Beijing Day 6: Dinner in a Szechuan Restaurant in Oriental Mall

Day’s 6 dinner, we went to a Szechuan restaurant in the Oriental Mall. This restaurant has a very oriental feel to it.

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The good thing about restaurant here is that they have a photo menu displayed at the restaurant front. You can browse through the menu before deciding to go in or not.

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For drinks, I ordered a red dates drink (on the left). It was thick and mildly sweet. Red dates are good for blood circulation.

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We ordered 3 dishes to share. For appetizer, we ordered some kind marinated meat and egg dish. (more…)

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Beijing Day 6: Beijing Snack, Sugar Coated Haw

With the community kitchen breaks for summer, I’m resuming my travel to Beijing series.

When I was in Beijing in the late fall, one of the popular street snacks is sugar coated delicacies. They are various fruit like hawthorne berries, crabapples, water chestnuts, grapes, strawberries, pineapples, etc that is placed on skewers and bathed in rock sugar syrup that hardens into a shiny candy coating.

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On day 6, we decided it should be a rest day after five days of heavy walking. We leisurely stroll the street and intended to go to a book store to look for some culinary books for a friend. There is one bookstore on WangFuJing of 7 stories high. It is very big. We even came across a couple of staff having competition retrieving books from a rack based on a list to test their knowledge of how the books are organised.

On the way to the book store, we came upon one of those street vendors who sell sugar coated delicacies.

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This one that we came across seemed to be an old Beijing brand. The history of this snack can be dated back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The story is about a concubine of Emperor Guangzong who fell seriously sick and the court physicians failed to find an effective treatment. But one day a doctor from outside the court volunteered to try and cured the concubine’s illness. The prescription for the concubine’s illness is … (more…)

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Beijing Day 5: Suzhou Street in Summer Palace

Ben and I was debating on whether we should visit Suzhou Street or not because it was a long walk from where we were. Suzhou Street is located within the grounds of the Summer Palace.

I insisted I want to go there because our entrance ticket included the entrance to Suzhou Street. I did not want to waste the ticket even though we were all tired already from all the walking.

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Suzhou Street (Suzhou Jie) was a street built by Emperor Qianlong for the members of his court to imagine themselves being in the canal town of Suzhou. This is like his personal playground.

The shops here were even filled with products from Suzhou. The shop assistants wearing clothes in the style of the Qing Dynasty warmly welcome customers from all over the world.

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Suzhou Street is in the middle section of Back Lake that runs for over 300 meters. The … (more…)

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Beijing Day 5: Summer Palace (Yihe Yuan)

We dedicated a whole day on our fifth day in Beijing to visit the Summer Palace.

The Summer Palace is situated in the northwest suburb of Beijing. It is huge and is almost the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It is definite much bigger than the Forbidden City by about four times. The Summer Palace was built around Kunming Lake, West Lake and South Lake.

The Summer Palace was declared by UNESCO as a as a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design and is recorded as one of about 1000 sites on the World Heritage List. It is the natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges that form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.

The Summer Palace is officially known as Yihe Yuan in Mandarin which stands for the word Garden of Nurturing Harmony. This area was developed as an imperial garden over 800 years ago. It was not until the reign of the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty that it was built as it stands today. It was built as a present to his mother to celebrate her 60th birthday.

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We took the long subway out to the Summer Palace. That ride took almost 1 hour but good thing we had a seat after a few stops. I think it was because it was a weekday and not many people visits the Summer Palace then. The moment we got out of the subway, we were inundated by pedicab drivers! We did not want to take those pedicabs. We were more afraid of being scammed. 🙂

Ben was telling me story of his friend who was scammed by a pedicab driver outside of Forbidden City. The poor-looking pedicab driver convinced him to take his trishaw saying “three kuai, three kuai” (3 Kuai is about 50 cents Canadian). Seeing how cheap it was and also taking a pity on the pedicab driver he got on for a 20 minute ride back to his hotel. After a short distance, the pedicab driver got off and then another pedicab driver got on. Guess what happen next … (more…)

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Beijing Day 5: Breakfast at Yoshinoya in Oriental Mall

Day 5. I was truly rested. It seems like I have seen the last of the jet lag and adjusted myself to the day-night cycle. Which is good because I was so worried about wanting to sleep during the day time and being awake like an owl during the night.

We started with breakfast in Oriental Mall. We had breakfast there because we planned to use the subway to get to the Summer Palace. Ben told me that there are two subway stations around the Oriental Mall. So you can imagine how long that one building is.

I like the Oriental Mall because there are so many things to eat. Moreover it is so clean and modern.

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We had breakfast at Yoshinoya in the Gourmet Street in the Oriental Mall. Ben was telling me about Yoshinoya which is found all over Beijing. There are so many of them that you can almost be sure there is a Yoshinoya in every shopping complex, mall or major street. It seems like there are more Yoshinoya than there are McDonalds and KFC.

Yoshinoya is a Japanese fast food chain who are famous for its beef bowl. Believe it or not, Yoshinoya is older than McDonalds or KFC. Yoshinoya is more than 110 years old already.

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We ordered one breakfast combo to share because we wanted to save some stomach room just in case we came across something interesting to try later.

The combo was just … (more…)

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Beijing Day 4: Supper at Kung Fu

After the late hotpot lunch at Hai Di Lou, we went back to the hotel to rest. On the way back, we bought a couple of Ben’s favourite pork floss buns for tea time.

It’s not until close to 8pm that Ben decided to venture out again. He wanted to have a hair cut. We were unsure if the salon will be closed at that time but were surprised that they were still opened. The hair cut in Beijing was pretty cheap here. There are some place where you could get a haircut for 15 RMB (which is like $2.50 CAD)! Ben went to a more upscale one which charges 60 RMB (about CAD10) for his hair cut which is still way cheaper than the cheapest you can find in Vancouver. For 60 RMB, they even shampoo the hair.

