Category : Beijing

Goes without saying…

…that lunch was delicious.

This place is open 24 hours a day, and it’s always a madhouse.  It’s worth it, though.  Oh, believe me…it’s worth it.

Beijing restaurants win again!

“The root,” as they say.

The root of home, that is.  The village where my father was born, and lived until he was sixteen years old — at which point, he left for school.  He only returned once, after that.  Right before leaving for the Air Force academy. I’m still getting the details straightened out. My dad didn’t like talking about his early years, and now he’s gone.  It’s like playing catch-up with a ghost.

My wife and I drove to Zhang Gou Zhen Daxichun in Funing County, Jiangsu Province.  It was a spur of the moment trip, on our way to Beijing.  The village was deep in the country.  Many winding roads.  My dad needed to take a boat to leave his village, way back when.

The older people there remembered my dad, partially because he was considered a war hero for the KMT, and partially because he was the first pilot from that county.  We met his — my — relatives.  My dad’s cousin.  I could see the similarities in their faces, and that was eerie.

The world has changed so much over the last seventy years.  In many places, it would be impossible to return to the location of your dad’s birth and find it virtually the same, with a whole town that remembers your dad, or at least, knows of him.  The idea itself would be unimaginable.

But that’s what I found.  For more than five hundred years, my dad’s family lived in that village.  They still live there.  Might be another five hundred years, living there.  Talk about roots.

I’ll have more thoughts about it later.  I’m still digesting the experience.

Good Buns.

I’ve got a cold that has been bothering me for the last seven days (onward, up to forever), but that didn’t stop me from getting out this weekend with my wife.  We have one of those indoor bamboo plants, the kind that grow in water. Usually, nothing green survives in our house, but this one is actually doing well.  Better than well.  As in, it’s outgrowing its container.

So we went looking for a new one.

This should have been easy.  Beijing is the capitol of a lot of things, and cheap, good-looking vases should be one of them.  I see them everywhere.  But the one time I need to find one?  Nothing.

We went to Pan Jia Yuan.  Up and down those aisles.  For hours.  We saw a couple that were nice, but not great.  Not, as my wife says, “inspirational.”  Pan Jian Yuan used to be a place where you could find treasures, things that are totally unique.  But not anymore.  It caters mostly to the tourists.

One bright point?  An old Beijing baked bun shop near the market. It always has people waiting in line.  The line is part of the fun.  Everyone’s in it together.

This place only bakes twenty of these buns every five to six minutes, so last time I was there I had to wait forty minutes just to reach the front of the line.  Why the long wait?  Yes, they’re good, but it’s a logistics thing, too.  The bun shop sells them for .70 cents each, but if you buy ten, you get one free.  So usually people buy eleven, which means that each time the buns are done, usually the line only moves forward two people.

I was lucky, though…this time I got to the front in fifteen minutes, and only asked for two, one for me and my wife.

A study of steps…

It’s the small things. Today when I went to the Forbidden City I received half-off my ticket price.

Senior discount.

I don’t know how I feel about that. I always love a deal, so…good?

***

My daughter says the Forbidden City feels holy to her, and I think there’s something to that. Every time I go there’s a hush – a prevailing heaviness that isn’t dispelled by the huge crowds. You don’t notice the crowds, after a while, because the Forbidden City swallows people up until all you see is stone and sky and red walls.

And the details are incredible. Every little piece of the Forbidden City is a work of art…including the stairs. That always amazes me. Look at this – winged cats, flying horses in the clouds – that sense of flight in the stone. Are you supposed to feel as though you’re flying when you’re climbing those stairs?

And yes, I did include one wall section – and the theme of being in the clouds, among the fantastic and mythic continues.

Well, the Emperor was the ‘Son of Heaven’, after all…so I suppose it fits.

The Great Wall

I love the Great Wall. The remote sections, anyway. Badaling is a joke now (so commercial, so rebuilt that almost nothing of the old wall remains), but the other parts…they still retain most of their original character. Before they built the new highway — that I zoomed along today at full speed — it used to take hours and hours of hard, dangerous driving along a two lane back-road to reach this section of the wall. Which meant that when you’d reach the wall, it was almost empty. No tourists, just local villagers. You could practically park at the base of the wall, and then walk up — without anyone around for miles.

Now? Not so much.

I went to Jin San Ling. Rough translation? Gold Mountaintop. Beautiful weather today, blue skies from here to forever. The wall was packed with people. That’s good if you have an emergency — before, you were basically on your own — but if you want some peace and quiet, forget about it. Or come in the pre-dawn hours. Which, actually, sounds like something I might do next time.

Forbidden City at Sunset