New Year's Day & Peking Duck

Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
Trip End Jun 29, 2011

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Thursday, February 3, 2011

Today is the 4th.  Yesterday, we took it easy because the only places open on New Year's Day are shopping malls and restaurants.  In the morning, we went to one of the ten or so outdoor festivals that are going on around Beijing for the next week in celebration of the new year.  We were hoping to see traditional shows, like a dragon puppet show, but the longer I'm in China, the more I believe that tradition is dead.  The festival mostly involved the sale of sausage, corn, and fruit on a stick, (not together) along with the sale of loud, plastic toys.  These are common parts of everday life in China and were only condensed and centralized for the festival.

The redeeming feature of the festival, or so we thought, was that it was on the grounds of the Old Summer Palace.  On the way to the festival, we figured that if the activities weren't interesting, at least we'd be able to visit the ruins of the original Summer Palace.  This was a bust as well, though, because the "ruins" were merely a newly laid brick foundation that shows the layout of the old Palace.

After the festival, we had a nice lunch at a small restaurant near our hostel that features an English menu.  We had pork with egg and mushrooms, chicken with cashew nuts, steamed broccoli, and fried rice.  There was a dirty Pekingese dog running around the small restaurant and a little girl about four years old chasing after the dog, hitting it with a Chinese flag, and, every now and then, kicking it.  The little girl stopped to stare at me, I told her "ni hao," and she darted behind me and hit me with her flag.  Everyone in the restaurant, including the little girl's family, the wait staff, and us, found the commotion very ammusing. 

After reading and resting back at our hostel for a couple of hours, we set out again for the main shopping street in Beijing, which was supposed to be similar to East Nanjing Road in Shanghai and therefore, quite a spectacle.  We did find many upscale shops, but we didn't find any people.  Either most of Beijing's residents truly have left the city for the holiday, or the city is so spread out that the large population isn't noticeable. 

Dinner was our big event for the day.  We finally had the famous Peking Duck, and it was delicious.  We went to what was probably the most upscale restaurant we've been to in China and ordered a whole duck, eggplant, (Samspeak:  "aubergine") lobster noodle soup, and chocolate cake and tiramisu for dessert.  We splurged on a nice bottle of wine, and Sam won another one through a raffle.

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