Beijing '10 Day 2 - At HaiDian, Vegetarian Restaurant at WuDaoKou to Meet Up with an Old Friend

China: Beijing - HaiDian - WuDaoKou
July 6, 2010 (Tuesday)

It was time to put my discovery to the test and find a way back to my school. I took the 398 bus (fare:0.40RMB with my trusted YiKaTong一卡通) from the ShiBanFang 石板房 stop to ChengFuLuKouNan 成府路口南. I should have stopped one station before 学院路北口 that to get to my school’s east gate. While walking, I called my old friend and asked if he was available for an impromptu lunch. I walked all the way to the dormitories and found the ever-so-cheerful classmate I had over 3 years ago when I was studying in BLCU. We could have walked or rode the bus but we chose to ride the taxi to my favorite vegetarian restaurant due to the scorching heat. Besides, it will only cost 10RMB to deliver you to the doorstep.

The restaurant was still there after all these years and there were no vacancies even at around 1:00 p.m. Finally, we were served SuanMeiTang 酸梅汤 , the KungBao Shrimp Bits and the Veggies with Mushroom.

beijing jul10

As was customary to restaurants in China, we asked that they already serve the rice or else it might be served as a filler after all the dishes are finished. My friend told me that this particular restaurant was very open and visitors could come see their kitchen that was as big as the restaurant. There was a group that just came in as we were about to leave. Before we left though, I asked my friend to help me out and teach me how to go to the places I wanted to go by subway. There were a lot of lines that opened for the Olympics in 2008 and going around has been more convenient. True enough, every location I mentioned seemed to have a subway stop. Too bad most of the people I know who study in BLCU use bikes and taxis to get around. I still prefer the bus and the subway though because for one, it is not safe for me to go around with a bike. We also talked about life and laughed about having awkward accents when we go home and speak our mother tongue. He says his Chinese suffers the same way when he goes home only for a couple of months and return to Beijing. It must be that while he was back home, he talked a lot in his mother tongue that his Chinese speaking skills deteriorated. This was what happened to me. No more Mandarin when I got back home.


After lunch, I went to the subway station to check and reload my YiKaTong card. It has been with me for around 4 years and it is still usable! The balance from my last travel in 2008 was still there. I think there is a 2-year expiration in the reload receipt. The card can be used in buses and subways, now even on taxis, and I heard my friend say that the fares have really been greatly reduced a few years ago. Without this card, bus fares paid in cash are higher, e.g. with the card at 0.40RMB, without the card at 1RMB. There are special student cards which charge 0.20RMB only but it has a different tone that the ordinary card when swiped.


For shopping, I went to the U-Center, HuaLian 華聯 in Chinese. There was no shopping mall like this when I last lived here. There was a Uniqlo, a Giordano, an Espirit, a department store with cool stuff, lots of stores and lots of those that sell little trinkets and gift items such as Artbox and a hobby store. My friend said he preferred to wait for the mall-wide sale when there was a sale offering of 20-30RMB instead of going at the wholesale market where you haggle your way to get the price down in all effort. In a way, I saw the sense in his words but I might still go the extra mile when I have the time just to have my own experience. I found one particular place in the mall with coupon machines very interesting. To use them, you would have to pay a one-time fee of 20RMB for a chip and you swipe it and print all the coupons that you want from KFC, McDonalds and the like.


I got into the shopping craze and bought myself a very ingenious sushi making kit from the department store and shirts from the Veromoda sale. After nearly 3 hours, I could feel my feet starting to give up and went out of the mall to find a place to rest.

While walking though, I noticed that the market beside the WuDaoKou subway station was opened so I went in. It used to be a parking lot with a bazaar and I could easily find 10RMB shirts but now it has a covered structure built with stores properly lined out and ventilated. No more 10RMB shirts but I was enticed to buy 3 pairs of earrings at 10RMB each. I went out as soon as I bought them to find a place to rest. Again.

While crossing the street, I noticed that the sidewalks of WuDaoKou 五道口 were coming to life with vendors selling all sorts of stuff from clothes to books to mugs. I looked for a while but pulled myself away. It was still early at 5:00p.m. but I know the streets will be filled up with more temptations in a short matter of time. Now, I was on track to go to Tous Les Jour. Walking over, I spotted the former Beer Garden at its present state, with a Korean clothing market. Yes, I went in again only to find that the first store to my left, in my opinion, was the only authentic Korean clothing store in the area. Inside the little store were two very accommodating well-dressed Koreans and their clothes, each with a picture where they imitated what an actress or model was wearing and sold it in their store. Outside, the Korean supermarket was still there but, wow-oh-wow, it had a Korean snack place now. I told myself I would go back there to eat and to buy my favorite Teokpokki 炒米条.

Finally, I made it to Tous Les Jour. I bought the same bread with cream inside that I used to eat before since I did not find it in their Seoul stores. For 9RMB plus 10RMB more, I got myself a YouZiShaBing 柚子沙冰 to quench my thirst, which was a weird drink that tasted like bitter orange peels with every sip. Later I found out it was grapefruit. Well, at least I got a table and my feet got some rest until karaoke time.


I met my friend again near BLCU and we went to XiJiao Hotel 西郊宾馆 to sing our hearts out. Boy, this Indonesian could sing Chinese, English and Japanese. I am guessing I should add Indonesian language and Korean as well. Just like that, I was inspired to continue learning Hangul 韩语 just for the fun of reading and singing Korean songs. Maybe when I get back home I can start learning the language by myself too as he did Japanese. For 3 hours, the rate was 180RMB for a small room. Of course, it will be a lot cheaper if we started earlier during the mid-afternoon off-peak hours. 


After karaoke, I went back to the apartment on a cab. At 10:00 p.m., it was too dark to walk alone. My friend was going back home for the break within the next two days. I am glad I caught up with him even if it was just for today. In the 3 years that we have not seen each other, a lot has changed indeed.

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