Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My first day in Beijing, China

After celebrating Christmas in KL, my mom and I took a long break from work and went to Beijing, China for holidays. Lucky for me, I happen to take leave exactly during the company shutdown week. Otherwise, I would have wasted another few days of leave for the forced shutdown.

We took the MAS airlines direct from KLIA to Beijing airport. It was the first time I was in an Airbus and lo and behold, there was no individual LCD screen! *gasp* What a disappointment! Well, not all is lost though. The main advantage of the Airbus is the extended legroom compared to Boeing planes. I remember my flight to Sydney about a year ago, I had such a hard time sleeping during my flight, because my knees were hitting the coach in front. :( But with Airbus, I did not face such a problem. So I guess, trading the LCD screen for the legroom is fine by me. :)

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On board MAS Airbus

After 6 hours, our plane touched down safely, with the announcement that the ground temperature was at 0C! OMG. When I reached the airport, Yao Ming was there to welcome me. OK, I was joking of course. My mom's friend, our hostess, was there to pick us up.

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Yay! Yao Ming greeting me at the airport! :P

The temperature outside of the airport was really COLD! Of course, for someone who's never experienced winter before, it was a drastic change to my body. Before long, I was sniffling away. Thank god for the heater in the car. Our ride back home was about 40 minutes, with roads surrounded by bald trees.

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Bald trees greeting us

Our host and hostess were extremely kind people. They offered us a room to stay during our whole week of vacation and even lent me jacket to keep me warm. Upon reaching their house, the host Liew, started to prepare hot chinese tea to warm us up. Plenty of snacks and cookies too!

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Hot tea to the rescue

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Cookies

During winter, the sky turned dark as early as 5.30pm. When we came out to take a walk in the evening, it was already like night time. Our first destination was Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing. This is the place where most of the political buildings are centered. Too bad for me, Chinese-blind girl, so I couldn't really appreciate the building names or the history. But I was there to appreciate the architecture though! It's really impressive how much detail each building was given.

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Tiananmen Square at night

This was the Monument to the People's Heroes, where they dedicated it to the heroes who fought for China. Did I also mention it was so much colder at night? *Brrr*

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Monument to the People's Heroes

I really pitied this lone guard manning the monument in the freezing cold weather and being stationary as well! I'm sure I would have frozen to death if I had his job.

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Lone guard in the freezing cold night

The next building was the Great Hall of the People, which I visited the next morning. So, more pictures on that in the next post!

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The Great Hall of the People

This was the Tiananmen building itself, with the poster of Chairman Mao in front. The large area in front of it was the Tiananmen Square, where many people gathered during the flag-raising ceremony every morning. The Chinese are a patriotic bunch. :)

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Gate of Heavenly Peace = Tiananmen

Taking picture in front of Chairman Mao. At the point, my nose was starting to turn red from the sniffles. :(

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With Chairman Mao at the Gate of Heavenly Peace

I managed to spot this group of guards marching past us with perfect uniformity. The background was the National Museum.

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Guards marching at night

Walking further to the south, we came across this building called the Zhengyang Gate.

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The Zhengyang Men

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witch at Zhengyang Men

Then just opposite the Zhengyang Men was a brightly lit and lively street called the Qianmen Street. Apparently, the government only refurbished this street recently to cater to the Olympics event. Therefore, all the buildings here still looked new and brightly coloured.

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Qianmen street opposite Tiananmen Square

The grand entrance to the Qianmen street.

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Qianmen street entrance

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witch at Qianmen street

We came across this silk shop at the Qianmen street, filled with lots of silk cloths of all varieties.

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Silk store

I was more interested in enjoying the warmth of the heater inside the store, if you ask me. :P

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Expensive silk

The Qianmen street was not very long, but it was very pretty at night. I would very much prefer it if it was a little warmer though.

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Long Qianmen street from inside

Later on, it was time for dinner! Food finally. We had dinner at this place called Bianyifang in the city centre, apparently famous for Peking duck.

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Bianyifang Restaurant

In Beijing, I noticed that most restaurants packed the wet tissue and chopsticks together in a packet. Unlike in Malaysia, where we could opt to dine without the wet tissues (to save RM1 :P), in Beijing, you would be left with no chopsticks if you didn't want the wet tissue! Also, I noticed that the custom was using the wet tissues BEFORE the meal, instead of after.

