All of the photos below were taken in various areas of the Dongcheng district of Beijing. To get all the links out of the way, let me list off the places that we drove or walked by:
Houhai, which means "back sea," as it's in the 'back' part of Beijing. This is a park with a lake.
Beihai, also a park with a lake, means "northern sea" and is very close to Houhai.
We walked by Gulou and Zhonglou, I think, which are the drum and bell towers of Beijing.
We drove by Tiananmen Square, Mao Zedong's mausoleum (I still want to spell his name Mao Tse Tung, because that's what my textbooks said when I was a child), and some other places, but it was so foggy the night that we did the drive that taking pictures was pretty much useless. Of course, since I didn't take pictures, I don't remember exactly where we went. Sigh.
What I did take pictures of would be food. I don't know why, but this trip to Beijing was basically just an excuse for me to take ridiculous numbers of photos of food. We really ate quite a lot this time around.
So here was our adventure on our last night, after our meetings and review with the director. We actually left Wangjing and went out and about, taking in a nighttime market, eating, drinking, looking for cute knock-offs (some of the stuffed animals were hilarious), and just generally enjoying Beijing.
The dish above was the first one out. I don't like mushrooms, but these mushrooms were delicious. Mostly because they didn't taste anything like mushrooms (or any mushroom I've ever had, anyway). I usually can taste the mushroominess even when they're deep-fried, but these were not mushroomy at all. Really very good.
I don't mind cilantro, though I used to really dislike it. I think pho pretty much wore me down and made me accept cilantro. Pho and Mexican salsa got me accustomed to the taste, and I didn't mind it in this dish. It was actually nice to have the sharp cilantro to cut through the deep-fried-ness of the potatoes. I never knew Chinese food involved so much frying until I went to Beijing.
Andong jjimdak (안동 찜닭), a popular Korean dish.
I personally like spicy food, and my problem with Andong jjimdak (jjim = steam or braise, dak = chicken) is that it's too sweet. I feel like it's just sweet, without any other flavors. This dish was not as sweet as Andong jjimdak, but still a little boring. I ended up picking out most of the bamboo shoots and leaving the mushrooms and chicken to everyone else.
I accidentally ate about five little peppercorns and had a couple minutes of pleasant tingling, then realized that the soup contained the greasiest broth that I'd ever tasted. I've had lobster bisque that wasn't as rich as this soup. How they managed to make a clear broth that is richer than bisque is completely beyond me.
There were bean sprouts, large slivers of fish, and some other vegetables in the dish. I took a couple bites, one sip, and I was pretty much done with this. I don't feel the need to ever try this again. Meh.
Okay, the description doesn't make it sound that appetizing, either, but it was actually good. I would've liked it even more if the sauce had been slightly spicy rather than just sweet, but that's just me and my personal taste.
baiju, since I don't drink beer, and we all ended up drinking it, since nobody really felt like beer. This brand sold these glass cups of baiju, sealed with a thin metal cap and seal that were actually really difficult to remove (heaven help the person who's already had a couple, he'll end up cutting up his hands quite badly), which is probably why we switched to a different brand that came in bottles, with handy screw-top lids.
The nice thing about the little cups was that they were a little less strong than the bottled variety. I think the cups were something like 46% alcohol, whereas the bottle was 58%, which is basically like drinking rubbing alcohol. Blargh.
We played air hockey on the iPad (well, I didn't, because I was busy downing my mojito) and then we all got addicted to this quiz game. I did quite well at English (of course) and world geography (surprisingly, the Koreans and Korean-Chinese do not know their world geography very well), but then failed miserably at Korean public transportation (which of these colors is not one of the bus lines in Seoul? Who knows that kind of thing?), but we had so much fun with all the different types of quizzes. I have to find that app.
It's almost midnight and after a day of assembling this post in bits and pieces while working like a crazy person, I am finally going home. Whew. Sorry for the long, picture-heavy, scatter-brained posts, but it's all I can manage for now!