I just returned from the noodle restaurant down the street from my hotel; it was raining a little, and I was happy and refreshed. Looking out through the rain at the neon Chinese characters on the other side of the side of the street suddenly I realized again: I am in China! I am getting used to being here, but every once in a while I get the same feeling I had on my first day here – the jolt and excitment of jumping into a new country.
Beijing is neither as hot nor as humid as Xi’an, but still the heat can get to you. I have been in Beijing a little over a week now, and quite busy, too tired each day to write a post. Today I went to Tienanmen square, and intended to go to the Forbidden City as well, but it was so hot and there were so many people that we decided to come back another day at an earlier time.
Mainly I have been busy settling into my internship, figuring out what my goals are for the summer, and meeting people. The work environment is quite pleasant, with flexible hours. It is also quite nice that they have a swimming pool we can use, pool tables and massage chairs. Our group of interns is also interesting, surprisingly international, and I have been getting along quite well with them. I am also leading one of the teams, and so I have been getting used to that role.
I have also been to Hou Hai, one of the lakes with lots of bars and clubs and restaurants along the shore – it is a good place to relax, though expensive. I have been twice at night, and now want to go during the day to explore the traditional hutongs in the area (these are very old Chinese neighborhoods with small winding labyrinthine streets).
So far margaritas in China are a bad idea, but a “cucumber and honey” drink was delicious. I tried chicken feet today, they did not have much meat on them, but tasted good. Apparently this is a very typical dish in southern China. I think it would be great to go to southern China for a trip, everyone tells me that the food there is a lot better than in the north, due mainly to better and more spices and a greater variety of ingredients (they eat dog in the south, but not so much in the north). I also had some very delicious dumplings (also from the south) the other day. So far I probably have not tried that much food from the Beijing area (I haven’t had the Peking Duck yet). They also tell me that Hanzhou, near Shanghai, is very beautiful, so perhaps I will go there.
I also visited Prince Gong’s Residence (the brother of one of the last emperors?) and the (new) Summer Palace, which located beside a lake. The palace has a fake marble boat that does not float; the story is that Empress Cixi built it using Navy money, but this was a terrible misue of resources because the Navy was sunk shortly after. Many Chinese people seem to despise this woman (“bad leader” and “evil”, they say).
Climbing Mount Hua Shan in Xi’an was my favorite activity there. I managed to wake up early enough on top of the mountain to see the sun rise, and then wander over to the other peaks; we visited all of them, and then headed back down using a cable car. It was really hard work getting up there since it was pretty steep at points, and the air was hot and humid, but the scenery from the top made it worth the effort. There was also a lot of Taoist symbolism, statues of Lao Tzu, and people praying.. it was interesting to see. The day after getting back from Hua Shan I rode a bicycle on top of the old city walls of Xian, a very rickety ride!