Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nov 3 2010 | Beijing: cha-cha-cha

Olga pouring a huge pot of tea!
Every tour book lists the Forbidden City in their one-day must-see-sightseeing list, my friends had already visited it (although they gave up halfway in) when we were relaxing in Hangzhou, so we took it upon ourselves to be immersed in the overwhelming experience of the Forbidden City. The sprawling complex of the last two dynasties (Ming and Qing), the Communist revolution did offer us one thing: opening up access to the previously clamped-down estate in the middle of the city.
deliveries of dried fruits to the local markets
I give my friends credit for trying , it can become monotonous and overwhelming going from outer court to outer greeting hall to outer court to out resting hall to outer court to outer meeting hall before you even get to the heart of the complex. One thing that allowed us to get through it, though, was finding the Palace Cafeteria, which had possibly the best tea we have had in China. Olga and I are both nursing colds (Mom and Bubby: they are very slight, I'm only mentioning it for dramatic effect!) so we tried the Honey Citron tea (which has honey and actual lemons) and Plum Honey tea (you can guess what was floating in that cup). A tasty chocolate-covered soft pretzel allowed us to continue the trek.

Forbidden City antiquities: picking up or dropping off?
Pretty soon we had passed all of the structures and found ourselves in the royal garden. It had many rockeries similar to Prince Gong's, but not as much of the 3D high-road / low-road concept.

Other than the beauty of the complex of palaces and the nature of the garden, probably the most interesting exhibit was about the early life of the last emperor (Pu Yi). It took us from his birth to his ascension to the thrown at age 6 to becoming irrelevant but being allowed to live and study in the back of the palace to being cast off by the Communists (the exhibit ends there but he sounded like an absolutely fascinating man, wonder what happened next). It's all very reminiscent of a film I saw as a kid ;)

evil tree in Forbidden City garden: about
to walk away or kick you in the pants?
We bought tickets to a show at the Laoshe teahouse, and looked nearby for an inexpensive place to eat. Popped into a cafeteria, not knowing how we would know what we were ordering, but we encouraged each other to enter anyway. It turns out they have a menu I would describe as very cute English (which has slightly higher prices, btw).

Olga at sunset: moat and outside of Forbidden City
We over-ordered:
- Fennel pork dumplings (these went into a box for tomorrow's breakfast)
- The rape with garlic hibiscus (that's exactly what it said on the menu - we know from previous experience this is a tasty green)
- Garlic cucumber
- Milk tea with primary taste
- Milk tea with qiaokeliwei taste ("q" is pronounced as "ch" - I believe this was their attempt at spelling chocolatey??)
new National Performing Arts Centre and
its reflecting pool
- Vegetable chicken meatball vegetable soup
- Egg and tomato noodles
The portions were large, the staff friendly and funny (no common language needed), and the MSG flowing.

Back at the Laoshe teahouse, we watched a traditional Chinese variety show:
- woman sang discordant while playing bongo and hung candles on her face to show her breath was even
Kung Fu Fighters
- two men had a comedy routine consisting of them making bird sounds and mechanical noises (trains, planes, automobiles)
- ventriloquist act with human dummy
- women spinning plates
- lots of trivia about tea, including the fact that it "delays decrepitude"
- mask changing trick as seen on China's Got Talent
- kung fu fighters set to the tune of a Soviet march and the operatic theme from Fifth Element.It seemed like a touristy event, but looking around, Westerners were definitely in the minority. 99% of the speaking was in Mandarin. Perhaps it is for locals - or for tourists from around Asia.

1 comment:

Olga said...

Oh come on, Dave! Don't tell me tea's ability to stave off decrepitude was news to you. ; ] Enjoying the photos, you both look fabulous!