The Latest from Beijing
It’s official. I’m falling in love again. This time, with China. This is such a captivating country that I feel energized just by being here. Of course, there have been adjustments. After Dan’s cough passed, I got sick as my body struggled to adjust to the new environment. But we’re both riding the wellness train now and have been meeting new friends, exploring the city, and eating a whole lot.
When it comes to food, Beijing is the gift that keeps on giving. You can find just about anything here, from every corner of the world, and often for a terrific price. One night we had a five-course meal (including drinks and dessert) for 70RMB, or $10.30. Naturally we’ve been eating at lots of Chinese restaurants—which can be rambunctious. The dishes are served in large family style portions and are heavy and filling. Usually when I walk out the door I’m so full I can’t imagine ever needing to eat again. And although chopsticks and I don’t always get along, we're moving in the right direction.
One dining highlight was eating lunch at a “hot pot” restaurant. First, each person in our group was given their own pot of simmering stock. Then we passed around raw ingredients such as lamb, yams, lotus roots, melons, tofu skins, seaweed, and noodles, and selected items to drop into our boiling pots. Once cooked, we dipped the goodies into a little bowl of sesame sauce and ate to our heart’s content. Yum! Another night we went to dinner at a busy local restaurant. At the front of the main room stood an excited hostess who was urging a representative from each table to spin a large wheel. The highest prize was free meals for the whole table. One table after another got lucky and the restaurant kept erupting into applause. After eating, my table sent me up to spin. I crossed my fingers for triumph but only won a Coke. Doh!
Although Dan and I are venturing into new culinary terrain, we’re not yet adventurous enough to try everything on the menu. Some items we have yet to taste include: jellyfish head in sour sauce, donkey rolls, sea lion cake, chick feet with pickled peppers, and fungus porridge. I suspect we’ll get bolder in the months ahead. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a gorgeous dumpling platter we devoured last weekend:
Along with the restaurants, the parks in Beijing are fabulous. They're lush and calming, often with a marshy body of water in the center. One favorite Chinese pastime is exercising in the parks. To name just a few activities, people powerwalk, dance, and do yoga and tai chi. They also gather around rusty, public weight machines and take turns lifting. Sometimes there is live music in the parks. Although I don’t always recognize the instruments, the music strikes me as soothing and emotionally expressive. Below are some pictures from Beihai Park, which is one of the largest Chinese gardens:
Dan and I also greatly enjoyed visiting our first hutong recently. Hutongs are narrow lanes and alleys scattered throughout the city in which residents retain much of their old, traditional lifestyle. They're an important part of Beijing culture. It was fun to pop in and out of shops, taste new foods, and soak up the lively vibe. Yet I was surprised to see cars plowing through the hutong we visited. Here are a couple of pictures:
Finally, we just spent a couple of days at the Goose & Duck Ranch on the outskirts of town. The setting felt like a rustic, family-oriented camp and it offered activities such as archery, horse riding, and go-karting. Below is a picture of us getting ready to ride a go-kart. Right after the picture was snapped, we discovered that the seat belts on the go-kart were defunct, and then the throttle promptly broke! Some things are just more lax around here. We rolled with the punches and still managed to have a grand time whizzing around the track.
So…it’s a joy to live in China, and we’ve only begun to explore. I’ll keep you posted. Until next time, be well!