Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Touring Beijing, part 5

Tuesday, 16 November

I had wanted to connect with another IETF friend to tour somewhere, on his last day there, but it turned out that he was planning to visit the Summer Palace and the electronics shops in Zhangguancun, so I apologized, because I’d already done them. On Monday evening, Ro said that she’d mentioned to the head chef at the hotel that she’d wanted to look for a Chinese cooking class while she was there, but hadn’t done anything about it. He responded, she said, by offering her and Ray a private dim sum class, and that would be Tuesday morning. If Dave and I wanted to join too, she’d ask if it was OK. We said we did.

The day started off even better than I’d expected. We met at 10 for the dim sum class, and the head chef took the four of us to a small, less-busy kitchen where we were joined by the dim sum chef. She doesn’t speak English, so the head chef (an Italian guy; more of that International stuff) was our translator. Making har gowWe made har gow ( 虾饺, shrimp dumplings, which I now know have pork fat in them) and shu mai (烧卖, pork, shrimp, mushrooms, and more pork fat). They served us tea (cha, 茶). All very pleasant, and it was fun to put the dumplings together. For the har gow, especially, the folding and pleating of the dumplings is important, and the chef did it wonderfully (of course). Beginners that we were, we didn’t do quite as well. But they all looked edible, and we made a bunch of both, and looked forward to eating them. When we finished, we were invited to take a short break and then meet back in the fine-dining restaurant for lunch.

We were really treated like royalty with all of this, and when we got to the restaurant, the wine steward was there serving us Chinese muscat wine, which (surprisingly to all of us) was not sweet, and nicely tasty. Then we got har gow and shu mai, but only one piece each, and not the ones we’d made (that part was obvious). Apparently (we didn’t ask), they threw away all the stuff we made. Probably, health regulations don’t allow them to serve those. I was disappointed. I wanted more of the dumplings, and I wanted to eat what we’d made. Also, it bothered me that they just got rid of all those dumplings. Anyway, they then served us a number of other courses: soup, and shrimp, and vegetables, and noodles with meat, and dessert... and another bottle of wine, this one red. All this, as well as the class, was complimentary, just because Ro had asked about a cooking class.

By the time we finished, I realized that I didn’t have time to do the Forbidden City today, and the others were going to the Summer Palace, so I decided to go with them and see that again, after all. The Marble Boat at the Summer PalaceWe took a cab there, paid only the 20 yuan basic admission (I got the full, see-everything admission on Sunday with Alexey and Magnus, 50 yuan), and Dave paid 100 yuan ($15) to a guy who wanted to guide us. He was nice and his English was good, and he told us stories about the different buildings in the park, and the emperors and all that, and it was worth having the guide.

The guide taught me to say Bu yao! to the vendors who wouldn’t leave us alone, saying that it means no, and they would go away. I was skeptical about the actual meaning, thinking that it might really be something nasty. I tried it on one, and she did go away, repeating what I’d said, Bu yao! Bu yao! Hm. But I’ve since checked with others, and, indeed, Bu yao! (不要) means Don’t!, or, as someone put it do me, in that context, I don’t want it! Of course, that’s no guarantee that they’ll go away, but it can’t hurt to try.

The folks at the hotel had told us to check out a hotel/resort near the Summer Palace, called Aman, and it turns out it’s just around the corner from the east gate of the palace. It’s a very nice place, built to resemble the Summer Palace itself. I guess the idea is that you’re really treated like royalty there. I have no idea how much it costs to stay there, but we had drinks in their lounge. Then we took a cab to the Zhongguancun area, found a noodle place that Dave knew, and had huge bowls of Beijing noodles with vegetables and meats and broth.

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