- It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by Beijing. The wide boulevards, the majestic in-your-face buildings and structures, both traditional and modern. All of them are designed to impress, to project the air of stately confidence.
- The daily hustle and bustle of Beijing however, are not on those wide boulevards, nor in those impressive structures. It’s in the old hutongs. The hutongs are a maze. There were a number of times I got lost just walking in the winding alleyways. It can get frustrating and rather unsettling. One wrong turn and you find yourself walking for the next 10 minutes amongst disused houses, and the right turn brings you right into the daily life of the residents. The maps are useless, you follow only your instinct.
- But what I like about hutongs and mazes are chancing upon the unexpected. A converted courtyard serving a 5-course degustation Szechuan lunch (so yum!), a teahouse where I sat for 2 hours resting my tired legs, sipping tea and listening to chants of Buddhist scriptures. Heavenly.
- When traveling on my own, it is absolutely crucial to have good meals. Good food more than makes up for no company. The thing about Chinese food though, is that they are usually meant for communal dining. Whenever I say “Table for 1”, the response from the waiters/waitresses is usually one of disbelief and awkwardness. “Table for 1? Just 1?” And so I ordered as if I was ordering for 2, and ate the whole lot.
- I OD-ed on duck in Beijing. I tried “Quanjude”, “Da Dong” and “Made in China” restaurants. My favorite Peking duck dish is from Da Dong restaurant. I had this dish all the time in Singapore, but the Da Dong version reminded me of the first time I had my first piece of crispy roasted pork skin. Oh the taste! Succulent, with that bit of duck fat, combined with that crisp that instantly melts in your mouth. I can have it again and again.