Beijing is ah-mazing. From hotpot meals and street food, the military museum and the Forbidden city, Beijing has everything that I’ve been looking for and more. The weather has been pitch-perfect: the last week of October/first week of November is known for being unusually warm, smog free and breezy. And it’s not tourist season. I’m in love. We’re keep extending our stay here just to absorb a little more of everyday life.
We’re staying down a narrow little hutong, a traditional alley where people have been living for 700 years. We walk outside to find bare-ass babies running down the street, crazy little shops selling ramen and old folks hanging out, chatting it up. And unlike the Korean Hanok, we’re sleeping in a bed.
Our first day in Beijing we rented bikes and toured the city. It’s wonderful how far you can go in this flat, flat city. We traveled down dozens of tiny hutong alleyways, through huge shopping streets littered with hanging red lanterns and into the heart of the city, Tiananmen Square.
We’re feasting like Emperors and meeting dozens of really cool people. A Beijing local, Jemmy, took us out for Peking duck, and this is when I officially died. Each duck is roasted over wood flames, carved by a knife-weiliding master and served with pancakes, sliced cucumbers and plum sauce. The restaurant we ate at has been serving Peking duck for centuries and has the recipe down pat.
This was the meal to end all meals, we ate forever – strips of eel with a vinegar sauce, cabbage with roasted chestnuts, a mysterious mushrooms that tasted like seaweed, squid soup, jellyfish and the most delicious duck I have ever tasted.
We’re good Americans, and tend to eat everything on our plate. But in China leaving food on your plate indicates that your host didn’t order enough food and that you’re still hungry. And remember, in China that host picks up the entire check. We were hard pressed not to devour ever bite of the duck, but somehow managed to leave a sad little morsel behind to indicate that we loved the food and were full.
Vinnie was the lucky one who got to eat duck brain, a delicacy.
We’ve also done all the tourist stuff, which is fabulous but my favorite part about this city has been the people and the everyday life. We hooked up with Jeffrey, a local couch surfer, who took us to a rocking acid jazz show our first weekend here.
We’ve been having so much fun that I simply don’t want to leave. It seems that’s a pretty common occurrence. When we do hang out with an ex-pat it’s always the same story, “I came to visit and now I’ve been here for 6 years.” And then we’re offered a teaching gig at their school for $40 an hour (a nice sum if you know where to spend your money in Beijing). I’m tempted to jump at the offer, but we have so much more to explore – including the great wall which we’re going to check out soon!