My First Day in Beijing


Hi Honey:

Oh how I wish you are here today with me. Been going around Beijing for the past two days and all I think of is how delighted you will be experiencing what I had been seeing the past couple of days. Exploring China and Beijing is something we should be doing together.

For all I care, this is the first time I am in China. Being in Shenzhen so many years ago for just a day trip from Hong Kong doesn’t count. This one is the real trip.

I am surprised I can blend in more than I thought I could. That is until I open my mouth. For the most part, I get along better speaking English and pretending not to speak Mandarin at all than if I were to try to speak my weird Mandarin. LOL!

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At the airport, I wanted to be adventurous to take the subway to the hotel. It is so cheap. Each use of the subway regardless of the distance is just 2 RMB which is like 30 cents! Can you believe that? LOL! Actually it is a bit more expensive taking the subway from the airport to the city. There is a surcharge. But at 30 cents, it is so ridiculously cheap. I keep wondering why a two zone transit in Vancouver is, what, $3.50?

Actually, good thing I decided not to take the train. It is super crowded and it is unbelievably packed. I won’t be able to make it with my luggage and all. So I decided to take a taxi.

At the taxi stand, people does not respect lines. For the most part people does but a few bad apples could ruin everything. Anyway getting a taxi is easy at the airport. And yes, people smoke in the public. So I know you will hate it.

My taxi driver was a chatty man. I tried to speak to him in Mandarin and we got along quite well. He was patient when I tell him once every two minute “Woh Bu Min Bai” (I don’t understand). When I told him that I am Canadian and that my family left China about 120 years ago, he told me that I am a “Wah Qiao” (Overseas Chinese). He asked me which province I was from and so I told him that mum and dad are Fujianese. The one thing I did not expect to hear from him was that China will “take me home” if ever I get into trouble … giving me the example how Chinese in Libya was rescued. It was a strange feeling to hear that, although from a taxi driver.

The past two days made me think about my heritage as a Chinese and how all these fits togther. I had never considered myself as a true Chinese and for sure I had never felt any allegiance to the country of China. But in my muddled mind right now, there are a lot of questions for sure.

The picture above was taken just a block away from my hotel. It is the CCTV HQ building, I think. Amazing structure! I sure don’t want to work in the section of the building where there is nothing below. Next door to this was a all burnt out building. LOL! I remember reading about how they had a fireworks celebration and light up the building … and ended up burning it down!

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After having a shower, it was already about 3:00 PM. I decided to walk around the block to get some food. I wasn’t really hungry but my first act has to be food.

There were a LOT of eating places of all types. Fancy ones, run down ones, food court, fast food type … they are everywhere. I am not kidding … seeing that makes me want to cry! So much food and so little tummy space. I am talking about just a small block and already there were a number of places I wanted to go to already … and I know for true Beijingers they will laugh at me for chosing some of them. Hey, I don’t see those type of varieties in Vancouver.

I was very hesitant going into a restaurant. So I chose a friendly looking one. One that has English words on the signboard. This is a random choice really.

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Hey, it was not that bad. The waitress did not even bat an eyelid. Yeah, I fit right in. LOL! They kept telling me one thing after another and I don’t know what they were saying half the time.

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This place looks like it is part of a chain of restaurants from the way all the pictures are taken and all.

The table mat has snack items. Interesting stuff but am focused only on their #1 item.

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It is this one above. This one looks like their money dish. It’s the first item on the menu and there was even posters of this in the entrance. So, I got this.

It is a drink and a bowl of noodles for 45 RMB … which makes it less than $7.00 only. Hey nice thing is that there is no taxes and no tips. What you see on the menu is what you pay for. How nice it would be if we have the same thing too in Canada — no tax, no tips.

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The system here is different. The protocol in this restaurant is:

  1. You place the order
  2. You are given the receipt
  3. You pay
  4. You get the food
  5. You leave
  6. And they yell at you as you leave the place (hehehe … saying thank you).

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This is so amazing, honey. Oh I wished you were here to taste this too. I know you will like it … and you will drink every drop of the soup without leaving me any. 🙂

It looks so beautiful and I was thinking how it looked exactly like it is on the menu. The serving is as large as you see in Vancouver’s beef noodle soup. It sure smell real good.

The soup is light and spicy. I did not get the MSG after effect and so I think they did not (or did not put much). We talked about the clear soup and the busy soup type … remember? Well, they served a side dish of the sour mustard thingy on the side to make it the busy type — it’s your choice. I added that in and it changes the taste.

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I swear even the noodles by itself is tasty. Gosh, they do make great noodles. I am not imagining this. I thought I can even eat this without anything else. Well, just with a little jhup.

