Beijing

The first time I “went” to Beijing was a fucking disaster. My friend and I missed our connecting flight due to utter incompetence, something I am not prone to nor do I tolerate it. We still blame the Thai pilot who quoted the wrong time when we arrived but nonetheless, when you miss a very long international flight when you are sitting in a bar less than 150 feet away from the gate and the airport is completely empty, you’re a fucking idiot, there is really no getting around that. So when we watched our dreams slowly slipping away from that gate (it was our ride home after a long trip), we fell to the floor and made certain that Beijing understood our contempt. Point is, we ended up having 12 hours to kill in Beijing, and a long cab ride, the most expensive beer and nuts we’ve ever had in our lives, and other karaoke oddities later, we hated Beijing, thus, I decided to give it another try.

Beijing is not a very cool city. Let’s start with the obvious. Tiananmen Square. This was the first place I visited, and let me tell you, it is not cool. And no I was not jaded from being randomly walked there by a Chinese “student” who seemed so interested and friendly and genuine, and then after 40 minutes of chatting walked me directly into his “store” and tried to get me to buy authentic paintings from K-mart, it really wasn’t that. The square is just dumb. Like really dumb. Imagine the National Mall without grass and without the Smithsonian and just a giant picture of Obama to go along with some dumb ass, super fake, reconstructions of…hmmmmm…maybe the twin towers? I don’t know, they had erected the great wall of china on the square and it was just dumb (incidentally the wall is about a 2 hour drive from the city). This square has hawkers willing to take and print out your picture, I mean way too many of them honestly. They have 3 or so “food” vans that sold me sausage that I am pretty sure you are supposed to squeeze out of a tube. You are either supposed to cook it or go with the second option which was squeezing it into the trash can. This square also has about 10 trash cans and no bathrooms, so all of the mothers were literally holding their babies over these trash cans while the kids shit and pissed in them. Yup, not kidding. Shit and piss. Yes. Dumb square.

How about the Forbidden City! Cool right! Wrong. If you like a thousand temples that all look the same and that were all rebuilt numerous times after being burned down by fire numerous times then you are in luck! This place is a never ending labyrinth of who gives a fuck. This area definitely qualifies as the “I’ve seen google” type of sites. It was actually worse than expected though. I do give them credit for having English everywhere but man it was just boring.

Ok, so this is about the point that I gave up on traditional Beijing. The hutongs in my mind were must do’s. They are kind of like the bohemian neighborhoods of old Beijing. They say that they are disappearing because the government doesn’t like the squalor. But this squalor ain’t so bad. They do have public bathrooms on every road, and while I definitely did not consider spending time in one of the houses, we definitely ain’t talking about Thailand or other southeast Asian domiciles either. That being said, you still are walking through someone’s “street”. Gawking at those who are less advantaged is not something that I usually go for, but this case was special. While some streets are filled with barbershops and repair places, many are filled with restaurants and stores. This is where you can find something interesting. You can find crap too of course. Corporate America has reached every corner in my experience, though I did have a great time here. It gets really interesting just south of Guloudong street. I had some fantastic street food that was spicy as all hell (my favorite) and just delicious. Food on a stick, and in this case a super long metal skewer, can just hit the spot.

I also rather enjoyed Wangfujing Road. This is a very modern pedestrian avenue. A little too dominated by big chains, but there are some decent bar type patios in the center, and the really cool stuff happens off to the side. There is a pocket just to the left almost right when you start down the road that just knocked my socks off. It was a haven of street food and nick knacks. I mean it went on forever. And when you thought it was done you could still find more just down the street. I mean I ate scorpions (and yeah, they were alive on the skewer just flailing their legs right before they were cooked), I ate shrimp quail eggs (which were just awesome shrimp cooked inside a fried egg, but it was neat), and more skewers like the ones I found in the hutongs. I mean you could try anything and everything. ALWAYS watch an Asian person get their food first however. You’ll pay the same price, but they’ll get 3 and you’ll only get one. Let someone else get it then you can just point. Anyway, I’m not totally sure if it was legal since I was the only one, but I drank plenty while walking down these narrow avenues. I mean travel wise, this was love.

But not enough to redeem Beijing 🙂

Notes to self:

-My first experience in Beijing indicated that it was expensive, it is decidedly not. Nice places are expensive, but if you want dinner for three dollars and a beer for two you can do that as well.
-Unlike Shanghai, the amount of people who “wanted” something from me was somewhat limited on their main roads…definitely a plus.
-Obviously Peking(Beijing) Duck is everywhere, but oh my god the one at Made In China was sick. Siiiiiicccckkkkkk. They serve it with awesome garlic and sugar to shake on it and plum sauce for the pancakes. The pancakes were perfect but the highlight was the skin. It wasn’t just crispy and thin as per usual, it was thick, and juicy, and drippy, and it had meat on it. It was really quite something. I also had a jamming spicy chicken app. Everything was great. Really cool place and perfect service too.
-Just like the first time, they tried to jack my ass at the airport. Don’t listen to anyone. Get someone to write down your address and take a metered cab, it costs nada relatively speaking.


Hotels

Grand Hyatt Beijing (Sep 2015)