Last day in Beijing.
Today is going to be my last day in Beijing. I’m sure there are more monuments to visit but I’ve decided to spend my remaining time here focused on food that here, as we know, is really a serious matter. Before of it, now that finally my plan for next days has been defined, I need to book some train ticket. Of course, there are several travel agencies where you can do it but I prefer to do it at the central railway station. This way, tomorrow when I will actually take the train I will have a certain familiarity with the place. My next destinations will be the towns of Tianjin and Datong. The station is crowded as you would expect but in the end still quite well organized. In the main hall there are huge screens showing next departing trains. As reported by one display, one of the about 20 ticket counters has an english speaking employee so I go there even if in the queue there are also many locals. I have previously checked on Internet the timetable so I have a paper with train numbers and departure times but the employee is so efficient that I don’t need to use it. To buy a ticket you need an ID and the relevant number is printed on the ticket. If you buy ticket for a train leaving from a station located in a different town you need to pay an additional fee of 5 Yuan. I pay 128 Yuan in total in cash since they accept only local cards. It is less than 20 Euros. Trains in china seem to have very reasonable price. Now, with my tickets in the wallet I can reach the first goal of today…
Wangfujing snack market.
I decide to reach Wangfujing area on foot. So far, walking in Beijing streets gave me always great opportunities to take pictures but this is not the case. The 2.5 kilometres go away without any remarkable glimpse but I just need to wait a bit for nice photos. The famous Wangfujing snack market is announced by a colourful gate and by the first stall selling Scorpions skewers. The insects are still alive, Chinese people love fresh meat… However I don’t see many customers. The street hosting the snack market, in spite of its length of only 300 meters, offers really a wide variety of food, from the weirdest to the more ordinary one. I’m a bit hungry but I ignore the most “exotic” snacks and I opt for a very tasty octopus skewer. The curious thing is that I see Chinese people looking at me in a way that I read as “look that foreigner trying our strange food!”. Really! Likely they don’t know that the octopus is quite common in Italy and in general in the Mediterranean countries and it is, by the way, one of my favourite dish. Some market stall displays strange drinks smoking like in those old movies featuring crazy scientists. There is also a lot of fish. At the market, of course, you can also find some of the Chinese classics like noodles or dumplings even if some of them has cartoon-like shapes. I’m amazed by the stinky tofu but it is really too stinky for me. Snakes, grasshoppers and spiders are also available but in the end, when I need a further refill for my stomach I choose some tempting egg with shrimps. I see also cocoons or at least I guess they are and small birds that are in display with the head still “on” and I’ve to confess that this is somehow impressive. However I’m sure that this is one of those cases in which, not even the best writer would be able to describe what I have in front of my eyes, that’s why I’ve prepared for you the following video. Enjoy it!
Before I leave the area of this fantastic market that I will surely remember as one of my best experience in China, I stop by a big multi-storey bookshop. I’m struck by the many children sitting on the floor, browsing books. Certainly in China smartphones are widespread but, thank god, books still have an important role in spreading culture. For a moment I reconsider the Facebook ban. I decide to buy a small manual teaching how to to write ideograms. I hope it will improve my ability of understanding what is written around even if, at least here in Beijing, Pinyin (the transliteration system of Chinese in Latin characters) is very common and helpful. Reading my book on the metro I go back to my hotel. This evening, for the first and only time in Beijing I will eat far from my hotel but with a good reason…
Rendezvous with a duck.
Seriously speaking, I really cannot leave Beijing without tasting the Peking Duck so I won’t. And where are the most famous Peking Duck Restaurants in Beijing? Well, in Wangfujing, so, here I am again. I skip the market (for now) and I head straight to one of most celebrated place for this very famous dish. My choice is the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. This restaurant was founded in 1864 during Qing Dynasty as proudly reported on a plate at the entrance and it is really popular among locals. I’m lucky enough to find a seat even if the restaurant is almost full. For my half duck I have to wait 40 minutes but it’s going to be a well spent time. I can spy on other diners to understand how to properly eat the Peking duck. The duck is sliced by the waiter that takes care of separating in different plates the fat skin and the flesh. As a side, you receive finely sliced scallion, a thick soy sauce and very thin pancakes. When you have finally all this in front of you, it’s time to savor the dish in the right way. To do that, you have to take a pancake and put in it some duck flesh, a bit of the tasty skin, the scallion and finally the sauce, then wrap it and so eat one of the best food you can have on earth. I really loved this restaurant. I’ve made a short video showing the rite of the slicing the duck that you can find it here below.
End of the day.
Getting out of the restaurant, just around the corner, I notice a kind of small altar with a portrait of Mao Zedong. To be honest, I’ve to admit that I was quite surprised seeing people still honouring the Great Helmsman. Apparently China is a Country that looks to the future without denying the past. Before going home, I decide to take a last look at the Wangfujing snack market to see how it is at night. Stalls and food are the same even if scorpions with those lights look nicer. Atmosphere is even more festive than during the day. There is a lot of nice smelling food but I’m completely fully. I regret to have discovered this place only in the last day of my stay in Beijing. By the way, I forgot to say that it was suggested to me by the guide of the Great Walls of China: the funny Bubble. Thanks to her for that. In the evening there is more people. In side streets there are also tiny restaurants with people sitting outside and a small stage where a guy is playing a traditional Chinese show. I have recorded a very short video also for this. You really can’t complain this time!
Before getting back to the hotel I cross the Shopping Mall interconnected with the metro station. Here there is a system with a big screen and a camera allowing customers to “wear” different clothes in a short time but people seem to get the funny side of the story and I see Chinese men testing female clothes having a lot of fun. On an advertising in a shop there is written “Around the world” and I think is for me 🙂 . In the station I see the “Metro Director” again standing on his footboard. They keep working until the closing of the service. It was a great day but now it’s over. Starting from tomorrow I will explore the rest of China. Will it be nice and easy as it was here in Beijing or I will have to face the difficulties I was worried at the beginning of this Chinese leg of my trip? You will know it soon.
And in the end the Beijing gallery that now is complete with pictures taken in all these days.