Day 2 - Beijing - Exploring the city
We are finally catching up and feel like we are on our new time schedule--yay! After breakfast, we took a cab to the 798 Art District--a unique area of about 16 square blocks with lots of alleyways consisting of pretty high quality art galleries, museums, little stores selling clothes, trinkets, and high end merchandise. Even passed an ocarina store!
We ventured into several museums, but the best was the Modern one featuring an exhibit about William Kentridge and his "Notes Towards a Modern Opera". It was an "opera" of a variety of media--everything from caricatures, shadow dancing, and unique prints on top of pages from several different books, all accompanied by groups of various instruments including several euphoniums.
After a great lunch at one of the many places there, we travelled to the silk market--a building with six stories and many stores under it's roof. Each floor had groups of small stores selling the same items--watches, jewelry, clothes, tailor-made clothes, electronics, food, etc. The proprietors tried to entice you in, some hard sell, others a bit nicer. Hard to believe, we didn't buy anything but an ice cream, but spent a fair amount of time looking. It didn't hurt that it was all inside and air conditioned!
Caught a cab--kind of--and started back to the hotel. A bit about cabs. We have been warned repeatedly not to bargain a price, but to have the cab use their meter. Also to look for their license # and picture in the front. As soon as got in from outside the silk market (an obvious big tourist area), the driver tried to bargain the price. We kept telling him no, he tried again -- and demanded cash up front, Of course, we refused, so he actually kicked us out of his cab at the side of the street. We walked back towards an intersection, and caught another cab. This time, the cabbie turned on his meter, but obviously took us a meandering route to our hotel. When we gave him the money, he started yelling at us that the bills were no good. We think he wanted us to give him a larger bill so he could give us fake money as change (another scheme we were warned about). Aha, the smart tourist wins again!!
Time for a swim and whirlpool to help my still-aching legs from yesterday. Tonight, our dinner worked out much better than last night. From a guidebook, took a recommendation for a Taiwanese dumpling place that had very high ratings. Although inexpensive, It was located on the sixth floor of a really high end mall (think Prada, Guicci, Louis Vuiton, etc.) And FANTASTIC! It brought back wonderful memories of our Taiwan days. The dumplings were light, very thin-skinned and juicy. One had crab, pork and roe in it, almost like layering flavors in your mouth. The other was a vegetable "jiàozi" (dumpling). We splurged and had almond jello over "snow"--shaved ice flavored with coconut. A perfect end to a wonderful meal. In case you're wondering, the menu had pictures, English translations and full explanations--easy as pie. If you're in LA, Orange county or Seattle, you can find one. It's called Din Tai Fung.
On our way out, we stopped to watch them make the dumplings through a glass window. Workers are fast and exact, although the repetition would drive me crazy!
Tomorrow we meet our guide and fellow travelers at 8:15 sharp! Looking forward to it.