Beijing was an amazing city to be in but because of our lack of sleep from the thirteen-hour plane ride and then attempting to adjust to the thirteen-hour time different there were some outside factors working against us. It may not have helped either that our hotel room was sketchtastic!! The hallways were barely lit, the beds were almost on the ground, the maids and hotel staff spoke absolutely no English, the bathtub was a good foot and a half above the ground and covered in black grime… just to name a few mishaps. However, at the end of the trip (in a few days) we will be returning to lovely Beijing and I have not let these things taint my entire perception of the city.
As my first experience in China I was still successful in finding some beauty, present in the cuisine of course. Our first night was at a Korean BBQ restaurant which I have already given full detail on the delectable meal we all shared as we were awkwardly trying to make good first impressions without passing out right there at the table. The second night Dreux chose to have us venture to a Thai Restaurant that is still, halfway through the trip, many peoples favorite meal. This restaurant had elaborate decorations to set you in a time far from today. In the middle of our meal Philippine dancers and singers were attracted to our table full of beaming tourists. Patrick, at the time the only male, was asked to dance and sing along with the band while only moments later we were all encouraged to join around. The group of performers had us in a circle around our table singing a mashup of Justin Bieber, Baby, leading into Black Eyed Peas, It’s Gonna be a Good Night. I am most certain these are the only American songs they knew how to sing but it was easy to say we had a fun experience entertaining ourselves, as well as the rest of the restaurant.
The food on the other hand was phenomenal!! Thai tends to be spicy so I tried to ‘man-up’ and sample as much as I could. The few that stuck out to me and would be hard to forget are the curries! The first one was a pumpkin curry with chicken and various vegetables and was actually served in a petite pumpkin. This dish also had large pumpkin chunks and a lot of pumpkin meat soaking up all the juices. There was also chicken curry, which arrived when we were all beyond our eating limits but that definitely did not stop us because the coconut curry with the various vegetables and chicken was a wonderful way to top off a great meal. I sampled fried eel here, which was a first for me, and also very very delicious. The squid was out of this world but full of spicy spices so only a few bites was what I could handle. There was also a soup with oysters and noodles that disappeared very quickly and many more yummy dishes with various seafood and meats.
Beijing was also known for its food outside the Chinese category. Close to the hotel we found a tiny little bakery that was perfect for an uneasy stomach or a quick snack. The best part about our new found hot spot were the cakes. I did not sample any but a quarter of the bakery was dedicated to women decorating elaborate cakes behind a glass window. Look out for pictures coming soon to give you a glimpse at their decorating abilities and prove that art is most definitely found in foods.
One of my favorite meals from the trip thus far was when we were in Old Beijing. We had a lecture that was given in various palaces and then ended with a stroll through a park and the professor finally took us to a little gem nestled in the allies of Old Beijing. Old Beijing has a lot of history and this part of the city made it a priority to keep the buildings of years ago intact and restored. The streets are narrow and most people are walking through small allies leading every which way. The architecture is gorgeous and much more elaborate and historical than anything you would find in the States. Where we ended up for lunch was a Chinese style cafeteria? I am not quite certain what to call it but I know it was traditional and not a tourist hot spot, which happens to be my favorite kind. We sampled umpteenmillion things because the way you eat in China is done by ordering many dishes and having everyone share, this allows us all to try a wider variety of foods! Here I sampled a few firsts, to start with there was the Stomach of an Ox which I LOVED!! The shape was hard to conquer but once you did, there was no turning back because your taste buds were in heaven. It kind of looks like the plastic curtains that are hanging in hotels sometimes that you have to line up and slide to open, except old ones that are missing a few… if that draws a clear enough picture. There was also a dish with tons of different mushrooms including Wood Ear, which is a black fungus. The rest was obviously so good and there were too many for me to remember.
As my last meal here we were in a crunch time to snack quick and hop on a train to Xi’an so a few of us decided to grab some Pizza Hut. I was very reluctant because I swore to myself to stay far away from American food during this trip. However, the company was lovely and the experience was far from the American Pizza Hut. The sit down service and friendly waiters made us feel at home and obviously gave the locals a taste of American dining, however I am not to sure if that is a positive aspect or not haha.
Next was off to Xi’an to explore more of the Chinese historical culture and hopefully sample some more divine cuisines.