Beijing 26.10.16

Its our last day in the Chinese capital so although I fancy a lie in we’re up for a final sightseeing day. We start at the Shija Hutong Museum which we have to travel about 100 metres to, cos we’re staying on Shija Hutong. Hutongs are residential alleyways, usually single storey where to indulge in very good people watching means dodging stealthily silent electric scooters and bicycles.

Its a local history museum with information on the origin and design of hutongs, famous folk who have lived on Shija and old artifacts. I love the black and white pictures of everyday life in the 50s.

Breakfast next and we shun 7/11 onigiri for fresh Chinese steamed buns. Cornflour with veg and herb and wheatflour with meat. The sellers ask us stuff and we shrug like guilty Italian footballers and point and we all laugh and we say thanks in Chinese.

Buddhist temple next. On Monday it was closed, today its free. A security guard points us to a sleeping pensioner who opens his eyes, gives us a ticket and closes his eyes. There’s a brief English explanation and photos from the 30s of a delapidated temple which is not the renovated one we see but the interiors are old and dusty and there are few folk here so the atmosphere is nice.

Ritan park next, where we sit in front of the colourful plant beds and indulge in the steamed buns we just bought from the busy market down the road. A shouty lady performed a miraculous job of fulfilling peoples orders from towers of steamers. We got tofu and meat. Meat was tasty, sweet and juicy, as my jacket and trousers show.

Through taller vertical buildings to Donghue Tao Temple. The outside has the same colour scheme and ‘look’ of the other Beijing temples but the inside is very different. The temple layout is the same with the gates, main buildings and side buildings but the interiors display very different statues. Around the interior courtyard are life size dioramas of various Tao departments that would govern life. I see people praying at ‘The dept for Justifiable Wealth’ but my favourite it the ‘Dept for Wandering Ghosts’ 

It is possibly my favourite temple so far as it is so different.

Leaving Taoism with many questions we walk through the much taller CBD, dodging jeeps and porsches and range rovers to see the gravity defying CCTV building or big pants as the locals know it.

Tonight we have a dinner date with Alison’s Aunt’s English student (please use your own grammar and translation) so we lurk outside a metro station.

Sue is bubbly and engaging and we chat and head to Qianhai lake which has serene drooping willow trees and a skirt of neon and happy locals. We agree on hot pot and she leads us to a busy restaurant where we are pleased to let her communicate with the busy staff and order a traditional meal. The hotpot arrives which is a copper cone full of burning charcoal with a trough of water on the outside, which the attentive waitresses keep filling from huge copper kettles. The food arrives, wafer thin mutton, thicker beef, mushrooms, shrimp balls, cabbage, lotus root, fried tofu sheets, spinach. Each is submerged in the boiling water and left to cook before being fished out, dunked in sesame sauce and enjoyed. The heat from the hotpot is subdued with cold Chinese lager and our first taste of Baiju, the Chinese fire water.

Full, we circumnavigate the lake, taking in the sights and chatting and learning from Sue about Chinese culture. 

We say our farewells at the tube and head home via our local shop for a tiny bottle of baiju.

For the little its worth, probably my favourite day in Beijing.

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