Our flight to China was uneventful, at least while it was in the air. Good food and good service– how often do you hear that? Plus, Bug slept for about 4 hours of the flight, which wasn’t too bad given all the excitement.
Unfortunately, when we landed poor Bug started complaining about her stomach hurting. Silly momma thought it was nothing, but as soon as we got out of the jetway into the hall leading to immigration guess who tosses her cookies (and everything else). Poor thing– she was so embarrassed. I feel kind of bad, but we made no effort at all to clean it up. When there are guards around with guns you kind of just want to keep moving. So we just scooped her up and carried her away.
We made it through immigration with no more nausea and Bug asleep on daddy’s shoulder. All we could think about was getting to the hotel for a shower and a little rest before dinner. It was about 3 pm in Beijing at this point. So we found our guide Forrest after a little looking, and asked him if we’d have time to stop by the hotel before going on the evening’s Hutong tour. [We were supposed to have free time the evening after landing but given our delays they’d compacted the tour schedule.] I was a little surprised when Forrest said no– we needed to go on because it got dark around 5 or 6 and the Hutong neighborhood would be too dark for the tour by that point.
We reluctantly agreed, and I’m glad we did. The Hutong neighborhood was fascinating. For those who don’t know, Beijing’s Hutongs are historic neighborhoods characterized by groupings of small homes around courtyards and navigated by narrow alleys, or “hutongs.” Many, many Hutong neighborhoods were torn down post-1949 revolution, but there’s been a major push to preserve what’s still there. A tourist industry has grown up in the Hutongs, complete with a bicycle-pulled rickshaw tour and a dinner in a neighborhood-dweller’s house.
So we boarded our rickshaw and were off. Bug thought it was tremendous fun:
After touring the neighborhood and getting some history we went to a wonderful man’s house for a tasty dinner. The best were the vegetable balls deep-fried and then laden with some sort of sweet sauce. The chef purportedly used a recipe handed down to him by his grandfather, who was a chef for the last emperor, Pu Yi. I don’t know if this is true or just exaggeration for the tourists, but the vegetable balls seemed fit for an emperor to me. Here they are!
Here we are at dinner, roughly 24 hours after setting out from the house the morning before and not having a chance to freshen up:
Not too bad a picture for being stinky and tired, if I do say so myself!
We finished up and set out for the hotel. We were only a short distance from the hotel, but legendary Beijing traffic reared its ugly head and we sat for 45 minutes in a traffic jam literally in sight of our hotel. It didn’t matter- our tummies were full of good food, we were in a comfy van with the good company of our guide, and we knew we’d be settling into our hotel soon. We finally made it, checked in, unpacked and changed into jammies, and then settled into bed to get ready for the Great Wall tomorrow!