Every time I arrive here I’m shocked by the traffic and driving rules. I read a little about the Chinese driving rules (if you can call them that) and they explain right-of-way as “first is right.” So whoever gets to a part of a road first owns that part and other people must get out of the way.
Last year I broke my 50mm lens, so I decided I needed a new one. The camera market in Beijing is a good place to buy one. Inside this building are about 50 stores selling professional equipment such as Canon, Nikon, and Leica. There are some stores that specialize in lighting or tripods or books. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens cost $96 new here.
Second Hand Market
I was asked before coming to China if there are garage sales here. It made me realize I’ve never seen a place that sold second hand things, until now. In the southeast corner of Beijing is a market that is supposed to sell used items, so I went to go look. After getting off a bus, it was a long walk down a road next to an open sewer. Kind of a fitting location, I suppose. There were no sidewalk, restaurants selling dirty food, and old houses. I had mixed feelings about the market because half of the things there were new and there were no prices posted anywhere. It was mostly furniture and equipment from restaurants and hair salons. The things that were second hand looked like they were pulled out of the trash. There are no used clothes in Beijing, I looked everywhere for those.
It was not until a few weeks later when I was traveling in a Tibetan area of China that I found something second hand: shoes! Tibetans go through shoes like crazy since they are walking everyday circling the prayer wheels and they are mostly poor. Incredibly, I had to go all the way to this small dirty town to find some kind of second hand clothes.
Bones: I’ve learned Chinese people are crazy about bones in their food. After eating the Americanized version, you’d think the opposite. A big cleaver is used to chop up the meat/bone into around one inch sections. It is done for better flavor, but I don’t really like the side effect of some tiny bits of bone breaking off and getting in your mouth and requiring you to spit them out.
Fish: At a Tibetan/Yunnan style restaurant, I was able to try a fish meal. In order to show the customer that the fish is fresh, it is carried out alive in a bucket. When the customer approves, it is fried and then cooked in a soup with garlic, onions, mushrooms and bamboo. The second cooking step is done at the table. The fish is split in half before cooking; the head and tail remain. There are also cuts along the side of the fish to allow the soup to penetrate the meat. You can also order additional vegetables to add and cook yourself.
Interestingly, fresh fish is the only food Tibetans are not allowed to eat. It is because the fish is killed specifically for them, which is against the rules.
Goose: Roasted goose was served at a Guangdong restaurant and I thought it was a good opportunity to try. I’ve had roasted duck before and it tasted similar but this had much more meat. It actually tasted like beef steak. It was cut up into pieces with a layer of skin, then layer of fat, and finally the meat.
Dog: I didn’t realize how important dogs were in China until visiting a 2100 year old tomb of an emperor near Xi’an. Buried with the emperor were small figures of animals. In one pit there were about 400 goats, 400 dogs and 100 pigs. I don’t think the emperor had plans to have that many pets in the afterlife, but instead for food.
It took me weeks and weeks to find a restaurant that served dog meat. It is more popular in far-south China, but I wasn’t planning on going there. In Beijing there is a restaurant that specializes in dog meat and I had a chance to go. The scariest part is the menu. There are photos of the dishes and some dishes are specific parts of the dog including feet and genitals. I tried to order something simple and it tasted OK except there was skin attached to almost every piece which I think was too fatty. At least every time someone asks me if I’ve eaten a dog I can say yes now.