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Asia eats, china eats

beijing day 1: palaces, circuses, and dumplings, oh my!

Friday morning, I got up bright and early so I could catch my 9:00 flight to Beijing. And by ‘bright and early’, I actually mean dark and early, because I got up at like 4:30; I guess I was still a little bit jet-lagged. My family and I arrived at Incheon airport and got our boarding passes and checked in all our luggage with plenty of time to spare, so we decided to eat breakfast at one of the food court-like setups upstairs.

the capital of food, apparently

My dad ordered a seafood ramen, which was served in a huge, deceiving bucket-like thing. And I say deceiving because the bottom of the bowl was actually raised up, so it was a lot shallower than it looked.

ramen in bucket-like vessel for one

My dad really enjoyed it; he slurped every bit of noodle out of his bucket.

My mom got ddukbbokgee, or spicy rice cakes. For an airplane cafeteria eatery, it came out looking very pretty.

served with a shrimp tempura and a triangular hash brown

I think out of all the things we ordered, this was the least delicious. Which doesn’t mean it tasted bad – my mom said that the hash brown was actually really good.

And my sister decided to get a plate of omu-rice (i.e. omelette rice) with a tonkatsu. For breakfast. What. The. Heck.

a monstrosity of meaty, eggy goodness.

Calynn must’ve been pretty hungry, because she ended up scraping the plate clean. Well, my mom and dad helped her finish it too, so I guess it wasn’t so bad. After we finished eating (I had some of my Organica chips), we boarded another Asiana plane for the 1 1/2 hour ride to Beijing which I pretty much slept through  -o-;

When we arrived at the Beijing airport, my jaw actually dropped open at how clean and new everything was. I thought Incheon airport was nice, but the Beijing one was SUPER nice. I was expecting it, since they renovated it for the 2008 Olympics and all, but the building itself was so well-maintained and the architecture was all modernistic and cool-looking.

uber-cool ceiling. it was dizzying to look at.

'welcome to beijing!' in multiple languages.

rainbow-colored supports

Even though we were served lunch on the plane, once we met up with our tour group we were taken to a Korean restaurant – I guess it was to acclimate our palates to the Chinese style of preparing food.

korean food served here!

This restaurant must’ve been a popular eatery for Koreans, because all sorts of people from study-abroad students to Korean businessmen, were enjoying their lunches here.

oh, the homogeneity...

There must actually be quite a Korean population around Beijing. That, and with the hoards of Korean tourists that come to China ever year, there are Korean characters on a majority of the stores and restaurants. A lot of the vendors speak can speak of few words in Korean too, which they jabber at your while shoving their products in your face.

The food here actually wasn’t that bad. You hear all those stories of Chinese food being too greasy or salty, but here it was ok. Not stellar, but perfectly fine. It’s just that my family was too full to really enjoy any of the food.

bulogogi with vermicelli noodles

dwenjangjjeegeh, mung beans, kimchi...

Immediately after we finished our meals, the entire tour group was whisked off to Tian An Men Square.

hi, huge painting of mao tze deng!

The heat was pretty unbearable, being sticky and suffocating at the same time. The city itself was also dirty and the pollution was intense. Can you believe that the entire time I stayed in China, I did not see the blue sky once? The sky was always gray or white with smog and fog; it made for some weird picture-taking.

After taking pictures at TAM Square, we headed right over to the Forbidden Palace.

milling tourists

this place is freaking huge

The Forbidden Palace is absolutely GINORMOUS. You keep on walking through courtyard after courtyard of sloping-roofed buildings, and it never seems to stop. The architecture and the sheer size of the place is pretty amazing, but after a while all the buildings start looking the same. That, combined with the heat and the smell/stickiness of hundreds of sweaty people made for a pretty exhausting experience. So I guess it would make sense that we head over to a foot-massage parlor right afterwards.

see? korean letters on the sign here too!

I didn’t get a foot massage myself, but I got to watch and take pictures of my family getting pummeled into a state of relaxing bliss.

a pre-massage soaking and warm-towel treatment

knead, massage, pummel, rub, repeat

attaining foot nirvana

I didn’t really think that the Chinese I learned in school would really be useful here, but I actually did help my parents communicate with the masseurs, who spoke some broken Korean. But as soon as they learned that I could understand Chinese, the massaging people started jabbering at me in Chinese o_O. A little scary…

After the foot massage, we went to see a traditional Chinese circus. Photography wasn’t allowed, but I managed to ninja some pictures with my DSLR. Here are just some of the acts that these amazing people performed for us:

traditional lion dancing taken to the next level

mad skillz

up to 6 crazy Chinese men riding motorcycles in a metal globe

The show itself was actually really amazing – these are the people that push the limits of the human body.

After the circus, our tour guide took us to a fancy Chinese restaurant – lower middle class to lower class Chinese citizens definitely don’t eat here. The food was served family-style, but in the traditional Chinese manner. All the tables were round, with the a lazy Susan in the middle; the waitresses would put down all the food on the Susan and the dishes were rotated around the table to each person.

tomato egg drop soup

tofu skin. i think...

kungpao chicken?

potato shreds

These are just some of the dishes that were served. Almost everything was sautéed, but it really wasn’t as greasy or salty as I was expecting it to be. Maybe it’s because I purposefully only ate things that didn’t look too oily. Lots of vegetable dishes came out, which I liked :D. Nothing too extreme was served (think shark fin or chicken feet), and I think the menu was purposefully ordered to suit our Korean palates.

The restaurant specialty was Chinese dumplings, or jiao-zi. Four different kinds were served, each with a different filling of either beef, chicken, pork, or vegetables.

these have thicker skins than korean mandoo

meaty innards

veggie innards

Our bellies full, the entire tour group was finally taken to the hotel where we would stay for the next 3 days. It was called Oriental Bay, and it was actually one of the many 5-star hotels built for the 2o08 Beijing Olympics. It was mad nice, and it felt nice to sleep and wash up in some place clean after trekking through the smoggy, sweaty streets of Beijing.

fancy schmancy lobby

I complain about how dirty it was, but honestly the first day wasn’t really that bad. Plus, Beijing is supposed to be one of the cleanest Chinese cities. But after the plane ride and touring the rest of the day, I spent the rest of the night jus t editing photos; I was really too tired to do anything else.

And that concludes day 1 of China! I’ll try to have day 2 up by tonight; I have to catch up to my blogging ASAP because I’m like 2 days behind right now T_T.

Well, I’m off to go open-air market shopping now, so I’ll see you guys later! (:



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