For our last dinner in Beijing, we went to Noodle Loft (blogged about here). Noodle Loft is Shanxi (Northwestern) cuisine, distinguished by its hundreds of varieties of noodles and vinegar.
In terms of noodles we had:
-Spinach “one noodle” (as in, the whole bowl is a single strand)
-a black soy bean spaetzle-like pasta
-Buckwheat “cat ears”
Sauces to eat with the noodles:
-Scrambled egg and tomato
-Pickled vegetable and yellow soy bean
-Black vinegar and diced ginger
-Cold slivered lotus root
-A Shanxi-style stir-fry of egg, smoked tofu, glass noodles, lily roots and Chinese chives
-Chopped green vegetables with garlic
Forgive me if I’m glossing over the food, because the main point of this post is to say goodbye (I write this on the airplane).
So, Beijing, this is what I’ll miss about you:
-Watching TV and getting cell phone reception on the subway
-Paying less than five dollars a meal for my favorite foods
-Bargaining in Xidan (youth culture capital of the city)
-People-watching (Why do couples insist on wearing matching t-shirts that say things like ‘Our love will go on forever?’)
-Climbing to the top of 香山 (Fragrant Hills) and seeing how much the city has spread
What I won’t miss:
-Spitting in the street
-Shopkeepers laughing when I ask if they have shoes in my size (And if they do, they’re always ugly black flats. It’s like, How could anyone with such big feet possibly want to buy a pair of heels when they should be sitting at home in embarrassment?)
-Fighting through the crowds
Beijing is not an easy city. Nor is it a daytime city. If you have the sleeping habits of your average person, you’re going to miss a lot.
During the day, the dust is overwhelming: buildings once colorful become drab shades of pastel and the unnaturally neon sun is almost entirely obscured behind a grayish yellow sky. The whole scene screams POLLUTION.
It’s hardly pedestrian-friendly either. If you don’t know your way around, you’ll find yourself stranded between massive stretches of barren sidewalk, crossing land bridges or underground tunnels trying to get to the other side of the five-lane intersection. Traffic laws are mostly ignored: whoever has the most power goes first, meaning that buses ignore taxis, who ignore motorcycles, followed by rickshaws, bicycles, and finally pedestrians. It doesn’t matter if the light is green—if people are crossing, just follow the masses.
But now I’ve seen the city in two different lights. There’s the older, more traditional lifestyle I saw at my aunt’s house and in marketplaces and parks. There’s also, the foreigner/expat nightlife (completely different from the younger Chinese generation). Seeing the pollution and dust disappear against neon lights, then staying out until five when the lights turn off and the first street peddlers begin biking with their loads of groceries is the brief window when these two worlds intersect.
While young people go home and crash, retired Chinese men and women are meeting in the park to socialize or “exercise” (this could range from banging on trees to walking backwards to kicking beanbags). Swarms of people dance or sing to outdated folk songs, clashing with the mother-son duo who clearly don’t know how to play the saxophone but are playing it anyway, and all the while elevator music is blaring from the park speakers.
This is also when these people eat breakfast and buy groceries.
Wondering what they eat for breakfast or what they buy?
This is a good opportunity to segway into what will be my next post, which will involve The Ultimate List of Cheap and Healthy Beijing Food.
Goodbye, Beijing. See you in who knows when.