was great fun, low key and delightful as the pictures prove. The restaurant was doing a booming business and Ping tells us that hot pots are very popular meals for families.
After dinner we took a taxi to a region of Beijing very popular with tourists. Very unique (and expensive) shops are housed in former residences (300 years plus) that provide some beautiful and interesting architecture. We saw slippers being handmade and the paper umbrellas, too. The umbrellas were $180US; each were unique and hand painted--lovely!! The most remarkable thing about the neighborhood was the quiet: Even with the occasional car or motorbike passing along the street, it was primarily a pedestrian walkway and very soothing and restful. There were some old trees adding to the ambiance along with the cobblestoned street.
Ping kindly took pity on us old folks and we took to our beds at 9pm.

Up at 5am so guess we have adjusted to the time change! The plans are to visit the Forbidden City today with Ping as our guide. Her father is in Beijing today, too so we hope to meet him before Ping returns to school late this afternoon.

We have been delighted with the city. Even though the front desk has little or no English, we have managed to make do with our phrase book and drawings. FGCU's Fulbright Scholar last year, Lu Chao, kindly found the accommodations for us and we feel we are really getting the flavor of China more than at an American hotel. We may be the only Occidental guests in the hotel but folks couldn't be nicer. Outside the street is lined with food vendors. Until last night, they were silent sentries but that changed about 5pm when fruit kabobs (the plums are delicious), skewers of barbequed lamb or beef, a variety of seafood and tons of stir fried concoctions started scenting the air. What a sight--at least 4 blocks of food---Andy was in heaven!

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