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Friday, March 18, 2011

BEIJING TO SEOUL


My flight to Beijing was most enjoyable.  The food was good, drinks okay...but the company was particularly wonderful.  Paula, from Mercedes Benz, was on her way home to escape, like me, the potential Fukushima radiation fallout.  She speaks excellent Japanese, not that I would really know, and has been in Tokyo for three years.

My room at the St. Regis is the best I’ve had on this trip thus far.  A suite with tastefully appointed items.  There are two large flat screen TVs and another in the bathroom mirror. 

The breakfast buffet is the Chinese equivalent of the Tokyo Westin, but better, for there is a larger salad bar, a noodle stand (where I had a bowl of wonton with vegetables) and a station where you can pick various meats and stuff for their preparation (lamb chops with eggs over easy on fried rice).  The only problem is that I couldn’t figure out how to signal to the staff that I was not yet finished…and, apparently, there is none.  For example, I ordered an orange juice and Oolong tea with my first course, but I forgot to add soy sauce to the bowl, so I left for 15 seconds, and when I returned, my table was cleaned.  So I ordered another orange juice and tea, finished the won ton, placed my napking on the back of my chair to indicate I would return, went to order my second dish and returned to see that my table was cleared again.  I asked for the third set of orange juice and Oolong teapot.  Not wanting to break the Guinness World Record for orange juice and Oolong tea, I left after finishing the lamb chops.
There was once something called Silk Alley, a meandering shopping lane selling mostly clothes, but a lot of fake items.  This is now a 7-story complex called Xiushui Silk Market, with a Peiking Duck restaurant on the 6th floor.  There are 1700 stalls and the counterfeiting is somewhat in check.


As I have not been to Beijing for a very long time, I went to see Forbidden City and the Great Wall.  A few obligatory shots:
In the background you see Mao Tse Tung, still revered:


I noticed that there was still snow at the Great Wall:




We passed the Birds Nest:


The day ended with the Red Dragon Lady and Puerh tea, the latest snake oil to cure almost anything:




That night I went to Da Dong for Peking Duck.  Amazing place.  Imagine a Chinese restaurant of the Year 2100...this is it.  Everything revolves around the duck ceremony:




This central island is surrounded by a moat, leaving only a small band of tables around the centerpiece.  White marble, nostalgic jazz and South American music, and, of course, the duck:


which I had with a 30 year old mao tai and a Yanging beer.  I finally realized what mao tai tastes like.  Imagine walking through a Bangkok outdoor food market and smelling the foulest odor humanly possible.  Something even worse than durian (which reminds me of a dead rat).  That is mao tai at 53% alcohol.


The worst part of the evening was getting back to the hotel.  I asked the staff to call me a taxi.  They instead led me to the street and found the building guard, who tried to hail a cab.  Every fourth car is a taxi, one which passes by every few seconds.  After 15 minutes in extreme cold, with young people constantly asking for a small amount of money to eat, I went back into the restaurant for them to call a cab.  They tried, but after another fifteen minutes, the manager suggested that I go back down.  The same guard tried for another half an hour, and finally found a run-down pirate cab, and with a sense of triumph, indicated that I could get back to the St. Regis for 50 renminbi (about $8), when I came for $2.  But it was about an hour now, so that was that.  Taxis are a big problem in Beijing.


The next day, I asked the concierge for the best possible lunch restaurant.  I was sent to Lei Garden, and attempted to order about the same items I had for my best Chinese lunch, in Singapore.  With a Cabernet Sauvignon and Tsingtao Beer, I had a pan fried pork dumpling with fried rice, Shanghainese steamed pork dumpling, crispy roasted pork, sauteed wild mushrooms and baby Chinese cabbage with superior soup.  It was okay, but maybe #10 as my best Chinese lunch.  At least it only cost $50.




The most interesting dish was the fried pork dumpling with the fried rice a glaze on top:


The St. Regis has free cocktails in the Press Club, so I had a chance to chat with Betty and Johnny over some Irish whiskey, for this March 17, St. Patrick's Day.  She is managing director for J. P. Morgan in Hong Kong and he is a film director with CCTV. We talked about colored pearls at Shunsai:




My flight to Seoul was quick and easy.  I'm now at the W Hotel, about as high tech as you can get.  The elevators are dark, with fluorescent rings to hang on to if you wish.  I think I got a honeymoon suite:




for everything is red and white, and that's a round bed on the right.


I went to Namu for dinner, a Korean-Japanese fusion restaurant:




I had unagi, edamame soup, miso soup, foie gras sushi, vegetable tempura and assorted other items with an Okunomatsu junmai daijingo sparkling sake from Fukushima.  This could be the last sake from Fukushima.  Elly was marvelous:




I ended a long day at the longest bar in Seoul, which starts at check-in, which becomes a nightclub at night.  That's a Calvados:






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1 comment:

Paula said...

Hi Patrick,
finally managed to check out your blog.
It seems, you have been quite busy and even made it back to Japan!

I am soo sad, that I couldn't see Cherry Blossom in Japan this year...but there are a few trees close to the Japanese embassy in Berlin, if you 're ever around...

Otherwise, I hope you keep enjoying your trips around the world!

Many greetings from Berlin!