Duck for Dinner
Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
124Trip End Ongoing
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Our train rolled into Beijing Central Train Station around 2:30 in the afternoon, having descended from the pretty scenery and countless tunnels in the mountains to passing mile after mile of huge new apartment blocks on the plains leading up to the Chinese capital.
The wonderful Emperor Guesthouse is located in the 'Hutong' in central Beijing. Hutong is just the name for the traditional mazy, single storey neighbourhoods that used to dominate non-Imperial Beijing (i.e. where normal Chinese lived). Many of the Hutongs have been destroyed in Beijing's regeneration but this one remains and it is very close to the heart of the city and Tian 'An Men Square. You have to be careful with 'traditional' and 'original' Chinese attractions because often they are often neither, but this Hutong seemed to genuinely be a local Chinese neighbourhood with local people, shops, and restaurants all over. It was a fascinating place to walk around - you feel as if you are living right in and amongst the locals, taking little back-alley shortcuts (actually the whole place is little back-alleys) that pass right up close to (and through) Chinese homes. Margat (who was also staying in a Hutong) commented later that the area was really tourist friendly, what with all the public toilets around but these are actually community toilets as many homes were built without them. The Emperor itself is the impressive former residence of a noted civil servant, with an indoor courtyard, its own little restaurant and great staff. We highly recommend it.
We met up with some of our fellow trans-Siberian-ers that evening for a farewell dinner - Ritchie's instruction to meet 'at the big flag on Tian 'An Men square' at 6pm proved ill-judged as it coincided with the lowering of said flag and the area was swamped with Chinese tourists. We eventually met up and made our way to Qian Ju De on Wang Fu Jing Lu which is a famous Peking Duck restaurant and devoured a duck and a half, as well as our first bottle of baijiu for the trip. Before our farewells we all went for supper and shopping along the night market across from the restaurant, scorpions, snakes, crickets all available but everyone was suddenly very full...
Our second and final day in Beijing we headed over to the Olympic Park to see Beijing's newest famous buildings. The park is beautifully laid out and the Birds Nest stadium facing the water sports 'Cube' are its impressive centrepiece.
Where I stayed