Beijing

10 May

Beijing has changed a lot since I last visited in 1994 and Jeannie in 1999. Beijing has transformed from a traditional Chinese city of bicycles, hutongs, small markets and street vendors, to a large metropolitian city of cars and huge shopping malls everywhere. Alongside this unchecked massive growth comes smog: thick heavy smog that blankets the city and reduces visibility down to 500 yards on any given day. You can’t go to Beijing without immediately noticing it in your throat and lungs. A stay-indoors bad air day is declared in the US when the smog index hits 100. During our time in Beijing the smog index averaged 350! Now I understand why all Chinese people are hocking loogies and spitting on the street.

In spite of this, we managed to visit the main sights of the city and eat at some really great (and cheap) restaurants!

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Da Dong peking duck restaurant. Probably the best peking duck restaurant in the city. The duck is lean, crispy, and juicy. Great reputation among tourists and locals alike. We actually ate peking duck 3 times over a course of of 11 days. We dine at a Peking duck restaurant called Jin Zun, twice, because it was across the street from our hotel. Generally we wouldn’t gorge like that, but we hadn’t had Peking duck in years, and we weren’t really fans of the northern style Beijing food. In nearly every Beijing restaurant we ate at, each veggie dish was incredibly oily and greasy. Da Dong was the only place in Beijing we ate at that didn’t serve veggies dripping in oil. FYI, if you want to eat at a Peking duck place, call ahead and make reservations! If you just show up the wait might be long for getting seated, and you’d also have to wait longer for your duck.

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Water Cube. Half of the cube has been turned into an indoor water park. The competition swimming side is under construction as well, but we don’t know what it’s turning into.

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Bird’s Nest. See that fog? It’s not fog. You can barely see from one side of the stadium to the other. In only 4 years, you can already tell the National Olympic Stadium is already suffering from neglect. Paint is peeling everywhere, rust is showing, and the roof is dirty. There’s rumors of turning part of it into a shopping complex.

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The Forbidden City remains unchanged since who-knows when. It’s sad that even the Chinese citizens have little respect for their crown jewel. I witnessed a woman toss a corn-on-the-cob right on the ground here, when a garbage can was 50 feet away. I also saw a family let their 4 year old kid pee right on the sidewalk in front of Mao’s portrait in Tiananmen Square. The rest of the grounds are littered with corn cobs and a variety of trash.

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Wangfujing shopping street. A mix of modern mega-malls lining the street, with traditional style vendors less than a block away.

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Summer Palace

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Acrobatics show. We bought tickets off a scalper and saved 40%, and got prime seats.

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Temple of Heaven

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We tried Din Tai Fung in Beijing. A different dining experience than the one in Arcadia; these dumplings tasted better and the prices were cheaper.

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Mango shaved ice from a dessert place down the hall from Din Tai Fung.

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iTea. The purple drink was kind of gross but the mango pudding was good.

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Beef noodle soup and pork noodle soup from the food court at Raffles City, a department store.

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We drank Happy Lemon quite a bit to soothe our throats during the day. It’s a boba/pearl/tapioca/bubble chain with a great selection of drinks. The QQ Brilliant Fruit Tea was a winner, we must have had it like 4 times!

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7 Responses to “Beijing”

  1. Robert May 11, 2012 at 5:13 AM #

    Well the air quality is great in San Francisco, but people still hack, spit, or blow their noses onto the public sidewalk. So it can’t be totally the smog. Meanwhile the food looks pretty good.

  2. Ken May 11, 2012 at 8:35 AM #

    Wow, that is the ultimate second-hand smoke. LA smog is nothing compared to that. I thought they had cleaned up their air pollution problems prior to the Olympics.

    • Jerry May 14, 2012 at 7:59 AM #

      They put in factory regulations in the months leading up to the Olympics, but all that was temporary and they’re back to normal now.

  3. Betty May 11, 2012 at 11:18 AM #

    I was in Beijing in 1985 and I cannot imagine the changes that have occurred and from your description not for the best! Overall, though would you recommend a visit to that city?

    • Jerry May 13, 2012 at 9:32 AM #

      Betty, it’s a different experience for everybody. Beijing still has a number of items with tremendous historical significance that are worth seeing. However, we also personally think the city has transformed into a generic mega-city with the world’s rudest citizens. It’s worth a visit, but I wouldn’t spend more 5 days there.

      • Betty May 13, 2012 at 12:51 PM #

        Thanks for gettting back to me. I actually remember back in 1985, how difficult it was to board a bus in the city. There was no such thing as lining up…it was chaos trying board the bus…even when it arrived empty! Stay safe and enjoy your travels!

  4. Dad May 11, 2012 at 5:42 PM #

    Wow…awesome food…wish we could tele-port those restaurants to Union City!
    Re: smog….the Marlboro Man probably doesn’t sell too many smokes…the people are already inhaling it for free!

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