Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Heart of Beijing! Part II

A long walk at Qianmen Street left us really famished. We walked towards Tiananmen Square hoping to find a McDonalds for a "safe lunch" - "safe" was really defined as no meat by Neeti and Neelima, while Maulik was ambivalent and I was on the other extreme - completely in the mood to experiment.
In our desperation for food, we walked into (FORGET THE NAME OF THE RESTAURANT) right beside Tiananmen Square - the first eatery that came our way. It was a lively kind of place, in a Chinese-y kind of way. Couples, grandparents tending to grandkids, friends - all were there for a nice, warm and hearty  Sunday lunch. That's where I realised how similar the Chinese were to us, more so to the Gujaratis (as any Mumbaikar would concede to) - they love their special meal on a Sunday afternoon and they are far too noisy!
The menus came. While Neelima and Maulik were quick to ask the charming and petite waitress what was "mayo ro" or "no meat" on the menu, specifically for Neeti and for Neelima herself. I was quick to realise that to keep Neeti happy during this trip, "mayo ro" was going to be my magical phrase or my open sesame!!!! Juices and Cokes were also ordered specifically with a "no bing" remark - later I discovered that bing meant ice.
I did a complete "ultrasound scan" of the menu from front to the end, and chose a special fried rice that came with "poke" or pork, eggs and seafood alongwith okra tempura. Vegetarian fried rice and chicken fried rice were also ordered. My order was quite delectable, with the fishy and porky flavours coming through strongly. The okra tempura was kind of exquisite with soya sauce - crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

As is customary for me, my meal had to end with a tea. Here in Beijing despite the heat, I avoided the cool beverages and ordered a Chinese black tea, which had a strong-ish but unique flavour. That kept me going the whole afternoon despite the lack of sleep for two nights before today.

After the hearty meal, we headed to explore Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. We walked past the area which had a lot of history to tell - a history of a nation that refused to bow down to the world and rose, on its own terms, like a phoenix from the ashes of the tyranny that it had faced. 

Tiananmen Square, for obvious reasons, is a high security zone, with security personnel all around like this guy in the subway, who was so still that he could be mistaken for a mannequin.

The buildings in the square looked very Soviet-ish, remanants of a bygone era, when China was in the red-sphere. These buildings were so unlike the traditional Chinese buildings we saw in Qianmen or the ultra glitzy Sanlitun or the CBD at Chaoyang.

The whole Square area reminded me of New Delhi's Rajpath area - the sense of space, beautiful gardens, stately and imposing buildings. In some ways Beijing was a lot like Delhi, weather included!

As we got ready to leave Tiananmen Square and get into the Forbidden City Chairman Mao's portrait stood right there, perhaps welcoming visitors to what was once China's imperial capital, an opulent seat of the Ming  and the Qing Dynasties.

Being a Sunday, the area was teeming with people. Clearly visiting here isn't forbidden any more. But that was not always the case. The common English name, "Forbidden City", is a translation of the Chinese name Zijin Cheng (紫禁城) or literally "Purple Forbidden City". 
The name "Zijin Cheng" is a name with great significance - Zi, or "Purple", refers to the North Star, which in ancient China was called the Ziwei Star, and in traditional Chinese astrology was the heavenly abode of the Celestial Emperor. The surrounding celestial region, the Ziwei Enclosure was the realm of the Celestial Emperor and his family. 
The Forbidden City, as the residence of the terrestrial emperor, was its earthly counterpart. Jin, or "Forbidden", referred to the fact that no one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor's permission. Cheng means a walled city.

The complex was built during the period 1406 to 1420, and consists of 980 buildings and covers 720,000 square metres. The palace complex exemplifies traditional exquisite Chinese palatial architecture, and is believed to have influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. 

Here too, like at Qianmen, there was a lot to admire, like these lissome Chinese beauties in their traditional dress who were proudly getting themselves photographed. 

The palaces here are "guarded" by a pair - a lion and a lioness. The male rests his paw upon an embroidered ball (representing supremacy over the world) and a female restraining a playful cub that is on its back (representing nurture).

For the Chinese, the tortoise is sacred and symbolizes longevity, power, and tenacity. Perhaps, here it signified the tenacity of the nation.

Much before the West comprehended time, the Orient - India and China had established the science behind the seasons, day and night. This sun dial is testimony to the advancements the ancient Chinese had reached in sciences.

The artificial rock hill created a the end of the Forbidden City was made in conformity with the Chinese science of art and architecture, or Feng Shui, though I did not really comprehend its significance.
Our next stop was Solana, a an ultra-modern lakeside shopping area in the Chaoyang district. Solana, too, was teeming with people, especially families with kids, who went about frolicking in the fountains!

As we moved around Solana, we passed by a Chinese family. The elderly male stumbled over a barricade and badly injured his forehead, and possibly the area around his eye. We along with his family rushed to help. Neeti retrieved tissues to act as a temporary bandage. The family thanked us and rushed him to a hospital. We pray and hope the gentleman is fine!

Solana was displaying Roewe cars - the brand is owned by the Chinese automaker SAIC Motor. These vehicles are primarily based on technology acquired from the defunct British carmarker MG Rover. SAIC was unable to purchase the rights to the Rover brand it created the Roewe marque as a replacement. The cars looked sturdy and elegant and were pricey, the one in the picture cost RMB 500,000!!!!

Solana is home to trendy lake-side cafes and ultra-chic bars, featuring global cuisine. But in China, it had to be Chinese cuisine! After an hour or so chatting by the lakeside, we decided to leave for some more grub! As we left Solana, rickshaw pullers and balloon vendors waited for customers. That was a lot like India.

We headed to Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu or Baoyuan Dumpling Restaurant close to Solana, a place discovered by Neelima and Maulik. 
Baoyuan is small but quite lively with an interesting take on dumplings - we had vegetable, aubergine and spinach dumplings alongwith assorted stir-fried mushrooms, that too in authentic Chinese style - with chopsticks!

That was a meal to remember - perhaps for the rest of my life. The dumplings were good, but the mushrooms were succulent and juicy, with a tangy oyster-pepper sauce! Man, this really was like heaven!

And this meal was ended with a pot of Chinese green tea, refreshing and invigorating, for tomorrow is another day, a day when we'll scale the Great Wall of China!

No comments:

Aviation Photo Search Engine
Biggest aviation photo database on the 'Net
Aircraft Type...[ Help ]
Airline...[ Help ]
Country / Airport...[ Help ]
Category...[ Help ]
Uploaded... [ Help ]
Keywords... [ Help ]
Range...[ Help ]
Sort By...

Include only photos for sale

Stop searching after hits [ Help ]