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The beef is something to marvel. There are big slabs of it like the ones above. Tender and soft to the chew. Too bad this one does not have tendons which I like very much. Their menu said that they uses only the choicest of beef cut for this dish.

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The side dishes above came with the combo. The middle black one is awesome. It is like a wood ear but it is not too. I went to another restaurant today and saw the same thing and the menu said it is baby black fungus. I like this … crunchy like wood ear but have more substance.

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The plum drink is a refreshing accompaniment to the noodles. I like these sort of non-sweet drinks.

I was happy with this meal. Very happy as a matter of fact. I know there are thousands of better places within Beijing and if this is just an indication of what is to come, I am truly excited. I wish you are here!

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I took the train to Tianamen Square. Most of the area is closed already since it is already past 4:00 PM. But there a LOT of people … and a LOT of cars.

It was a strange feeling seeing this place with my very own eyes. Besides the Great Wall, this is the enduring symbol of China.

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The Tianamen Square is actually the space above. It is huge but was not as immense as I thought it would be. It is still large though and is a long walk from one end to another. There are lots of police and military people standing in attention through out the whole area. No machine guns. LOL! But they hand out little Chinese flags for children. I wanted one too but I dare not ask. 🙂

Surprisingly, the people who are here are overwhelmingly locals. I thought that there would be a lot more foreign tourists.

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Next to Tianamen Square is the National Museum of China. You know I like museums and this is definitely a place I wanted to visit. As a matter of fact, I went there on the second day! I’ll tell you more later about this place.

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You know, I expected to see hazy skies in Beijing but the air was much more cleaner than what I read on the papers. The weather is actually great here at this time of the year. The air is very dry and so it’s not uncomfortable walking around a lot.

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The above is not Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is technically behind these gates. They call it the Gate of Heavenly Peace. People were milling outside of the place and no one was allowed in anymore. I will definitely check this place out more closely and will spend a full day there on my off days.

The jet lag was beginning to catch up with me and I decided to head back to the hotel. I’ll tell you more tomorrow!

32 thoughts on “My First Day in Beijing

  1. Hi Ben: Happy to hear you went to China! Sorry I didn’t know until I saw your comment on my blog, I’ve been so busy since Spring of last year with my new job. It’s interesting to read your posts however, from the point of view of a foodie with all those food places you went to. We didn’t get a chance to choose our food very much in China, time was limited with places to go, things to do and see. Glad to see Suanne went there too, you guys went to lots of places we didn’t go to, China is after all a big country with lots to see, even in Beijing there are lots of attractions. Thank you for finding my China posts useful, thanks for all your visits, looking forward to share our new destination!

  2. Hi Ben! It took me so long to look up and follow your blog especiallyyour adventure in Beijing. But it’s never too late, ya! Well written, with added colourful pictures. You made Beijing a place I must go! What an adventure you had! Nonetheless, home is still the best place to be!

    • Hi June: Yeah, I recommend you visit Beijing sometime. There are so much to discover and learn. The history and the culture is so rich. I went away feeling pretty awed with the experience (both good and bad!). The best time to visit Beijing by far is in the Fall when the air is cooling. Winter is too bitterly cold, spring has it sand storm days and summer is stiffling hot. Ben

  3. The Beijing subway or metro is very crowded but it does not go to the Airport. There is new train goes to the airport from the NE subway station, and it cost 18 Yuan if remember correctly and it is not often full of passenger.
    I always enjoyed travel in China even in very remote region. The people there was so friendly they treated me as one of them. I had been invited and stayed at their home several times, yet I meet them only in the Bus.

  4. So Ben, you are indeed in Beijing. I tried Jakarta, but failed…haha….Anyways, good to know I won’t have to do much research on where to eat after reading all the blogposts when I head out there in the near future! Have a great food adventure in Beijing!

  5. Hi Ben,
    If you check the Vanchow forum, there is post on Beijing. One of the members asked advice for his upcoming trip to Beijing and quite a few poeple responded with recommendations. Enjoy all the delicious eating!!

  6. Welcome to Beijing!

    My 2nd home for the past 11 years! In terms of food, you have to try everything! And the food is really good!!!!! (if you know your way around)

    You’ve got to find Meizhou Dong Bo (they have the best Dong Bo Rou); Fei Teng Yu Xiang (the best spicy fish in a basin!!!:-)); and got to try jiaozi. The best one is on my side of the town; it’s a chain restaurant called Yi Xuan Jiaozi)

    If you like hotpot, try Haidilai, the best service and hotpot in town, a bit pricey compared to Xiao Fei Yang (inner Mongolian style); but the service is good, as well as the quality of the food)

    Anyway, if you need help, just let me know. You can email me, and I can introduce you to your fellow Canadians at our school. Heheh..
    (I work for a school here in beijing.)

