After having spent 2 weeks in rural China I was hesitant about travelling to Beijing, favouring instead the slow life to which I had (surprisingly quickly) grown accustomed. A light summer rain fell as we first emerged from the underground onto the crowded streets of Beijing and instantly I sensed the heart and soul of Beijing; it’s culture, it’s people, it’s energy.
For the next seven nights I happily called Doncheng, a district in the old city, home. Away from the bright lights and skyscrapers its tiny alleyways bustled with activity and if I closed my eyes I could almost imagine life as it might have been during China’s last ruling Qing dynasty. Tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries were found squeezed in between beautiful, crumbling ancient homes. Large crowds gathered round tables where opponents challenged one another to Mahjong as young children played in the dust at their parent’s feet.
Beijing was a melting pot of cuisines and it was only a short walk before Chinese gave way to Thai, Malaysian and even Italian restaurants. We ate beautiful dumpling soup, steamed buns and soy milk for breakfast, an offering which cost us just a few dollars. We ate donkey meat, drank cows milk yoghurt from ceramic jars sold on the side of the road, experienced Peking duck in a fine dining restaurant and sampled every Chinese beer we could get our hands on. And at the end of each day when we’d drunk and eaten our fill we’d wander home past a sweet wee café where we ate exquisite cakes and sipped on coffee and tea until our weary feet felt inclined to guide us back home to bed.