Wednesday, June 01, 2005

China | Beijing | Botanical Gardens

The next day was one of those days when you wonder what all the fuss is about pollution in Beijing. Even in Sanlitun, not far from downtown, there was a perfect vault of blue overhead. My friend Ms. R. and I decided go to the famous Botanical Gardens on the western edge of the city.

The Botanical Gardens

By the time we arrived a few fluffy clouds were floating by, but there was a nice breeze here on the outskirts of the city. It was perfect day for strolling in the garden, as several thousand other Beijingers had also concluded. Some had set up dome tents in the grassy areas of the Gardens and were spending the day playing cards, drinking tea, and snoozing.

Ms. R. outdazzling the daffodils

Ms R

That evening I went with Ms. R. and two of her friends to a new Uighur restaurant on a back street (I will never find my way back alone) just west of Bei Hai Park. Some people from Turpan in Xinjiang just opened it and the place with crowded with Uighurs. Wonderful laghman and best shishkababs in the city, plus homemade yogurt made on the premises. And such enjoyable company . . .

Three Roses of Xinjiang in Uighur Restaurant

China | Dolonnuur-Beijing

That night we invited the museum director to our hotel for dinner. His teenage daughter wanted to come along, but her mother nixed the idea, fearing the corrupting influence of foreigners and big city guys (Mr. Li and sidekick) from the capital. This meal featured Sha Ji, made from wild sand grouse. Supposedly this was one of the Qing Emperor’s Kangxi’s favorite meals while out hunting . . .

Sha Ji – Eat your heart out Kangxi!

From Dolonnuur we headed back to Beijing, stopping for a mid-day break in the city of Zhang Jia Kou in western Hebei. After visiting some nicely restored Qing Dynasty buildings in a park on the edge of town we popped into a nearby ger restaurant which promised to serve Mongolian food.

Qing Dynasty buildings near Zhang Jia Kou

The young girl claimed to be Mongolian but she did not understand me when I asked her name in Mongolian, which is not so odd, since most Mongolians in Ulaan Baatar do not understand me when I speak Mongolian. Mr. Li, however, asked her in Chinese if she spoke Mongolian and she admitted she didn’t. The sheep ribs were delicious, but barbecued and not boiled in true Mongolian style. The buutz however were right on. The milk tea wasn’t bad either.

Mr Li was in a big hurry to get back to Beijing, since his wife, in a series of what seemed like several dozen mobile phone calls, had promised him a big coming home feast (he had been gone three whole days) complete with white wine. I should mention that both he and his sidekick had the very latest in mobile phones; the phones downloaded and played MPG music files, took and sent photos, received email and of course took phone calls. Nowhere on the trip were they unable to call Beijing. By five in the evening I was back in my hotel in the Sanlitun area, cruising on free-high speed internet.