Tuesday, June 23: Beijing, China
8:30 We’re ready to leave Beijing and embark on a 90 day journey along the Silk Road. The hotel manager boards the truck as There’s an issue with one person’s mini bar. When we all deny using the mini bars it is explained that the vibrating condoms that were on the bedside table are not actually free. One guy sheepishly admits that he may have to pay up. Everything is resolved in five minutes we’re good to go.
8:45 It takes about 10 minutes to maneuver the truck out of its parking spot and into the narrow laneway. We’re the centre of attention once again.
12:10 We arrive in Chengde. It’s not a city that I was familiar with yet it has a population of 3.7 million and it’s growing rapidly.
12:40 Lunch is at a busy downtown restaurant where we are shown to a private room on the third floor. Jason orders 10 dishes for 9 people, plus rice and beers. So good! The bill comes to about $7 per person.
14:00 We drive across town to a Buddhist temple known as the mini Potala Palace. It’s modelled after the one in Nepal. We burn off lunch by climbing a large hill then racing to the top of the temple which is at least 15 storeys tall. Badly needed restoration work is underway.
19:00 Dinner is at a dumpling restaurant near the hotel. Again we’re shown to a private room with round table and lazy Susan. Jason orders one dish per person, plus rice, rice wine, and beer. He could have passed on the rice wine. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t expecting “wine.” If rice wine was billed as a Chinese version of Ouzo it wouldn’t be such a shock to the system and perhaps a little more enjoyable.
19:30 The dishes start arriving. One of the first we get is a whole roast duck. Duncan proposes a toast to my birthday.
21:30 We’re finishing the last of our many dishes when a Black Forest style cake with shaved chocolate icing arrives. I’ve been coughing so I delegate Beck to blow out the candles.
23:25 I’m back at the hotel and overwhelmed by birthday greetings on Facebook. I’m not one to get too excited about birthdays but this one will be memorable since I’ve never been this far from home.