Friday, July 13, 2007

Beijing, Xi'an

Our last day in Beijing was spent at the Summer Palace (beautiful) and the Silk Market (anarchy). The shopping is getting schlockier and more competitive as we go, and our desire to bid may mean that Marji is getting many gifts which will disintegrate in seconds. If you need a knockoff anything, please email me soon. Also, I cannot read any comments that you post. Apparently, Juliedelphia is controversial in its stance on communism, because in both Vietnam and China, I can post but not view my own blog.

Food: we ate a fantastic meal once again on our last night in Beijing. This was 'hakka' cuisine, which even my book couldn't describe, but included whole shrimp served on skewers in buckets of rock salt and a whole cooked perch cooked in foil. The food was amazing, we were amongst the only white people once more, and we were right on one of the back lakes so the setting was gorgeous. The food has been the most pleasant surprise about China, since that was pretty grim the last time. While we have done quite well, we have seen the following menu items repeatedly: dog, snake, turtle, bullfrog, cartilage, duck head, and intestine. The bullfrogs and turtles especially seem popular, and since many menus handle the language barrier by posting pictures, I have seen a few too many photos of whole turtles and frogs sitting in a sauce. Delightful.

We flew to Xi'An yesterday, and saw the terra cotta warriors. It's breathtaking, you should see it, enough said. It also poured and we got stuck in the rain. What's shocked us all is Xi'An itself. I wasn't picturing a village or anything, but this is a huge city complete with a Louis Vuitton, a Chanel, and a Rolex store. This is all here because the warriors are such a tourist draw. When you go to visit the tomb near the warriors, they bring you into a gift shop and show you the surviving farmer who made the discovery. He tries to sell you an autograph. What a living.

It's also worth mentioning that this was my first adult encounter with Chinese domestic aviation. We flew CAAC when we were here in 1987, known as "Chinese Airline Always Cancels". I remember the runway workers were on bikes, the food was a hot box of something bizarre, and the flight attendants could not get a rogue smoker to stop. This time, I flew China Eastern, which turns out to be a rebranded CAAC. The airport is high tech as one would expect, but the food is once again a train wreck. We were given a croissant with freezer burn (our life saving snack), a little container of shredded pear? with red seeds in some kind of jelly, a plastic container with soybeans, noodles, and half of a black hard boiled egg, and a hot metal container of white sludge. The guy next to Denise put his croissant on his fork in his left hand, and alternately scooped out and all but inhaled the white stuff, pausing every six scoops or so to bite some croissant off the fork. It was hilarious. There was also a cartoon we watched about plane etiquette telling us not to take off our shoes if our feet stink and not to pick our noses, presumably because that's just common sense.

Last night, we went to the supposed 18 course dumpling place but found they were sold out of all but five kinds. We overate anyhow, and brought beers back to our superior room to toast Denise's last night and play cards.

Today, we went to the Shanxi History Museuem, which lived up to its billing as one of the best to see. We then tried to see the Goose Pagoda, but ended up wandering around the outside of it instead of paying a lot to go in. We accidentally stumbled on a crazy synchronized music fountain show, and got to pose in two girls' photos. We went to the Muslim quarter for lunch and ate dumplings with soup in them. Soup! What will they think of next? I actually read about these in a New Yorker article years ago, in which the author was using the availability of said dumplings in New York to try to lure his daughter back from San Francisco; her counter was burritos, which I must agree with given my latest fantasies invole a Taqueria Cancun carnitas super burrito. Our other pair left us today, and it's me and Nisha from here on out.

That pretty much covers it. Pray for affordable internet again in Chengdu!


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