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Wet tissue and chopsticks

Our first 'dish' was the drink, which was custom-made boiled coke with ginger slices. This was the traditional remedy from the Chinese which could cure a cold/flu. Since I was sniffling and sneezing away that night, our host ordered this for everyone. I have to admit the taste was pretty good! I wouldn't mind drinking it again even when I am feeling well. :)

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Coke and ginger slices

The Beijing locals are used to eat cold dishes in their meals, which is not something Malaysian Chinese are accustomed to. Most of the time, I didn't really enjoy the cold dishes and only ate the hot ones. I have to say in the cold weather, hot dishes were more comforting. :)

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Cold vegetables

Braised duck, eggs and liver were quite an interesting combination. Very good to go with rice. Oh I simply love the Beijing rice! It's round and a little sticky, somewhat like Japanese rice.

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Braised duck

I saw the chef carving and slicing the freshly roasted duck and took the opportunity to capture his action. There was still smoke coming out from the duck!

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Beijing duck-carving process

Tadaa! The star of the night! Looked amazing, don't you think? Shiny and crispy, no less!

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Peking duck

The duck came with slices of pita bread and sesame buns as accompaniment. You're supposed to place the duck and some gravy/sauce onto the bread and roll them all up to be eaten as a duck roll. *salivating*

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Bread for Peking duck

In China, we were never able to eat seawater fish, because sea was SO far away. All of the fish used in restaurants were river or lake water fish, which had a lot more bones, in my opinion. Of course, if you have the patient, they taste just as great. If you have the patience. :P

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Twin-sauce steamed fish

I love this dish the most! Vegetable spring rolls! Very creative and not oily at all.

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Vegetable spring rolls

Finally, a huge platter of a mixture of vegetables! The vegetables in Beijing were so much sweeter and fresher. Somehow, I could just eat the vegetables without getting tired of them.

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Vegetable platter

At the end of the night, I went back home still sniffling away. Our kind host Mr Liew actually went all the way to the pharmacy by himself to get me a packet of their local herbal remedy for flu. If I'm not mistaken, the name was Ban Lan Gen, and it's a very common medicine to the locals there.

There you have it, my first day and night in the capital of China. Wonders upon wonders greeting me, from the weather to the culture to the food! More adventures to come in my next posts!

10 comments:

ck lam said...

It looks like a great first day, except for the flu.
I will be tracking your review of this Beijing trip... so much yummy food.

chiaoju said...

:) u've got to love the peking duck! yes, it's oily, yes it's fat, but u've got to love that DUCK! hahahahaha...and the sauce! :D

MisSmall said...

The Peking Duck is making me salivating too! Yum! (I hate it when people eat it with plum sauce though.)

The veggie platter looks really yummy too, even for a meat-eater like me. :D

vkeong said...

peking duck.. wow.. just WOW!

CY said...

ooh... i wanna go beijing as well! the food looks amazing. btw, witch do u speak mandarin? how did u communicate when u were in china?

J2Kfm said...

so cold?! last time I went in around Mar, around 0-20, at night also cold. but hotel got heater, fortunately.

i dun understand Mandarin either, but once there, FORCED to vomit out whatever Mandarin I could muster, to bargain .... hahaha.

Yin Hoon said...

Yes, it's called Ban Lan Gen. Is it very common in China? That's also what a Chinese friend (from China) gave me when I caught the flu in UK.

The twin-sauce steamed fish looks like a snake glaring while sticking its tongue out! Oops.... sorry, didn't mean to spoil your appetite! :p

iamthewitch said...

ck lam: You're right! The food in Beijing is surprisingly good. I'll put on more food posts soon! :)

chiaoju: Yes Chiaoju, I do love it! :)

MisSmall: Hehe... you should try the duck if you go Beijing. Must not be missed! :)

vkeong: I know!

CY: Well I speak half-bucket of water mandarin, just barely enough to survive in Beijing. But I got to know this girl and she was very patient in speaking mandarin to me. In fact I learnt a lot of new words from her! LOL

J2Kfm: Yea it was in the midst of winter so it was freezing cold! Yea we're really forced to speak Mandarin in Beijing!

Yin Hoon: So it seems Ban Lan Gen is a famous flu medicine from China eh? Did it work for you? :) Haha.. funny analogy of the fish!

foongpc said...

The food looks delicious! Must be really really cold! : )

iamthewitch said...

Yea.. very very cold!