Meals In The Hutongs

Hey honey:

I spent a long time at the National Art Museum of China. It is not that I was getting much out of it as the exhibits are all in Chinese but that I was still dead tired from all the walking in the Forbidden City the day before. I largely sat there and catch up with some reading. Hehehe … also took a short nap too out in the foyer. I would have stayed longer if not that they were shooing people out to setup for some ceremony for a big shot. They rolled out the red carpets and all.

One visitor got very angry when told that they are closing early. She was really fierce and shouted to the poor young man who tried to explain unsuccessfully why they had to close early. Me, being the usual busy body, moved closer to see the action. I wanted to take pictures because she was so animated but on second thought I better not. She could turn her attention on me!

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Since there were a few hutongs around the corner from the art museum, I decided to just go check it out and see for myself what the deal is with hutongs and all. I read about that so often. Basically they are where the old traditional courtyard homes are located.

Although there are numerous all around Beijing, they are being torn down one by one in the name of progress and development.

Hey on the way there, I came across these little parks where they have exercise machines. I see them in quite a number of places and they are almost always used.  Some of the users were elderly people. I was impressed that they are so fit and agile despite their age.

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In and around the hutongs, especially at the entrances, there are small neighborhood eateries and shop. Since it was time for lunch, I thought I brave it and eat in one of those eateries. I know, to many people the cleanliness of places like these are suspicious. But then, these sort of places and food is not something new to me. So I won’t even consider this a risk to tell the truth.

Sometimes the best places to eat is just places like these — where … (more…)

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The National Art Museum of China

Hi honey:

I must be getting too old. After that long day at the Forbidden City, I thought I would be OK after a good night rest.

I woke up really late at 9AM and yet I was still dead tired. I decided to take it easy for the day. I decided to stick to indoors places. You know, places where there is air conditioning. I decided to go to the National Art Museum of China. I walked past it the previous day on the way to Wangfujing.

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For breakfast, I went to the food court about 5 minutes walk from my hotel. It was a food court by the Guomao subway station. They have big floor to ceiling posters of their food plastered on the subway and I thought I go check it out. The food court was strangely located at the end of a deserted underground complex. There was nothing there except at the end of the corridor is the food court.

That food court was quite big. Only about three stalls were opened for breakfast. It was still early and they have not completely opened for lunch and dinner yet. I had half a mind of turning around but I did not know where else to go. I did not want to walk. I had enough of walking already the previous day!

I got the noodles above. The stall lady asked me if I want “la” which I thought she meant spicy. So I said yes, give me “la”.  Turns out that she asked if I wanted pulled noodle. The noodles overall was OK. I like the noodles but did not care much for the so-so soup and beef slices. Like I said, the noodles in Beijing is much more tastier than those we have in Vancouver.

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I also got this pancake thing. Do you consider this jianbing? The way they prepared it looks the same except that they added a … (more…)

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Dinner in Wang Fu Jing’s Snack Street

One thing about the back end of the Forbidden City, where you exit, there are no subway stations. There were hordes of taxi drivers and rickshaw pullers harassing me to take their transport. Not to mention too, the other people who were selling all sort of souvenirs. Gosh. They were all so persistent despite me saying repeatedly “Bu Yao” (don’t want).

So I kept walking. I was afraid of getting fleeced. I kind of regret walking too because it is so far from where I wanted to go. On the map, Wangfujing seems like a short walking distance but it was not! So it was quite a tiring walk after all the walking in the Forbidden City.

I wanted to go to Wangfujing for something to eat before I head back to the hotel. I actually wanted to go to Wangfujing to see for myself the famous snack street where they sell scorpions and insects.

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On the way there, I saw something really funny. All around the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are soldiers in military uniforms. They are always standing in attention or when they walk they will march. On the way to Wangfujing, I saw four soldiers “jaymarching” across the street!

The soldiers were marching in formation across the wide 8 lane road, stopping in between traffic waiting for an opening before marching forward again.

Anyway, these soldiers all looked very young and so clean cut. It is like they are fresh out of school or something.

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It must have taken me 20-30 minutes of walk. My bag was killing me. It was because … (more…)

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The Forbidden City — Imperial Palace of the Qing and Ming Dynasties

Hi All:

I am sooo sorry. I mean, being absent AND silent for so long. It is just that I was overwhelmed with so much things going on that I decided that something just got to give. I am now back home in Vancouver for a week already. Although I had a great time in Beijing, truth is, the weather got to me finally and was not feeling well. With demands at work and feeling under the weather and dealing with jet lag, I dare not even open up chowtimes as I know it will suck me into it. I am so busy I could not even all emo over the drubbing Vancouver received in Boston. Hey, we are back in the driver seat!

Anyway, what is important is I am back. Please excuse me while I speak to Suanne, OK? You can stay if you want.

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Hi Honey:

There are only two things I really, really want to see and discover in Bejing — the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. So, I am excited to finally going to the largest palace complex in the world. I knew this will take pretty much the whole day and it sure did. At the end of the day, I was so dead tired. Yeah, next time I bring you here, we will definitely be more prepared.

I knew the Forbidden City is big but I had no idea it was THAT big. I should have brought more water and some snacks on my own. You can get drinks and snacks inside the Forbidden City but it’s not always you see the shops.

A pair of good walking shoes is a definite must. For sure.

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That day was quite a beautiful day. The air was cleaner but still not quite. It cleared up a lot the next few days with blues skies and everything.

BTW, the above is one of the most enduring image you see of Beijing. But this is not even the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is quite a bit of a walk more past these gates where the huge Chairman Mao’s portrait is.

