On the way back to Osaka, I stayed in Beijing. It was my first time in China, but luckily my friend Carlos's friend Joy was able to show me around a bit.
I was only there for a bit and everything took longer than I had expected so I wasn't able to see that much. But we tripped around here and there and had some great food.
The best meal we had was probably the hot pot at this Muslim restaurant. The water was heated by that big cone filled with burning coals.
It was basically like Japanese nabe except the stuff you put in the pot was a bit different and, obviously, there was no pork.
Beijing was a strange experience in the winter. It was freezing and I could see that all the standing water was frozen as we flew in, but there was no sign of any snow. The city is basically flat and in the middle of an endless flat plane, sectioned into rectangular fields and cut through with wide irrigation canals. When you come in from the air, you can see at once that Beijing was constructed as an imperial city, laid out around a central palace. In the winter, however, everything was just brown and gray and cold.
Most of the streets are wide and the buildings massive, clearly designed to impress. Throughout the city, there are mammoth structures of every age, including those just finished this year for the 2008 Olympic Games. There is a vast sense of history, but somehow I found the feeling of history in Beijing unnerving. It seemed as though it little matters what I say or what I think ... as though there are great, ineluctable forces at work ... that they will sweep over me and swallow my whole life up.
I don't know. Maybe I'm just going through a strange period.