Time for a few more pictures from my walk around the city the other day, mostly from Tiananmen Square and the immediate surrounding area.
A soldier stands guard in Tiananmen Square
Flag flying in Tiananmen Square
Soldier standing in Tiananmen Square in front of the famous portrait of Mao Zedong
Chinese dragon in Tiananmen Square
Exquisite Garden in Beijing
I’m continuing my journey through the “parts of the animal we don’t eat at home” and have confirmed that my approach of not asking what I’m eating is usually the safest. I just follow my Chinese hosts and figure that whatever we’re eating hasn’t killed them yet, so it probably won’t kill me either. The food here is more unfamiliar to me than the Cantonese cuisine in Hong Kong, so there aren’t the standard favourites to fall back upon.
I went out the other night for a massage – a reflexology foot massage at a nearby place that I found recommended on the web.
The first thing than strikes you about China is the scale of things. Compared to Bangkok, where there are hundreds of small, Mom-and-Pop massage shops with a few seats in each, the massage place here in Beijing was on an industrial scale. Four floors, each with twenty massage rooms (each of which had five chairs inside – so a capacity of 400 customers an hour). Add in the masseuses, the cleaners, the receptionists, and all the other staff, and suddenly you probably have 600-700 employees per shift, and with opening hours from 8am until 11pm, you probably have two shifts. Everything here is big.
The menu of services offered was entirely in Chinese. Feeling adventurous, I let the receptionist talk me into the “superior” foot massage. This is something of a cross between Eastern medicine, medieval witchery, and physical torture.
I was escorted to one of the massage rooms and offered a seat and a cup of tea. The receptionist switched on the TV in the room to blare out news in Chinese – I don’t know quite why they thought that this was relaxing, or that I could follow along, but it seemed to be standard-operating-procedure, so I did as I was told.
Someone arrived with a big wooden vat of scalding, foul-smelling brown liquid – the legendary blend of herbs and spices more secret than the Colonel’s chicken recipe – that was going to work magic on my feet.
Finally, the masseuse arrived and began her work. She was small and freakishly strong. Freakishly strong.
There was rubbing, poking, prodding, stimulating of pressure points. There was pounding and soaking and twisting of arms, legs, feet and hands. There was popping of joints.
And then she started to get medieval on my ass. A variety of tools were produced from a wooden box, and the next thing I knew, I smelled burning. Yes, she was cupping my feet and legs.
90 minutes later, with another foot bath, I was ready to go. I wouldn’t describe the treatment as relaxing, but you get the sense that it’s at least doing you some good. And to be fair, I slept well – although I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d gone six rounds with Mike Tyson.
Tonight’s our big celebratory dinner, marking the end of a long week of work with our Chinese colleagues. Apparently we’re going to the best restaurant in the city for Peking Duck. I’m hungry already.
Just as long as they don’t try to serve me the tongue.