One of the PhD students at Peking University took us out for lunch on Wednesday to one of the campus restaurants, which was fun. We ate a big bowl of nice noodles for about 50 pence each. He also gave us a tour of the PKU lake, which was frozen and were were able to walk across the ice. Lots of people had been skating on the lake the previous week, but the snow meant that they weren’t skating while we were there. In the afternoon we went to Tsinghua University.
In the evening, Pardha and I went out to the Xiushui Silk Market, or Silk Street (秀水街). It’s a massive place, and fairly hard work with hawkers trying to sell you a large array of stuff. Pardha wanted to buy some silk dresses for his wife and daughter and he was an amazing barterer. The women on two of the stalls commented on how tough he was (in a respectful way!) and I think both parties had a good time. I watched! Thanks to his skills, I got 10 silk ties (rather nice) for about £10. On the way out he bought a couple of tea sets, and I was lured into buying a purple clay tea tray to complete my Yixing clay tea set that I’ve built up over various trips to China and Malaysia (I’ll write more about that later). The tray is rather large and heavy, and the price came down from £200 to £30: Pardha reckoned he could have got it for £25, so I didn’t do too badly. Now that I’ve got it home there is quite a bit of maintenance to do: leveling the tray and sealing a few holes! I think it will get there. After the Silk Market we took a small three-wheeler scooter to Tiananmen Square. The temperature was below zero, and by the time we got there we were both freezing cold and ripped off! We had a quick look at the entrance to the Forbidden City, and were there to see the lights turned off at 9.30.
It’s impossible to see get a taxi from that part of Tiananmen Square, and we had a fairly long walk to try and find one. Finally, I couldn’t take the cold any more and we popped into a rather grand hotel for dinner. The hotel was grand but in a dusty and cluttered faded sort of way, and the food was expensive and bad! But al least it was warm and we we heated up nicely until the hotel turned the heating off about 10.30! Luxury indeed.
On Thursday we visited the Institute of Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. We stopped for a brief lunch at a nearby restaurant, where we were the centre of the attention and the people int he kitchen all came to look at us an give us wave! Come to think of it it might have been because I was in a jacket and tie, rather than because we were foreign!
We had another visit to Peking University, then walk down the road from the hotel to a little tea shop, where we spent close to two hours tasting lovely tea with the owner and his mother. I bought some very nice Longjing (龙井茶) and a disk of Yunnan Pu-erh (普洱茶). Pardha bough loads of tea: he also bought some Jasmine and another type of Green Tea. We had a great time and got a small discount from the shopkeeper. I also came away with a Money Frog, which I love, more on that later.
We spent a long time in the tea shop, I finished the scanning of our notes to send to India, spent a frustrating 40 minutes printing out my boarding pass in the ‘business centre’ and after all that we had to dash to a restaurant for dinner 30 mins before the place closed. I had a nice meal, but Pardha couldn’t find any vegetarian stuff he liked so had some biscuits in his room. The restaurant started turning the lights off on us about 10.30!