Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday...A day of supreme harmony

Saturday- Our first full day in Beijing. We spent our first night in the King’s Joy Hotel last night, and we all met this morning for breakfast in the hotel dining room - noodles, broccoli and cauliflower, scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, yogurt and muesli.

After breakfast we walked through a hutong on our way to Tianamen Square. Hutongs are very old neighborhoods of narrow streets and one story homes and shops. They are a fast disappearing remnant of another time. They are being replaced by modern, more efficient high rise buildings.

We walked to Tianamen Square, the largest public gathering space in the world. Many pictures were taken by us, and of us. We crossed the street and entered the Forbidden City. The vastness and scale of the buildings and their decorations are difficult to imagine until you have walked among them. We all felt better after out time at the Temple of Supreme Harmony! After our visit at the Forbidden City, we had lunch at a nearby restaurant. Everyone was hungry, and we wolfed down the plates of food as they arrived. And arrived, and arrived! Dachuan and Liang and Ryan had ordered the meal in advance for us, and we didn’t know there would be so many different plates! Tofu, lamb, pork, chicken, seafood, rice, the plates just kept appearing!

After lunch we took a bus to the Silk Market, a four story building that sells just about anything you can imagine, and many things you can’t.. Everyone had an opportunity to hone their bartering skills as they shopped for silk dresses, chopsticks, UGG boots, t shirts, and plenty of “faux” designer goods.

Mr. Whittington guided us through the subway system and we arrived at our next destination. All forty five of us negotiated the crowded subway cars with the ease of native Beijingers!

All that shopping gave us an appetite, so we had Mongolian Hot Pot for dinner. We sat at five large tables and at the center of each was large cloisonné bowl. Inside the bowl is a chimney shaped pot that holds charcoal which heats the broth in the bowl. Many plates are brought to the table- raw beef, chicken, ham, lamb, mushroom, bok choi, cabbage, tofu and fishballs. These are placed in the boiling broth until they are done, and then fished out with chopsticks and served with dipping sauce. Wow! Imagine us all in a big room, with five round tables, steaming hot pots and freshmen reaching in with chopsticks to pick out their cooked food.

After dinner we walked through the night market and considered the delicacies- snake on a stick, starfish on a stick, scorpion on a stick, tang hulu- fruit on a stick dipped in boiling sugar!

After a brisk walk back to the hotel, we are off to a well deserved rest.

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