Chris De Burgh knows how to put it into words! Yesterday I spent almost the whole day with my friend, since she had a day off work. We went to a Chinese restaurant next to her and her husband’s home in Xidan. European “Chinese” restaurants need to draw some serious inspiration from the real thing. The waiters/esses were dressed in traditional Beijing opera costumes. There were live fish and birds for customers to see and choose the one they liked for the pan (we didn’t choose any, though, it seemed brutal). And every single dish was a work of art. I hesitated to tuck in at first, because the food looked too beautiful to be touched. 😀
After we’d sat and babbled our hearts out (and filled each other’s bowls until we felt our stomachs creak at the joints), we asked each other “wo chi bao le, ni ne?” and headed towards the movie theatre. We saw a really, really funny Chinese movie: there was a male nurse taking care of an old patriarch, a witty and lively old man. His goddaughter is an artist, making jewelry out of broken porcelain. The nurse-man is in love with her, and wants to impress her, so he makes a deal with a company specialising in “love insurances”, and he assumes an alter ego as a CEO of a technology company. The company plots a seduction plan, where the girl’s dog is kidnapped, and the nurse-man is “rescuing the damsel in distress” which is supposed to raise his points in her eyes. There are secret agents, a film-star ex-boyfriend (there are many funny pranks these two men plot against each other), female-dopamine level-boosting chocolate gone down the wrong throat (which makes one of the company employees, a macho guy, think he’s in love with the nurse-man, sniffing his armpits with a lovey-dovey look whenever he has the chance). The patriarch turns out to be the grandfather of the film-star ex-boyfriend, having plotted something all along… It was one of the best comedy movies I’ve seen. And there were English subtitles, which made listening easier (it’s still hard to process speech because Chinese people tend to talk very fast). Here’s the name of the movie: 疯岳撬佳人. If you can watch it online or somewhere else, I highly recommend it.
An old man commented on our twin-like appearances. “Can you tell from the hair who’s the good and the bad twin?” 😀
After the movie, we went exploring some hútòngs in the nearby area. I found a kite and a pipe shop. Didn’t buy anything though this time as we were just admiring these creations.
One day later, I continued my treasure hunt. In the hútòngs of Hépìngmèn 和平门 I found a music instrument shop and a lovely local eatery. It was flocked by locals. It’s always a good sign if locals eat at a certain restaurant. In fact, you should be alarmed if they don’t, and the only customers you see are other travellers. Locals frequenting a certain place means they have quality food and prices, as opposed to tourist-targeting restaurants in more well-known areas, which are only after the tourists’ money. The instrument shop is a family-run business, and I stayed and chatted with them for a while (in Mandarin, of course). The man — I’m not sure if he was a dad, grandpa, or uncle — carves the instruments himself and has done so for his whole life. He looked to be about 50 years old, so he’s got quite some experience in working with instruments. We shared mental rapport when I told him I’m an experienced musician myself, and agreed that all instruments have a personality of their own. We compared our experiences, he from the maker’s point of view, and me from the player’s point of view. The different types of material behave differently when they are carved, according to him. I can understand him well: even one specific instrument has huge variation in its expression and “personality” between individual pieces, depending on the age, quality, maker’s skills(!) and material of the instrument. Before I left, I bought a traditional Chinese flute which he’d made. It takes about one week to finish one piece, if it needs to be done fast.
I know several people who are going to be drooling over this picture. Yes, it’s possible to be a vegan/vegetarian/omnitarian in China. This was a good local restaurant (****) and these together cost EUR7.5. There is Chinese black fungus, which is what Westerners would call a “superfood”, fruit/vegetable salad, corn juice, and onion-leafy greens-garlic-oil-lens stew.
Tomorrow I’ll hike a part of the Great Wall independently, in Simatai. Simatai is separated from the more crowded tourist routes about 130 km from Beijing, bordering the Hebei province. It will be about a 20-hour trip, and I won’t have the time to do anything else, so you can expect the next entry to be ~80-90% about the adventure on the Wall.