Beijing and Xian at Night
Those that love to travel have several goals in mind, among them are: 1.) to enjoy an exotic, scenic location, 2.) to enjoy the local cuisine, and 3.) to enjoy a cultural experience. One of those three, the one that involves eating, ranks high on my list. I love to try new and different foods when I travel and since coming to Asia for nearly 35 years, I can attest that each time I have come here, I have found something new and different to eat. (The photo at the top is the square in Xian and the photo just below is part of the night market in Beijing.)
The night market in Beijing is a wonderment of sights, sounds, and smells. It is filled with lights, commotion, and aromas of many different types of foods being prepared.
Some of the foods may not appeal to the Western tastes but there is so much variety being offered, that one must step out of their comfort zone and try something exotic. You may not ever have the opportunity again.
Above and below, a food stand where barbecued pigeons make up the menu.
Above, a cheerful merchant shows off his long ponytail. At his food stand, you can try a wide assortment of “extreme” foods like snake and deep-fried scorpions.
I had heard long ago that deep-fried scorpions were delicious, but in my many trips to China, I had never had the opportunity to taste them. On our visit to the night market in Beijing I finally had that opportunity.
Admittedly I was a bit apprehensive about eating a poisonous scorpion even after I was assured that the venom is neutralized when they are fried. I was also a bit intimidated when I ordered the deep-fried scorpions and they came three to a stick. But after seeing locals, including young kids, walking around, eating skewers of scorpions as they shopped, I knew that I must try them. I was totally surprised by their taste, and no they didn’t taste like chicken, in fact, they tasted like French fries!
Above, a purveyor of confectionary delights pounds sugar and molasses to form a unique sweet treat.
Above, at the market in Beijing, you find most anything you would want from high-end silks and jewelry to fake copies of name brand products. Be careful at the market, especially at night and never go it alone. As with any large city, there are unscrupulous people eager to help you get rid of your hard-earned money.
Above, a friendly, enterprising young couple prepare skewers of meat on their very portable “catering bicycle” in Xian.
On our group tour, we were offered an optional dumpling dinner. Our tour group, Gate 1, does an amazing job and we typically take advantage of every optional package. And again, since I love to eat, the dumpling dinner made it high on my list of things to do. In the advertisement, they mentioned that the dumpling meal would include a large variety of dumplings. A “large variety” is a gross understatement! Well, unless you consider 40 different types of dumplings to be a small selection. Along with soups and dessert, I was simply stuffed when the meal was over. And in all honesty, I could not tell you which particular dumpling was my favorite as I loved every one of them! (In several cases I had more than one of each!)
Above left is Frank, our super stupendous and ultra amazing Gate 1 tour guide throughout our tour of China. He went way out of his way to make sure that we were enjoying ourselves and that we had plenty to eat. We also made several good friends on this trip, but that seems to always be the case on these Gate 1 trips.
Above and below is the center square of Xian. At night this bustling area is filled with bright lights and lots of locals and tourists. We arrived as the rain began to fall but this only added to its magical charm.
Above and below is the Ambassador International Hotel where we stayed in Xian. Clean and comfortable but I must say that my favorite part of staying at this hotel was the amazing breakfasts they serve. Their specialty is “congee” (or sometimes spelled “conjee”) which is a rice porridge, usually served hot and loaded with whatever you want to add from a massive table filled with a variety of items. The meal is popular in many Asian countries and is regarded as the ultimate Chinese comfort food. It sure helped fuel our day.
I must confess that the worst part of our trip to China was that there simply wasn’t enough time to see and do everything, but isn’t that the case in most travels? We really enjoyed this portion of the Gate 1 tour of China and we knew that it would get even better in the upcoming days.
When you add an item to your bucket list, make sure that you have enough time to do as much as possible. Nothing like coming home and regretting that you didn’t have time to add a drop in the bucket!
All photographs are the copyright of Jim Jackson Photography. Please contact me for authorization to use any photos or for hand-signed, high-resolution copies.