Today marks our final full day in Beijing. We began with a tour of the Yanjing Brewery in outer Beijing. Yanjing is the most popular beer in China, controlling (according to them) 80% of the market in China. I must admit that this part of the experience was a tad disappointing. We pretty much got a whirlwind tour of the brewery, never stopping for more than a few minutes in each section. However, that being said, it was good to see how the brewing process compares to that in the United States. Well, it’s the same. The company tour guide explained to us that, when the company was being formed in the 1980’s, they sent out people to see how beer was brewed in Germany and the US. They liked the process so much, they copied it. They use “only the finest German and American brewing equipment to brew only the finest Chinese beer.” After the tour, we were able to sample the beer (I politely abstained). From what I could tell, most Americans didn’t like it. Yanjing is a very light beer that makes Heineken look like Guinness.
After the tour, we had lunch in a beautiful Chinese restaurant in our tour guide’s neighborhood. It was not designed for tourists, so this was the authentic Chinese experience we were craving. The food more than lived up to expectations: hot, spicy, fresh, and delicious. Simon, our tour guide, was more than generous for showing us this gem of Beijing.
After lunch came a great treat. We took a rickshaw trip through the oldest neighborhood in Beijing. This neighborhood had survived since the dawn of China. One of Simon’s friends, who lives here, invited us into his home and gave us a tour. The house was simple: an outdoor courtyard that separates into 4 rooms. The boys stay in the West room, the girls in the East room. The North room was the kitchen and the South room was the common area. A very simple set-up. It was beautiful.
After the tour, we returned to the hotel and had some time to kill before lunch. Dr Rahman, Prof. Noon, Lecia, Renee, Dr. Shaw (the Dean College advisor) and I all went to the local super-market a few blocks from the hotel. Talk about a market! The place was all enclosed, but was as busy as ever. Anything and everything was for sale. It was like a Wal-Mart (in terms of selection) but minus the rednecks. They have such unique products. For example, cucumber flavored gum (very good, by the way). Or grape cookies. Also, tons and tons of cigarettes. 50 Yuan for a pack of 4. That’s about $10. Dad, when was the last time 4 packs of cigarettes cost $10?
We spent so much time wondering around, we nearly missed the bus to dinner! We made it back just in time. Dinner tonight was a treat: Peking duck! This was the only time I’ve had Peking duck and I had it in Peking! It was delicious. Apparently, they use apple tree wood to roast the duck, as well as basting it in sauces. That is what gives the duck it’s beautiful flavor.
There is one thing I must say about this country. The people here are amazingly friendly. They love to talk with you, even with the language barrier. They will smile for pictures and wave. They greet you on the streets. They are so generous too! For example, on our way back from the super-market, we passed a family roasting some meat on an outdoor fire. We stopped and took a picture, as it smelled so good. They invited us to join their dinner! Complete strangers we were, and they wanted to share their food with us! We had to decline, unfortunately. There just seems to be a friendliness that seems lost in America.
Tomorrow we leave for Shang-hi. My post may be late tomorrow, as we have an extremely busy day. Good night!