Another class session this morning. We're packing it in between touristing and the Olympics so that we can get it done and not worry about scheduling it around various Olympic events. Lunch was at the hotel, then another hour and a half of class. (Incidentally, our professors grant us about 30-45 minutes in between meals and class times, so that we can take showers or walk to the market or wash laundry or write journals or do whatever pleases us most.)
Incidentally, the weather was quite nice today, almost no smog! I could see almost as far as a good day at home. Sorry, China =p
Best Taste of Beijing
Steve, while feeling homesick yesterday, found a listing of Western-style restaurants in Karen's Lonely Planet guide book for Beijing. We decided to go to "Steak & Eggs," allegedly an authentic American diner experience. Sounds delicious!
Getting there was half the adventure. We were a dozen, so we walked down to the main drag in our neighborhood and hailed three cabs. Unfortunately, The address we had for the place, which was downtown, was only in English and American-style, and the cabbies had issues when they called the restaurant. After about ten minutes of conferring in between all three cabs with the cabbies and us, they finally decided to drive to a nearby hotel with English-speaking bellhops and ask them for help. They helped us figure out that 5 Xiushui Nanjie was xiushui 南街 5号。 (Basically, S. XiuShui St, #5.) It took a lot of effort, but it worked out in the end.
Our cabbie dropped us off at the wrong end of a one-way street, so we paid him (20 kuai, about USD $3) and walked up the lane to Steak & Eggs. By the way, the Beijing taxi system is very similar to the New York system, where they have an initial fare, a per-mile rate, and a per-second idle rate. Each taxi has a machine installed in the dashboard which displays your idling time, distance travelled, and fare, and prints out a receipt. Also, the cabbies have their taxi license mounted on the glove comparted in a plastic sleeve. (Sometimes, we have skeevy guys in random cars try to get us to come ride with them as if they were taxis, but they're a little too shady for us.)
Anyway, Steak & Eggs was the second place on the street, which also had "Grandma's Kitchen," an Istanbul restaurant, an Italian restaurant, and, at the other end, the "Mississippi Steak House." When we asked Paul, who owns Steak & Eggs, he said the only thing Mississippian about it was the name =D Anyway, Paul's this great guy from Canada who lived in Daytona Beach, FL for a few years and then moved out to Beijing five years ago, when he opened the restaurant. It was very traditional diner, with breakfast all day and seltzer water on the menu. The only thing off about it was the Chinese wait staff and the Chinese on the menu. Nonetheless, the wait staff was charming and spoke pretty good English (although one couldn't pronounce "diet" -- she kept saying "diert" -- it's a Chinese thing). We ordered burgers and buttermilk pancakes. The food was great, real buttermilk pancakes, burgers dripping with juice, a real genial time. (The only fault I had with it was that my stomach had a few issues with the buttermilk, since it's been a week or two since I'd had cheese or anything with dairy.) Paul was also great, the kind of guy I'd expect to see in a diner after playing chess in the park on a Sunday, pepper hair with a big mustache, very genial. He chatted with us about Beijing, the restaurant, and even told us we should order the Chinese bottled water (which was more water for less money) than Evian water, if we weren't picky about it.
The only other problem was tracking down the rest of our friends. They spotted us looking for them; apparently, they were so famished when they get out of the cabs (at the other end of the street) that they saw the "steak" in "Mississippi Steak House" and went straight there instead. Way to follow through with plans, guys, way to go. The food there was also good, Angus steaks and salmon plates and whatnot, and great prices compared to a comparable American restaurant. Nonetheless, it was definitely a theme restaurant with a very eclectic theme. The English there was also pretty good and the manager dropped by and offered to get us American television stations if we would come back. Rich, my roommate, said sure, we could come back to watch the opening ceremonies for the Olympics! We have their card, so it may be a deal. I may go back to Steak & Eggs though, since their owner was a real cool dude with good priorities on his menu.
After dinner, we walked around the corner and ran right into a Baskin Robbins, another taste of home, so people got ice cream. Then, we tried to hail taxis to drive us home. Tried, and failed miserably. We split back up into our three groups and got taxies separately and it took us twenty minutes, maybe more, to first find a taxi that didn't have a fare and then to flag them down, as some Americans. We eventually caught one, but he didn't really know where our hotel was, so we got to the right area and then got bogged down in the wrong neighborhood for 15-20 minutes. After we got back out to the main road, we just called the hotel on my cell phone and the cabbie asked the front desk for directions. Another 10 minutes of driving down the road and we finally got home, with a cab fare three times that going out: 60 kuai.
By the way, driving around, I noticed an awful lot of really sweet buildings in downtown Beijing. Nice architecture.
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
We expected to be a little late for a wushu class, but instead walked right in on pure, unadulterated, batshit madness. Some