Note to self. When a Chinese person says something is “walking distance”, what they actually mean is “It’s around 8km away”.
I learned this the hard way on my recent trip to this fascinating country. Let’s just say it involved the Forbidden City and my quest for dumplings. Lesson learned.
I booked my trip to Beijing on a whim. Lured by the said dumplings, Peking Duck and the Great Wall. I wasn’t disappointed.
The Chinese love food and as they say, the food is far, far more complex than the sweet and sour takeaways from the Happiness Inn.
But first to the touristy stuff. I did it all and saw it all and have the blisters to prove it. this is not a country you go to for a solitary visit. There is no such thing as contemplative silence in China.
But it is a riot of colors, smells and experiences unlike anything I have experienced before.
Let me be honest here. I’ve been to some places in the world which I won’t name here, that have honestly been a massive disappointment. I blame National Geographic. But Beijing and it’s sights, especially The Wall, are mind bogglingly amazing.
Let’s be clear about this. Everything in China is big, except it’s people. More about that later.
There is nothing I can say about the Wall that hasn’t been said before. It literally silenced me.
The city itself is continually busy and I was lucky enough to find a wonderful hotel in the business center of the city, Park Hyatt Beijing where the lobby is on the 61st floor and my room was on the 46th. A bird’s eye view indeed and a haven from the craziness of the city.
It’s hard to find a bad meal in Beijing and my hotel was no exception.
Dining with a view from the 63rd floor, in the sky, can’t be beaten.
A trip to Beijing can’t pass without trying Peking Duck. I consider myself a bit of an expert, having sampled it in Australia, Qatar, India, US and now…China.
Duck De Chine came highly recommended and while expensive, elevated the humble duck and condiments to high art.
In a city famed for roast duck, Duck de Chine, set in a chic refurbished factory complex is the big duck on campus.
the chefs have formulated what they believe to be the perfect Peking duck, that is 43-days-old, two-kilogram birds roasted for 65 minutes over 40-year-old jujube wood.
The construction of the duck at your table is also theater – a gong is struck and a chef appears, slicing and dicing your duck to perfection.
This is no backstreet lean to. My fellow diners were well heeled Beijingers enjoying the duck and the French 1960s music.
As far as dining experiences go perhaps the most interesting wasn’t in a high end hotel or restaurant I was lured to the hutongs to check out the famed Black Sesame Kitchen. Rated the number one restaurant in the city on Tripadvisor, how could I not?
Also, apparently it’s a little exclusive, with many at my table admitting they had booked months in advance. Given I decided a week before I actually arrived in Beijing to travel there, I was lucky. Again, being a single girl helps!
The kitchen and dining room give the idea of a big dinner party. People on my evening included fellow Aussies, Chinese businesspeople, visiting American couples and repeat customers. The 10 course menu was a greatest hits of Cantonese cuisine.
The Aussie wine was free flowing and the company interesting. Our hostess Michelle (from NZ) and her sidekick Coco kept the night on track and the conversation flowing.
Dishes included a pork belly which was gelatinous and sticky, beef in black bean sauce like you have never had it and a candied sweet potato with black sesame ice cream.
This was my final meal (airline lounge gin and tonic notwithstanding) in this amazing city. Now I know why the Beijingers walk everywhere – it’s to walk off their fabulous food.