Monday, September 13, 2010

China, Day 3

Our day started with another crazy cheap, super yummy, meal for breakfast. It was a delicious, saucy, crepe-ish kind of savory thing with a sort of crunchy thing inside. It was full of yum, and a totally new flavor/texture experience which is always fun!

We decided to explore some of the hutongs and the surrounding area. The hutongs are the old-China lanes in the heart of Beijing that represent a small little slice of the historic past that "the people" have decided was worth hanging onto. In the heart of the area are two large historic structures left over from the Mongolian occupation of the city, the drum tower and bell tower. They've been updated and evolved with successive emperors. Once we ascended the kinda-epic stairway in the drum tower we were treated with a tremendous view of the city and the serendipity of a drum demonstration! The performance was pretty awe inspiring. It was five drummers on five perhaps two meter tall drum stands who played very complex rhythms and utilized very inventive techniques to make some unusual percussive sounds. I loved it! :D The pain in the butt was the fact that my loner rechargeable batteries from Mitch died moments into the performance, doh?! So I didn't get a very good audio recording of it. My memory and some of the video we took will have to suffice.

After the tower we started wondering around the hutongs. They were quiet, meandering, and full of charm. We snapped away and had a really nice time just soaking up the feel of the place.

The little lanes were full of these little peaks into even smaller little walkways that lead into the individual residences. They almost always had a bike or two, and makeshift boards and wires patching up decades if not centuries of wear and use. It was definitely, at least at that point, the most peaceful area we had explored in China.

We ended our walk at an area called ho hai which is a pretty touristy but still very cute area full of roof decks and views of roofs and the adjacent ponds. We grabbed a beer, took in the breeze pushing around lanterns, and watched the rickshaws peddle around the travelers up and down the lanes.

Our evening found for us yet another special meal, this time in the form of Chinese hot pot. Mitch and LiNa took us to a very popular local spot where you sit and play board games, (Chinese checkers, Chinese chess, or cards), before your table is ready which was pretty awesome. Once we got in, the meal was really delicious and brought with absolutely superb service. The hotpot meal itself consisted of veggies and meats dropped in either a spicy or mild soup that you then dip in various sauces before eating. Also, I found a baijiu (local spirits made from sorghum), that wasn't completely unpalatable, so win! Ha ha.

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