My overall impression of Beijing is a mixed bag. The city is very spread out and quite difficult to get around. Luckily, cabs are cheap and your hotel will usually write addresses in Chinese to avoid any confusion. Because of this, Beijing is the only city that I never took public transportation. In addition, the Chinese culture is very conservative and reserved and often came off as harsh. That, paired with the polution made for a difficult introduction to the city. But, once properly settled in, the history and cuisine balance out scales. While you might need someone to help translate and a tour guide for the major sights, Beijing is the gateway into the China that still remains somewhat of a mystery to most of us Westerners.
For my last dinner in Beijing, we had some very traditional cuisine at Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant. There are plenty of places to order duck in the city, but according to my sources, this is the very best restaurant to enjoy Peking’s signature dish. The duck is carved table side and served with a large assortment of a accouterments including sugar, garlic sauce, and melon. To me, those were some unlikely combinations, but boy, I’m glad I tried every single one.
Lots of other smaller dishes, with ingredients I have never heard of, were ordered as well. The highlights were a pear and vegetable soup and a traditional preparation of Chinese cabbage.
At the end of the day, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had a friend who works in the city and took time out of his holiday to show me the sights. I think without this, I would have had a tough time appreciating all Beijing has to offer, which is more than meets the eye.