Thoughts. Words. Action.

A Few Days in Beijing

At the Beijing airport, a grand rotating display announced 2014 as the year of the Horse in the Chinese calendar.  The New Year celebrations lasted for the full first week of February, and for some Chinese citizens, the subsequent week as well.  The New Year also brought the first snow of the season, and a cold front, which was nowhere near as severe as the bitter cold in the Eastern parts of the United States. Fireworks, apparently not very well regulated, went off randomly in front of the hotel I was staying at.  A couple of enterprising citizens were having their own celebration, which took late-night strollers by surprise.  The short-lived display illuminated the night sky.  The glass windows of the surrounding tall buildings brilliantly reflected the twinkling, falling stardust.  It was rather surreal. Eating out in Beijing is always an adventure.  This time, at the recommendation of some local experts, I went to Li Qun (pronounced Li Chun), reputed to be the place you’ll find the best Peking Duck in Beijing.  I was told it is a small hole in the wall restaurant where you don’t make reservations – you call in and order the number of ducks you want to consume.  If they have enough, they’ll tell you to come in that day.  I did not necessarily believe it, but my friend still called and ordered a duck.  The earlier you go, the better the chances of not having to wait for a long time.  While I did not witness this, it is not uncommon for hungry duck connoisseurs to be patiently waiting outside in a long winding queue.  Neither is it unusual for the sated customers to be ushered out of the small four-bedroom house that has been converted into the dining area, as soon as they have devoured their meal.  As I crossed the road, a series of ducks, hand-drawn with charcoal on the brick wall of the adjoining houses guided me towards Li Qun, with an arrow under the final duck pointing to the modest entrance, through which many world leaders and celebrities have entered to sample the moist duck meat covered by a layer of crispy skin. I am told that the family who owns Li Qun raises its own ducks.  The evidence, about thirty of them, were hanging, skinned and ready to be roasted in the wood-fired ovens, in an old cooler in the middle of the courtyard.  It only took a few minutes to ignore the skinned ducks hanging across from my...

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