It was my last day in Beijing and it was very much the still the National Festival.
My train to Xi’an is not due to leave until after eight o’clock this evening. So I’ve had a whole day to wander and time to add another post.
I decided to walk into Tian’anamen Square, past Beihai Park and the Forbidden City, to go to the National Museum of China.
As I reached Beihai Park, still about a mile from Tian’anamen Square, the crowds were already building.
Sophia, the tour guide who had taken me tobogganing to the Great Wall of China, had thought that this would be a reasonable day to go to the Museum as the week-long Holiday was drawing to an end. I wasn’t sure as I looked at the numbers of people.
(Yes, Sophia also took me to see other amazing sights but she took me TOBOGGANING DOWN THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA).
I walked from Beihai Park along the street that runs alongside the Western side of the moat around the Forbidden City.
Commoners may not have been allowed to enter the Imperial palace but their streets jostled as close to the moat as they could. There is no space between the Forbidden City and the residential streets.
By the time I reached Tian’anamen Square, having gone through security and presented my passport, there were even more people gathered in the Square – most of them having picnics and still waving flags.
Many people had dressed in red or in traditional Chinese clothes, but there were still more going for comfort and practicality.
I’d been warned to expect jostling and pushing but there was none of that. Movement might have been slow but there was no impatience. Everyone gave each other space.
I walked past the Museum. I really did not like the look of that queue.
Actually, it wasn’t the queue that was the problem. Queues move extremely quickly here. What looks like an hour long queue will take ten minutes for everyone to pass through security or payment.
I was thinking about how busy it was likely to be inside.
I headed South of the Square.
Quianmen Street, not Tian’anamen Street as I had thought it was called, was heaving. A key feature of the National Holiday is sales shopping.
At this point I realised there was one thing I hadn’t done while in Beijing… eat crispy/Peking Duck.
I set off the remedy that forthwith.
The problem was… either Peking Duck is for sharing or it’s bloody expensive. The first two restaurants I tried were serving it for £30.
I assumed sharing, as the place settings all had, as well a central point for sharing a pot for steaming dumplings. I watched waiters filling up the central pot with piping hot water from large kettles.
After some wandering away from the centre, I found a restaurant serving Peking Duck for £10… excellent, the single option, I thought.
I settled down to wait.
It was a platter.
This was like afternoon tea in Moscow all over again.
If this was the £10 option how much food was in the £30 serving? Even adjusting for city centre prices I felt full just thinking about it.
I also expected a few stares as the mountain of food arrived for one person but no-one batted an eyelid.
The lady at the table next to me, thankfully, was drawing more attention.
First she ate a bowl of lentil soup. Then twelve fried dumplings arrived. (Three of these made a meal for me on a previous night elsewhere)
I waited to see what would happen. The guy at the table on the other side of her was shouting encouragement.
Eleven went into plastic boxes to take away and she ate one.
“Nothing to see here,” I thought.
And then her platter of crispy duck arrived. We could have shared mine.
She tucked in. I was making heavy-weather of my platter and struggling .
I’m a little embarrassed to say that not only was I was curious about what would the lady and her meal but I was also reluctant to leave until I saw the outcome.
Nosy, moi? Absolutely.
Was this Woman Vs Food?
Nope. She ate half and bagged up the rest.
I left shortly afterwards, to take my stomach for a walk.
But seriously, the size of the servings… how big are the ducks here?
*Featured Photo: The crowds in Tian’anamen Square. National Festival going strong.