Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 21. Travel to Beijing

And just like a magic carpet Eastern China Airlines deposited us unharmed at Beijing airport a little past noon. It took us a while to get our backpacks and navigate through the metro, so we were 20 minutes late for the appointment we had made with Klaus at a park near his work. No Klaus, but he got there ten minutes later. He had correctly assumed that if we had not shown at the prearranged hour it was because of some delay, went back to work, and this was his second visit to the park. We exchanged greetings and the key to his apartment, and a few minutes later we were on our way to home!

It was so nice to kick off our boots, turn on the air conditioning, pop open a coke, and sit down in front of the TV to just relax. We saw a funny martial arts movie playing in the late 1800’s (“Once Upon a Time in China”), and were just reaching the end when Klaus got home.

OK, what shall we do? Let’s go to the Donghuamen Night Market! We quickly charted our way through the metro, which at 7 pm was packed to the gills (so much so that we got separated, because Luke and Klaus couldn’t stuff themselves in the car I had oozed into), and reached Wanfujing street, which is the shopping street in Beijing. The night market is an alley that opens into Wanfujing, and its famous because of the odd things it offers to the gourmand. Well known are the skewers of small scorpions, which are still moving before they are deep-fried and given to you with a flourish. Luke and I had to taste them, of course, and have the photos to prove we did it!

Other oddities, which we didn’t try, include skewers of tarantula, big black scorpions, lizard, cycada, cycada cocoons, bird nests, snake meat (tastes like chicken) and sea horses, in addition to the common fare of spicy beef, squid, chicken, meatballs, and dough balls. There were also drumsticks of every species of bird known to man, and tasty-looking roasted lamb legs (although now that I think about it they could very well have been roasted dog legs). The merchants add much to the color and din of the market by offering steaming bowls of noodles or rice, so you can easily make a meal by picking a little here and a little there from different stalls. And for dessert you can have a skewer with glazed fruit, that somehow still looks fresh and crunchy after having been dipped in gleaming caramel.

Alas, my companions were more horrified than enthusiastic at the cornucopia spread in front of them, so, after feasting my eyes and trying to store in my memory the scents, colors and music of one of the most remarkable markets I have seen in my life, we ended going into a regular restaurant to a tray of steamed buns, and cold dishes of chicken and vegetables (only to find out that Luke has never eaten cold chicken and didn’t care for it at all!). The kid eats scorpions but won’t touch cold chicken; what’s up with that?

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