Published: February 14th 2008February 14th 2008
Hardly a minute to spare these days as we swing from major tourist attractions to haggly shopping to fine feasts to Beijing pubs, where, incidentally, there is a thriving live music scene, singer-songwriters to beat the band, long hair and patterned plectrums, and meaningful chords (especially ninths) emanating from every edifice and orifice. Missing a day of blogging means that I now have far too many great Chinese experiences to write about and my flight leaves tonight at 2.20 (about the price of a Chinese main course, incidentally). Aggh! I have to look at my photos to actually remember all the things I did in the last few days.
We - myself, Song, Hailing and a friend of hers who joined us for the day and paid for everything - took a taxi to the Summer Palace, the countryside retreat of the imperial family. The recent bad weather has kept a lot of Chinese tourists away from Beijing this Spring Festival so the crowds have been much smaller than usual, luckily for me. The Summer Palace is a vast park around a frozen-over lake, with "don't step on the ice" warning signs happily disregarded by the visitors. Don't worry -
I kept my two feet on solid ground. We watched outdoor stage performances of the type of entertainments that would have got the Qings through their summer holidays, strolled along the "long corridor" - a kind of cloister with individual hand-paintings decorating the entire length of several hundred metres, or whatever that is in imperial measurements of the Chinese variety, played some open-air percussion instruments, and took lots of ridiculous photos that kept us mightily entertained. This place manages to create a great sense of space just a throne's stow from the capital.
Hopping in taxis is cheap and easy..despite our best efforts we have never forced the metre over 4 euro during the day and 5 euro at night. So after the Summer Palace shenanigans we hopped in a taxi to an indoor market in Beijing. Here Song showed her prowess as price chopper extraordinaire, almost leaving the shop assistants weeping. Her wig-shop wonders were particularly entertaining, and her ruthless bargaining at the bag shop probably means the owners will be hungry for a week. It's a harsh world, shopping. Before we left the market we tried the Beijing delicacy called tang hu lu - little pieces of
fruit smothered in some oily sugary sticky somethingorother on a long stick. I know, I describe these delicious things so well - you just want to race over here and have them!
After all that exertion and sympathy for Beijing retailers we hopped in a taxi to a famous pub and restaurant street beside yet another frozen-over lake. Dinner on this occasion consisted of food from the south-western province of Yunnan. I'm sure it was totally delicious and unforgettably satisfying, but by the time of going to print, it has become rather blurred and mixed up with other sinfully delicious culinary delights. We sat at a window seat, where we could enjoy the many impromptu and momentary fireworks displays over the low roofs, and amused ourselves greatly with Song's recently purchased headgear. Continuing down this street we chose one of the many pubs that would be the envy of every one-man-and-his-guitar: Silent drinkers relaxing on couches listening attentively to every word and every note and every meaninful statement coming through the quality sound system. Of course my Chinese companions, minxes that they are, were not long in forcing me, physically and mercilessly, up onto the high stool, plectrum in
shaky hand, to wrack my brains for some song that I could actually remember the words to. Ailie I needed you! Anyway, I have now made my debut in not one but two Beijing pubs, singing songs I never knew I knew. And indeed I didn't know and still don't - lyrics were sung in these songs that were never sung in these songs before and hopefully never will be again. Luckily nobody could understand. All ordeals were helped by the effect of Tsing tao beer.
There are more photos below