Thursday, March 09, 2006

China | Beijing | 1001 Nights

From the time the plane left the ground in Ulaan Baatar to the moment the door closed behind me in the Yongan Hotel 2 hours and forty minutes had elapsed, shaving eight minutes off my earlier record on the Ulaan Baatar – Beijing commute. In Beijing it was a balmy 62º, a far cry from the ten below zero temperatures in Ulaan Baatar the week before. My first priority was buying more tea. Instead of making the long trip to Maliandao Tea Street for a full-scale tea shopping trip I decided to get just a few day’s supply of tea at the little tea shop just down the street from the Kunlun Hotel and not far from my hotel.
Tea seller
The regular women was on duty and the moment I walked in she started brewing a complimentary fresh pot of Puerh Tea for me. This tea shop also serves as a currency trading shop, although there are no signs indicating this. It is instructive to sit here sipping tea and watch the Arabs and Africans from the nearby embassy district come in here and exchange four-inch thick wads of US one hundred bills for Chinese yuan. For the first time to my knowledge the black market exchange rate has dropped to less than eight yuan to the dollar: it is now 7.98. Over tiny cups of Puerh the woman in charge says that the black market traders expect the rate to soon fall to 7.80 yuan to the dollar. Things are going to get more expensive for visitors to China . . . so I decided to stock up on tea: Yunnan Black, some Qi Min Black, and some Dragon Well Green.

That evening Ms. R. and I went to Ms. R’s favorite restaurant, the 1001 Arabian Nights. This is right on the edge of the Embassy District and a lot of people from the embassies hang out here, especially people from the Mid-East. They also have belly dancers from Xinjiang in Western China, Ms. R’s home province, which is one reason she likes the place. Another is that they don't serve pork. Ms. R. won't eat in any restaurant that serves pork, which pretty much eliminates most Chinese places.
Relevant Portions of Uighur Belly Dancer
We no sooner sat down than four very young girls came in and took a table right beside us. They seemed young to be hanging out by themselves in a nightclub. Ms. R talked to them and discovered that two of the girls, a fourteen year old and a twelve year old, were from Tehran, Iran; another twelve year old was from Turkey, and an eight year old from Pakistan. They said that they are the children of embassy employees and that they came here together quite often after finishing their homework for yoghurt, cokes, and mango juice.
Eight year old girl from Pakistan whooping it up at 1001 Nights.