Category Archives: Beijing

Empress Squanders Millions

Beijing China is a wonderful place, full of mystery, exotic food, and has a history going back to the beginning of time. The city is safe, the people are inviting, and if the US does not tarnish ties with China I will definitely be back. A few parting shots for my last post on Beijing.

Confucius Temple

Replica of Confucius

Bark of 700 year old tree in courtyard

Summer Palace

Empress Dowager Cixi was a beautiful woman and hard to resist. Her manipulative ways gave way to the fall of the Chinese navy during the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894. During peacetime, Empress Cixi funneled millions of the Chinese Navy’s resources to up-grade her lavish summer retreat in Beijing called the Summer Palace. It was here she whiled away the summer days as China and Japan readied for war. With their funds depleted, China lost the war and learned a very valuable lesson.

Summer Palace 1888 – Wiki Commons. Work is public domain.

Bell and Drum Towers

Szechuan Hot

Here is one final parting post as we leave Beijing behind. Down the street from our hotel is the neighborhood Szechuan restaurant. The restaurant has five tables of gastronomical PAIN, six pain seating’s when they put a table out on the street.

This has got to be the hottest meal I have ever had. Red chili peppers are fried in oil, with mushrooms, cabbage, pork, ginger, sesame, star anise, whole garlic, special sauce and you are supposed to get the seven mythical flavors of sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty.

What I got was hot, hotter, hmm pork is good, OMG hot, and damn i’m going to die!

I know that is only five of the flavors and i wish it stopped at 3 (pork is good), but to be truthful it was good and we almost finished it off but I had to stop due to the ringing in my ears.

I dare you to take a bite of that chili,  I just double dare you.

Okay, ok, I have to admit out of desperation and lack of familiar food additives I went to a McDonalds. Don’t tell anyone. I hear you out there, waving that finger at me, but I just couldn’t help myself.

After ten days of chicken heads, insects on sticks, eating meat I could not tell you which animal it came from, and vegetables always covered in vinegar, I had to have something that reminded me of home no matter how bad it is for you.

I got the double cheeseburger! The soft bun was just as I remembered, the meat the same wonderful bland gray grizzly patties. And we can’t forget about that wonderful salty orange fake cheese, not one but two slices! And you always get that little grizzle piece of what ever the hell it is and roll it round in your teeth for awhile and then finally decide to spit it out, right?!!! Oh so good, sorry to go off on that rant, anyway…

Next, you don’t want to miss Eurozone economic indicators and affects on PE ratios!

This is so good it will make you cry… And the Temple of Heaven

Peking Duck

Similar to a fine wine, and as too indicate the quality of the product, the restaurant will serve a single slice of crispy, sweet with fat, delicate, scrumptious piece of skin for your approval.

You can’t go to Beijing without trying the Peking Duck. It would be a sin! Forget the diet, the workouts for the day, the “I don’t eat animal” vegetarian attitude! This is a must, take my word for it.

The most famous of restaurants are Quanjude and Bianyifang. We ate at Quanjude, their ovens are fueled with peach and pear hardwood and with over 144 years in the business they have to have gotten it right.

Air is pumped through the neck to separate the skin from the fat, slathered with marinade, hung to dry for 24 hours, and roasted in a wood-burning oven, this is so good it will make you cry. And again, served with the head. I guess people eat these things.

Okay… Moving on to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Here is where the emperors would come to pray for a good harvest but they didn’t need to if they had that duck up there!

Damn! Lost again. Anyway one last post on Beijing, we have to see the Summer Palace and the hottest, spiciest meal i think i have ever eaten. Maybe I should of turned there

Man Defies Chinese Military Tanks – Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City

By the time we get to the Forbidden City we have been in Beijing for a few days, getting the feel for the city so to speak, but we still get lost everyday, i love it. Tiananmen Square is the largest public area in the world. The photo to the right was taken 23 years ago in Tiananmen Square and we happen to be here on the anniversary of this ill fated event. An unknown man defies the Chinese military to run him down. (taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press.)

We start with the Tiananman Square Front Gate, The Main Entrance Gate, Monument to the People, Performing Arts Building, and on to the Forbidden City. Bring your bike.

Built during the Middle-Ages (1300’s) the Imperial Palace or Forbidden City was home to the Chinese Emperor’s for centuries, some living out their lives and ruling China without ever leaving the walls that surround this vast complex. During the Cultural Revolution the mini-city was vacant and grown over with only a few soldiers protecting this Heritage site. In the 1980’s it was renovated and for the first time opened to the public.

Later that night we take our bikes up to the Lake District to an old neighborhood known as Yingingqiao, so beautiful are the streets I’m surprised they don’t film movies here. We ate at a Thai restaurant as we watched boats try to maneuver the small canal that connects the two lakes.

The Chinese beer is not bad, crisp and clean, I can’t say what brand it is but i see on the label 5.2%.

Next Temple of Heaven and Pinking Duck …

Getting Scammed and Eating Scorpions at Wangfujing Street, Beijing

As many ways as there are to make bread, love, or kill a man, there are just as many ways to run a scam in Beijing and it goes something like this, a tourist is approached by a local person, a pretty girl, student, or friendly person and asks if the tourist would like to go for a drink. The local takes the tourist to a specific bar and they order drinks, food, and when the bill arrives it turns out to be an exorbitant amount of money. If the tourist resists in paying the bill the police are called or depending on the situation it could be worse.

I’m traveling with my girlfriend and we went to dinner at the biggest mall in Beijing located on Wangfujing street. We finish and walk out into the Mall  and my companion says she needs to visit the toilet. I am left alone in the middle of the mall and all of a sudden these two young beautiful 20 something girls approach me and start a conversation. They start flirting and coming on to me, I’m all a giggle, and they are obviously interested in me, right?

