Forbidden City aerial view from the back.
Not only did we visit Taiwan a few weeks ago, we also hopped over to Beijing for a week too. This was the first time that I have ever been to mainland China, let alone the capital and epi-center of Chinese history. It was daunting! The amount of people in this large city surmount New York City during the holidays and Time Square on New Year’s Eve. The Forbidden City has 80,000 visitors a day! Beijing traffic jams could last tens of hours without any movement (we were “lucky” enough to have experienced a 2 hour complete stop our first day on the tour). Speaking of cars, it wasn’t due to the weather that it was “foggy” every day we were there. And the toilet situation is too horrid to mention, just remember to bring lots of tissues and sanitizer.
The city was an interesting mixture of modern and ancient history. There were gigantic concrete condo buildings with thousands of units in the 3rd city ring and tiled 1 room homes in the central city hutongs. I wasn’t in love with Bejing, but now as I think back about it, there were definitely amazing moments. I mean we saw buildings from hundreds of years ago still in relatively good condition. We walked the same paths as great Emperors! We had our bellies filled with true Peking Duck! And, can you believe just 20 years ago this country was basically isolated from the rest of the world, and there was an Emperor in the 60’s? Not too long ago, everything was rationed. People had vouchers for how much flour they could get and how much meat they were allowed to eat. There were communal showers and no refrigeration. Now the country is an economic power house. I have say though, even though there might not be vouchers, the income has not been equally dispensed through the country. Talk about 99% and occupy Wall Street!
Anyways, to the food. Unfortunately we did not venture much in this arena in China and from what people tell me, you go to Shanghai for food not Beijing. We were part of a pretty strict tour that provided us with filling meals, but nothing to write home about. Meals were more homey and always had a cabbage and sauteed cucumber dish. We did have a taste of some baos (Gou Bu Li Bao Zi – translated into “dog no pay attention buns”), dumplings, big pancakes, Peking duck, and hot pot. There was some interesting and yummy looking street food that we were warned not to try though (and we listened, as going to the emergency room due to food poisoning is not what I call fun, and I would know!).
I was expecting to have eaten more baos, dumplings and mantous since we were in Northern China, but didn’t get to eat much. I did see people walk around at night with a big steamy bao in their hands as dinner though! Mmm…sounds like a weekend project!
What are your impressions of Beijing?