Touchdown Beijing – Whirlwind first few days in the city
Right off of the bat, I have to admit that the full first night sleep in a plush, oversized bed was divine. It was so refreshing that the first thing that I did on this Sunday morning here in Beijing was head to the gym for an hour on the treadmill. This may have been my mental demise for the rest of the day as with my biological clock not necessarily in check, I started to fade fast throughout the day.
I met up with my cousin, Liz (and her friends) quite early in the day. Crazy to think that one of my relatives was out here for a fun trip, but very cool to have the opportunity to see the city together.
At 10am I was in the Silk Market being accosted by hoards of Chinese women pushing silk scarves and an assortment of fake products at me. Usually I would be invigorated at the frenzy of negotiation and noise, but today I was tired, …reserved, and overly passive. I just kind of smiled at it all. I wanted so bad to hit the watch counter – but I could not muster the strength to bargain.
Liz had been here for over a week and was in the throngs of it all. Her and her friend Ali were playing off one another to grab better and lower deals. They did well. Yet I could do better. I was the master at this . Yet for some reason, I was DOA.
We toiled around a bit more in the market and then hightailed it to their other friend’s apartment and then off to the local food market.
This food market was a new experience for me.
I have been to open air markets around the world – from domestic farmers markets in Pennsylvania and North Carolina to famous markets in Greece, Spain and Singapore. Two things stood out for me in this market that surprised me.
- The amount of beautiful fresh produce that I would not have expected for a Beijing market. Absolutely beautiful array of colors and selection of fruits and vegetables. Add to that the stalls that had fresh noodles. (durian and mangosteens in full effect – still need to try them both… Hopefully Nanning will deliver)
- The lack of refrigeration for the meat shops. Birds, beef, pork and lamb were opened up, butchered and spread across wooden counters… Fresh, yes – looked great. Yet, the shelf life had to be about 24 hours. It was warm in there and I had to keep forcing my self to forget that I most likely would be noshing on food that was butchered and sold in this manner. It was cool to see blue hens on display (random)
I unfortunately have no pictures of the establishment, but we hit up a dumpling house for a late lunch snack. Phenomenal. I’m actually craving the condiments more than anything else – Fresh garlic, dried chili in oil and an assortment of soy and vinegar to douse in. After the dumpling orgy, we hit up a Chinese shoe store. I looked and looked and could not find an 12 or 12 and ½ size shoe anywhere in sight. Crazy women’s shoes galore, but no Men’s past the 10 or 11 mark. (I would have to import my shoes if I lived here)
A great close to the night was a trip for some Peking Duck. Years ago when I was in Beijing, we visited Li Qun for a rustic, yet delicious meal. This place (name missing) was on the spot as well. An actual highlight was the Chinese eggplant – I could swear the there was Ketjap Manis in it (Sweet Soy Sauce). All in all a great meal and a great night – with locally brewed Swartzbier to boot (another killer highlight).
As I wished my cousin good bye (her trip had come to an end) I started to get that feeling I was expecting from the start. It’s great to have family and friends when you head out on a trip, but it does add to the withdrawal when you hang out with them when you first land for a day. You get used to having camaraderie – and then hits harder when you walk out in the street and realize that you are the outsider. You understand that you are alone.
Heading to Nanning with the CSC crew will most likely curb this feeling – but it is important to point out. Taking the subway to the office alone in Beijing during rush hour is a different kind of experience. The sheer number of people is one thing, the fact that you yourself are the spectacle is another.
As stated in the last travel post, you have to learn how to adapt pretty quick here. I have been fortunate enough to have been reading Scott Seligman’s book “Chinese Business Etiquette’ before and during this trip. This has saved me a number of times already – and I will most likely quote certain sections over the next month.
It’s closing in on mid-late week and I have a moving meeting with a major business partner – as well as a presentation/seminar with the local team here in Beijing. Day one felt long, yet now that I have become a bit more comfortable, I sense the days just whizzing by. I’ll try and post prior to leaving for Nanning and my CSC assignment on Friday, yet the next two days are chocked full of work activities so not really sure at this point. Time to clock off.
In postscript – Uber fast internet at the hotel here has allowed for great video chat (FaceTime) with the family. This is something rather new to me travelling internationally (quality of it all) and it totally reduces the strain of being away. I surely hope that this works for the time in Nanning as well.