This is the Tiananmen. People know this as the Gate of the Heavenly Peace. This original gate was first built … (more…)

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Zhengyangmen – The Front Gate To Old Inner Beijing

Hi Honey:

Right after the Mao’s Mausoleum, I was supposed to head straight to the Forbidden City. Change of plans.

When I walked out, I saw that imposing gate right in front of the Mausoleum. I walked closer and then read with interest what this gate meant to the city. So I decided to go in and have a look.

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Apparently this gate is considered the Front Gate to Beijing in those olden days. Officially, this is called Zhengyangmen but it is more known as Qianmen which mean the Front Gate.

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I got the map above from Wikipedia. When Beijing was established as the capital of China, they build a wall around the city to protect itself. The Inner City (in blue) was totally surrounded by a wall and access into the city is through 9 gates. Remember the number nine because it is a number of significance in China in those days. I’ll tell you more about it but just remember the number 9.

The wall stood for almost 600 years.

The sad thing is that about 50 years ago, they … (more…)

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Starting the Real Vacation in Beijing

Hi Honey:

Wohoo! No more work … my mission’s done. I can put work behind me and start my discovery of Beijing proper.

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I moved into this new hotel last night. It is a little closer to the central city locations. There are quite a few eating places around here and so that is a plus. I know that after a full day of sightseeing and with my body all sticky and all, the last thing I want to do is to go too far to look for food.

The hotel is a bit old. Certainly not nearly as luxurious as the one I stayed in the past week. Yeah, it is not as comfortable too. The pillows is not as firm and you know how fussy I am with my pillows. The air conditioning is not as powerful as I wanted it to be. What upsets me a bit here is that the towels smells of cigarette smoke. Oh well, this is definitely more affordable and I really did not have time to really look for a better hotel, especially when I only had less than 2 days to make my way to Beijing and the past week was work, work, work.

They have a few restaurants in the hotel — a Japanese, a Cantonese, a buffet and also a Pizza Hut. Pizza Huts here are so upscale and fancy. Not like the rundown huts that we have on Wesminster Hwy in Richmond. LOL! I have no desire to check out the Pizza Hut here because the pictures of their food does not look like great pizza. It is more like Chinese flat bread if you ask me.

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The location of the hotel is … (more…)

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Getting Around Beijing

Hi Honey:

One thing I find about Beijing is how remarkably flat the entire city is. When I first got here, I was quite perplexed why the Chinese dynasties of the old days would want to choose a location like this for their great capital city. The area is close by the edge of the Gobi dessert. It is dry and arid. The soil is baked solid hard. Because it is so flat it is also devoid of any natural landmarks except for a few lakes.

Many great ancient cities in the world are located next to a great body of water or by a mighty river. But why not Beijing?

I’ll tell you about that in a later post.

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The good thing about the flatness of Beijing is that it is walkable. That explains why too there are so many bicycles in this city. It used to have more bicycles but the number is dwindling as people opts for other mode of transportation these days. Still the roads here have separate bicycle lanes right next to freeways.

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So I had been doing a lot of walking the past few days. The furthest I walked must have been the day I went to the Forbidden City. It must have been at least 12 km in all. The attractions here are vast. It takes a lot of legwork to cover them.

Oh, I am proud to report that I have learned how to jaywalk after the past few days. Yeah, I can cross a 6 lane road on myself … (more…)

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The Hotel I Stayed In Beijing

Hey honey:

I want to tell you about the hotel I stayed in. In all my business travels, I must say I was most impressed with this one that my company’s travel services booked me into.

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I was kind of worried to tell the truth when I first checked into the hotel when I was told that I have a reservation for the executive suite and that it is $300 a day. Already a $300 a day room in the US is quite a bit of money for a room night but in Beijing, this is a princely sum.

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Needless to say, service was superb. They directed me to a sofa to wait and served me tea. Then the front desk manager (not just any bell boy) personally walked me to the room. So I was thinking … (more…)

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My Other Work Days

Hey Honey:

Last week was almost all about work and no play. Besides dealing with the jet lag (a 9 hour time zone difference), the meetings can be described as a roller coaster ride. There were days where agreements were easier to come by and there are testy moments. Am just glad we managed to get to all the agenda items by Friday and agreed to a way forward.

So by the time I got back to the hotel, there were more internal team meetings to recap the day before we broke up by about 6:30 PM. So you can imagine how long the day is. My American team members prefer to lounge in the comfortable confines of the hotel but me, I wanted to get out and absorb as much as I can of the life in Beijing.

One of the days, I walked across the pedestrian bridge spanning the main road and found this!

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This is just so amazing. What you see here is just one of …

(more…)

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Working in Beijing

Hi Honey:

The first two days of work was grueling. There were so many agenda items to cover and there are a lot of missing information that it was a lot of to and fro on issues. It is to be expected since the teams met for the first time. Both parties have their own interests and goals and so we just need to take one issue at a time and work through every one of them.

Cultural differences is in the way a little bit but not too much. It is the language fluency that is something most of us struggled with. I felt the Chinese had difficulties in expressing themselves in English but they sure are experts in their field. I am actually impressed with their technical knowledge of the subject matter.

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My mornings started with breakfast at the 24th Floor Club. I’ll tell you more about the 24th Floor later. There is a very nice view from the Club and I almost always sat at the same spot that faces the CCTV Tower. Look at the traffic jams below. There is a jam every peak hour.

We took a taxi ride to the office which is quite a bit of distance from where I am staying. On a good day, the journey takes 25 minutes but mostly it is 40-45 minutes because of the traffic.

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We always drive past the CCTV building everyday. See that building next to the CCTV building? Well, that whole building burnt down and they are in the process of rebuilding it.

It is both sad and hilarious. You see … (more…)

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