  7. *”the foods on the streets” — I meant the street food….

    Have you spotted Kungfu Restaurant? It’s a chain restaurant. You should try it too.

  8. Finally! To be honest, I’d been wondering when you’re going to visit China because you write so much about Chinese restaurants!

    You should try the foods on the streets. Oh try to visit Qidan while you visit Tiananmen. It’s 2-3 blocks away from there. Don’t take taxi, buses, the road traffic is often heavy – 1-2 hours could be wasted. Better take the subway.

  9. Street Food worth trying are the Meat Kebabs that Uyghurs peddle ,Jiaozi or dumplings which is peddled on steamers in street stalls and Hongshu baked sweet potatoes.Jian Bing or Chinese Crepes are also OK.They are made of millet and come in a spicy sauce

  10. From a Pinoy who has been to China 42 times and Beijing 6 times Try Beijing Duck in a cozy atmosphere of New China Duck De Chine tel no+8610-6501-8881 Chaoyang District and you can try or see the fried scorpions,starfish,crickets,worms etc at the Dong anmen night market near Wangfujing street Happy Eating

  11. Wow, that’s pretty magnificent weather in Beijing!

    Ben, do visit Shin Kong Palace (a high end shopping mall) while you are there, it’s in the Chaoyang district and has a great food court downstairs. If I remember correctly it’s very close to where you ate lunch at.

    Also visit WangFuJing when you have time, it’s right next to the Grand Hyatt. Lots of great food and culture there!

  12. A friend of mine from Malaysia is in BJ right now as well. He visited the Great Wall and said of all places, he met a lot of Malays from Kelantan there, LOL.

    Try the street food, Ben.

    • Hi Elaine: I walked one of the Hutongs yesterday and there were a lot of small businesses making stuff to sell. I did not try any because it would be overeating. They were dirt cheap – sub dollar stuff. I heard that a place to go to is Wangfujing for the street snacks which I’ll go one of the nights. Where would you recommend for street food. From where I stayed, there does not seems to have any street food. Am thinking that street food is regulated in this city where only certain areas might have it. Ben

      • Well Wangfujing do have street snacks but it’s a little more tourist-y in my opinion, but it’s still definitely worth going once. 东华门夜市 Dong Hua Men Ye Shi (Nightmarket) is also a pretty famous place for street snacks. I don’t know too much about Beijing cuz my relatives usually bring me around so you might have to ask your co-workers or even the hotel employees?

        I don’t know the weather in Beijing now but do try the lamb hotpot (涮羊肉)!!! Beijing specialty!!!

      • Thanks a lot, Elaine. That link helps! About the lamb hotpot, where is a good place to try that? I see some chubby lamb hot pot … is that the place for it? Ben

  13. Thanks so much for your trip report. I love reading a first hand, non-commercial description from a Vancouverite “banana.”

    That’s the great thing about China right now. You can still find a lot of authentic food (things made from scratch.)

    I’ve only been to China once many years ago but I loved it. Didn’t it sort of feel like going home – a sense of completeness? I thought of all my ancestors who came from and toiled on this land and I cried when I arrived at the airport.

    Looking forward to read about your adventures.

  14. Ni Hao Ben!

    In addition to forbidden city, you should also check out Summer Palace where the monarch vacationed in the summer. Beijing is steeped with history and you will not be disappointed. Lots to eat, shop, play. There are these fancy euro bars everywhere which is popular. I think my Hubby told you about his trip to BJ where he and his coworker hired a driver for the day to take them around. They also climbed The Great Wall! Have fun!

    • Hi ShopaholicinVan: Hired a driver for the day? That could be a great idea getting around. How does that work and does he have any contacts? I have the 2nd week on my own and will like to see a better way of getting around. Beijing is such a huge city. Ben

      • Hey Ben!

        Sorry for the super late reply. I asked him and he said his work arranged it. I’m sure if you ask your hotel’s concierge, they can arrange one for you. Try to see if you can get a coworker or two to go with you to split the cost. You can see a lot more that way too! 🙂

        Your food pics makes me want to go visit China! So many good things to eat!

        Hope you have a great time in Beijing. Try the lamb skewers (scented with cumin). Mmmmm. 😀

      • Hi Shopaholicinvan: Yeah, I went to a muslim restaurant yesterday and had lamb skewers scented with cumin. It was really really good and really really cheap … just 15 cents!! It was in a Hutong and quite a run down place though. Ben

      • Just be careful. Some of those places aren’t really sanitary. I hope oyu have your twinrex shots! i totally envy your trip; wish I was going to visit China!

  15. Great to hear about your trip to Beijing. This is much more interesting than reading about Vacouver. Lol..! .

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