Lets get real people. I am a middle aged average looking guy and there is no frigging way these two beautiful women are coming on to me, no frigging way, so it occurs to me I’m in the middle of a scam! Now I could brush them off but I decide to have some fun. The young girls ask if I’m with my wife.

“No, no wife” I say as I look towards the bathroom.

“We are looking for a place for dinner and some drinks.” The more confident girl said as she twirls her hair.

To ensure I have the advantage of the situation i start to notice their body language. Both girls’ shoulders were erect with plenty of eye contact. I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was observing or approaching from behind. I pointed to the escalator. “There are plenty of restaurants down there.”

“No they are getting ready to close. Where are you staying?” the second girl asked as she lightly touched my arm, more body language to show interest and affection.

I moved a little closer and kept close observant of their eyes.

“I’m staying at the Marriot.” Not really but I want to see their reaction when I said I was staying at one of the most expensive hotels in Beijing. The less confident girl’s eyes quickly dilated indicating extreme interests or more like, “We have hit the big money.”

The first girl asked  “We are going down the street would you like to join us?”

I looked over at the bathroom again and wondered where my companion was.

“Who are you waiting for?” the second girl asked as she noticed my interest in the toilet door.

At that time my girlfriend comes out looking not too pleased as she sees these two young girls paying more attention to me than they should. I wrap my arm around my partner and whisper in her ear. “Play along.”

I addressed the two girls. “This is my girlfriend.”

“Oh that’s nice, the American with an Asian woman.” One girl whispers to the other. “We are still looking for a drink, care to join us?”

It was time to end this little game and I smiled and said, “No we are heading home but would you care to join us in our room?” eyebrows going up and down.

The two girls laughed, realized we were on to them and waved a goodbye.

I felt a sharp punch to the rib. My girlfriend glared at me. “What were you going to do if they said yes?!

Apparently many people fall for this scam and this scenario happened to us twice during our stay in Beijing so it’s wise to be prepared and aware.

Wangfujing Street, Beijing

Wangfujing is the main shopping area in Beijing. High-end shops line the avenue but what you want to do is go off the main grid and get behind the scenes. Not only will the prices be cheaper the food gets a little bizarre. 

You think I ate this stuff? Think again. At the end of Wangfujing is St. Josephs where people line dance every evening to Chinese top-40 hits, a pleasant way to end an evening.

Next Tianaman Square and the Forbidden City

Mountain Biking Beijing

There are many wonders, smells, and buildings that define Beijing and none more so than the following urban sights and food. But, to see all that you need to see you can’t do it by subway, taxi, or rickshaw, you have to bike it. It’s the fastest way to get across town and if the distance is to far, park the bike at the subway for a few pennies. If you get a flat, stop at the roadside bike repair guy.

Beijing is a bikers dream if you are savvy enough to work around the crowds and traffic and ever since the 2008 Olympics there are public bathrooms everywhere.  Every road has a bike lane on either side again watch out for the occasional small car using the bike lanes.

These are our trusty steeds, the typical working mans bicycle, gangly, heavy, single speed dependable tanks on two wheels. Beijing is flat so no need for gears although mountain bikes are starting to make a big showing.

Best part of the trip is getting lost in ancient, centuries old Chinese neighborhoods called “Hontongs”. You have to get here before the city swallows them up because development has become their cancer.

The narrow alleyways and maze of these neighborhoods take you back to the way it was. We happened to get lost in a few.

We left the comforts of our modern hotel to experience the old China court room home turned into a bed and breakfast located down a narrow Hontong alleyway the taxi driver would not venture down.

“Get out here.” The taxi driver said.

“But where is our hotel?” I asked. “Why don’t you take us down the street?”

“Street to narrow. Walk down there.” He pointed to this alleyway.

Take note of this laundry, we will get back to this place in a moment.

We finally come to our hotel, circa 1920’s, it is quaint, clean, great staff, and actually quite a nice place, and I loved it.

So funny thing happened on the way to the laundry. By day this establishment cleans clothes and does dry cleaning, but by night the proprietor hangs out a different shingle. I told my girlfriend “we better check our clothes when we get back.”

One of our first meals and for some reason the Chinese like the head served with the entrée, we experienced many meals with heads.

Next Tiananmen Square

Beijing

A young boy is born in 1162 AD in the Mongolian wasteland. His father arranged his marriage at the age of nine to seal rival disputes. Warring tribes poisoned his father for control and banished the young Mongol and his family to perish in the harsh terrain of Mongolia (Brent, Peter. 1976. The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan: His Triumph and His Legacy. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson. Peter, 1976).

Scavenging and living off dead carcasses time passes and the boy becomes of age and a ruthless leader of men reaping revenge, at times massacring entire towns of all men, women, and children. For fear or loyalty many Mongol tribes joined forces with the great leader as they make their way into the deep reaches of China. The horde came to the first of many vast stone barriers stretched across the land as far as the eye could see.

“What civilization could create such a mountainous snake?” the Mongolians thought with fear in their eyes and reluctance to march on.

The Mongol leader scaled the Great Wall and stood atop looking down at his army. The vast expanse of men seeing that their leader feared no man started to chant and screamed out the warrior’s new name “Genghis Khan! Genghis Khan!”

In 1211 Genghis Khan and his army march on to an ancient city in northern China now known as Beijing (Wikipedia).

The next few post will be on Beijing China. I met some friends there and it is a must in the bucket list. This is the eve of the Tiananmen Square protest that took place 23 years ago. A college student stood in front of a tank and defied it to roll over him so tensions were high for a foreigner to be in Beijing. We ate, got scammed, and moved out of our comfortable hotel to experience the real Beijing.