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After the hair cut, we walked a bit looking for a light supper. We ended at one of Ben’s favourite fast food chain called Kungfu.

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It’s already past 9pm and the restaurant is about to close. Ben ordered his favourite combo which comes with a double boiled soup. The pork rib soup was pretty tasty with quite a bit of pork ribs in it.

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Since it’s late, there is not much choice left. Ben ordered another pork rib dish braised in soy sauce for the main dish. Look at the sauce that came with it. (more…)

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Beijing Day 4: Hot Pot Lunch at Hai Di Loa

After a few hours of walk in the Forbidden City, we were so tired and hungry. Ben brought me to an area called Huixin for lunch. He wanted to bring me to this famous chain restaurant called Hai Di Lao which is well known for its excellent service. They have many branches around the city.

We got there quite late at almost 3PM. Even then the large restaurant is quite full. During meal times, this place is always packed and you have to wait for a table. You know, if you wait, they have things to keep you occupied. They will serve you drinks or give you oranges. There are also some computer which you can use to browse the internet. Why, you can even have your nails manicured – for free!

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Hai Di Loa is a hot pot restaurant. There are many hot pot restaurants in Beijing. Some of the other more famous ones is Little Sheep and the historical Dong Lai Shun Muslim restaurant. But Hai Di Lao is the one which is most well known for its service.

As usual we like to have 2 types of soup, plain and spicy. The first thing the server did after putting in the soup base is she asked us to taste the soup first. We tried the milky one which is the not spicy one. It was very nice, a little herb flavour.

As you can see their hot pot is square. They asked us how we want to position it. It was then I realize that they can position it to share both flavours or position it in such a way that one flavour faces another. Yeah, not that a round hot pot does that. 🙂

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The server then brought a big packet of reddish chili sauce to be added to the clear soup section. Instantly, the spicy soup became red hot in colour. We were told that they do this so that you can be sure they do not recycle the soup base or the chilli sauce and that they are freshly made.

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While we were studying the menu, the server also brought a fruit platter of oranges and dates and it’s free. How sweet.

We can go get more ourselves if we want. About the dates, Ben said he did not realize that those were fresh dates. He had only known dates as ones that are dried.

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The server also served some prawn chips for us to snack on too while waiting.

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Ben ordered a boiled peanuts in vinegar sauce as appetizer. The peanuts were soft and vinegarish. Actually, we dont quite like this type of peanuts. Ben ordered this because he had been to many Sichuanese meals and he likes to order this.

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We ordered a number of items for the hotpot. It’s not all you can eat type. We were wondering how much to order and the server told us that 8 items will be good for two. The server also advised us to order half order for each item so that we can try more items. We like the sincerity of the service here. They don’t try to get us order more than enough. (more…)

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Beijing Day 4: Forbidden City

Ben had planned to bring me to the Forbidden City on a week day to avoid the crowds during weekend. We went there on a Monday. The Forbidden City name is commonly known to the Chinese as Gugong which means the old palace.

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This is one of my favourite walk in Beijing; it’s along the eastern perimeter of the Forbidden City and along the only section of the moat that is accessible to the public. The tree lined perimeter, guard towers and the moat makes the stroll a very pleasant one. And this is most definitely the approach to the Forbidden City that is not crowded and not known to many people.

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The Meridian Gate (Wumen), sometimes also called Five Phoenix Tower  is the front door of the Forbidden City. It is the largest and the most spectacular of the gate structures along the central axis. On top of the U-shape base are five separate pavilions representing the five cardinal Confucian virtues; humanity, refinement, justice, education and trust.

Wumen is where the emperor announced yearly planting schedules according to the lunar calendar. This is actually the main gate to the Forbidden Palace. Beyond the walls here is the Forbidden City proper.

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West of Wumen is where the main ticket office and audio-guide rentals are. Entrance fee is RMB40 per person (about CAD6.70). There is always a long line at the ticket office (the picture above is not of the ticket office but of the Audio Guide rental office). There are scalpers who will try to entice you to buy the tickets from them to avoid the long lines.

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We noticed that the rental of the audio-guide in foreign language is 4 times more expensive than those in Chinese. Did you notice that sign above? In Chinese, the rental is 10 RMB but in English it is 40 RMB!

Too bad we are not very good in Mandarin, otherwise we can save 30 RMB.

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The Forbidden City today is officially known as the Palace Museum (Gu Gong). It was listed as a World Heritage site in 1987. According to UNESCO, the Forbidden City represents the largest collection of preserved wooden structures in the world and also the largest palace complex in the world too.

The Forbidden City is divided into two main parts, the Outer Courtyard and the Inner Courtyard. The Outer Courtyard comprises of three large halls (the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Middle Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony) used by the Ming and Qing emperors for public ceremonial purposes. The Inner Courtyard comprises of three large palaces (the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Union and Peace and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility), used for the more private day-to-day affairs of state, as well as the residential quarters of the emperor, his family and servants.

The Forbidden City was built by the third Ming Emperor, Yongle who moved the capital of China from Nanjing to Beijing about 600 years ago. Since then, the Forbidden City is the seat of the government of the Ming and the Qing Dynasties for 500 years. In effect, the Forbidden City is considered then as the center of China and the Chinese universe.

The photo above is one of the five marble bridges that cross the Golden Water River which runs from the northwest corner of the Forbidden City southward along the west side of the complex before crossing the width of the courtyard between the Wumen and the Gate of Supreme Harmony (in the background) and eventually arriving at the southeast corner of the complex. Actually, this small river serves a purpose of providing water to fight fires! You see, the palaces are all built of wood and over the years, the palace were struck by lightning and burnt down a few times. (more…)

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