Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 Asia Trip, Beijing Day #3 Morning

As I was sitting in my hotel room Wednesday night, I got a call from a strange number on my China cell phone. Since it's a "new" number for me, I couldn't figure out who it was. It turned out my cousin, who is living in Shanghai, is coming to Beijing for a few days on business and saw my message on Facebook. Since he was still at the Shanghai airport, we agreed to meet later on.

My Beijing friend and I had dinner Wednesday night at a Muslim restaurant. The first floor was for ordering snacks while the sit-down restaurant was on the 2nd floor. I'm not very adventurous with food so we didn't order anything strange. As usual, we ordered too much food.

Some kind of juice drink. I think it's the same fruit they use to make haw flakes... haven't had that in awhile.

My friend went downstairs and ordered some of the snack foods and brought them upstairs. The stuff on the left are some sort of pastry stuffed with beef; the three things on the right are sweet dessert snacks.

After dinner we walked to the entrance to Houhai (后海) and met my cousin at a bar. Houhai is a small man-made lake and it's surrounded by bars and restaurants that cater to expats and foreign visitors, i.e., food/drinks are very expensive.

The bar we went to featured a band from Taiwan. Not sure if they already lived here or are actually from Taiwan to perform a some random bar in Beijing. The band was pretty good but the singers should definitely stay away from Engrish songs. While they were performing (and taking requests), I noticed two girls sitting at the bar next to us. One was in a traditional Chinese costume while the other was dressed in a bikini top and hot pants. When the band took a break, they went up to the stage and danced (not at the same time). First was a semi-traditional Chinese dance, then followed by some fancy pole dancing by the girl dressed like a stripper (sorry, no pics). My cousin went out to take a phone call and said there was someone playing an erhu on the 2nd floor... really strange mix of entertainment.

The next day, my friend came to pick me up to go to the Summer Palace. I've been to all the major Beijing attractions during my last two trips except here... the only time I visited was during my first Beijing trip in 1998. Since she didn't know the way, we had to follow road signs that said 颐和园. Once again, we stopped a few times in the middle of the 3rd Ring Road and cut across multiple lanes to take exits. In her defense, the road signs are really unclear, even for locals.

The entrance fee was RMB60 per person if you want to see everything. It was definitely more crowded than my last visit. As Chinese people have more disposable income now, they're probably traveling more; most of the tourists I saw were out-of-town Chinese people. As soon as we purchased our tickets, we were accosted by people asking if we needed tour guides. None of them looked like they spoke English, though I did see quite a few private tours with English guides of varying language proficiency.

One of the first cars imported into China as a gift for the Empress Dowager

There was a "theater" complex inside the Summer Palace where performers entertained the Emperor and Empress. When we walked in, there was a performance with traditional Chinese musical instruments.

Building with performance stage

"Traditional" dance... the choreography seems a bit odd. There were a lot of modern dance looking moves. Maybe the girls were making it up as they danced.

Two guys pretending to fight in the dark. Kind of reminded me of those irritating French mime performances.

Huh? I checked with my Chinese friend and the translation appears correct. I guess we're not supposed to sit on the railings.

Long covered path along the north side of the man-made lake. The scenery was ruined by the thousands of people sitting on the side eating corn-on-the-cob.

17 arch bridge. We rented a boat (electric, not pedal power) for RMB60/hour and went under the bridge. It was a huge but shallow lake and there was a lot of boat traffic. In some places, there were lots of weeds in the water and a few times our boat got stuck in the middle of the lake.

Water lilies... there weren't that many compared to Beihai park.

The focal point of the park was a huge hill with a Buddhist temple on top. The hill was made from the earth dug up to create the man-made lake. Chinese manual labor power!

Covered staircase going up the big hill. I remember this from last time I was here.

Carved figurines on the eaves of one of the buildings

Details of the painted decorations. Each beam had a different picture.

View from halfway up the hill. You can see the scale of the artificial lake and hill, and the amount of labor that went into constructing the palace site.

View of the temple complex from the top (almost) of the hill

Marble boat... I remember this as well from last time here as well.

We walked around the huge palace grounds until ~3:30pm and decided to head back to town. We were supposed to meet my friend's parents for dinner. By the time we got back on the road, it was close to rush hour and the traffic was ridiculous. I think it took us close to 90 minutes to drive back to my hotel. There are a lot of cars obviously, but I think the tendency for Chinese drivers not to follow traffic rules made things worse. Each intersection was a scene of utter chaos with gridlocked cars and pedestrians/scooters ignoring traffic signals. It was really frustrating to watch and experience.

We sat in traffic here for about 20 minutes, moving about 3 car lengths per light change (way up ahead). Chinese drivers don't know how to merge when a lane ends either.

For dinner, my friend and her parents took me to a Korean BBQ place near their apartment. The food was pretty good but they ordered too much and ended up taking home some cooked and raw meat leftovers.

Real wood charcoal, like at Japanese BBQ places. They came and replaced the grill-top about 10x during the meal. I was careful to separate the raw and cooked meat on the grill but each time they would mix it all together again. I hope I don't get sick... :(

Lots of food


Since the Summer Palace was built during the Qing dynasty, all the carvings and paintings used traditional Chinese characters. My friend has a college degree from China and she had difficulty reading some of the writings. In a few cases, I was able to recognize a character that she could not decipher, even though my Chinese is really lame. I think they should at least teach students how to read traditional characters in China, otherwise they will continue to lose their link to past history and culture.


I just got a phone call from an ex-coworker who is now working in Beijing, and we're meeting for lunch near Wangfujing. She owes me lunch from a few weeks ago when she visited Irvine.

1 comment:

hogsman said...

man, been a long time since i had (or even thought about) haw flakes.