And the winner of the “First American to Visit” award goes to Paul R., who is a longtime family friend from church and elementary school. He was traveling to Shanghai, Beijing, and South Korea on a business trip for 3M to promote a promising new compound he helped invent that can be used in fire protection systems.
Last Saturday, on his last day in Beijing, we met up with Paul for a fun and relaxing evening. We started at his hotel, which was east of Tiananmen Square (about 1-hour subway ride for us). Our first stop was Wangfujing, the major pedestrian mall. We took a stroll through high end boutiques and found our way to the night market, which is a street lined with food vendors. We stopped for an appetizer of yang rou chuan (lamb skewers) and bao zi (steamed buns with filling).
We took a cab from Wangfujing to the Houhai area, which feels a lot like the uptown of Beijing. The area is home to a lot of stylish bars and small restaurants that surround and overlook an urban lake. The weather was beautiful when we visited, and it was fun to walk around taking in all of the sites. We decided to grab a drink at one of the cafés with a deck overlooking the lake. The beer was expensive, which was normal for that area, but it was more expensive not to drink as they charged a fee for using the seat if you didn’t order.
After finishing at the small café, we went on the hunt for a restaurant in the area. We had a hard time finding one to our liking, so Paul assertively hailed a cab and we went back to an area called “The Place”, which is a new mall built for the Olympics. The Place is known for the giant LCD screen that covers the mall with colored light, making it feel like daytime even at 10 p.m. We found a nice restaurant, which actually served western food as well, and we indulged in fajitas, chips, and guacamole, albeit with a little bit of an Asian style. We were grateful when Paul offered to treat us!
After dinner, we took a cab back to the hotel and said goodbye. I gave Paul a hug and told him to transfer it to my parents! He went up to crash before an early morning flight to South Korea, and we ran to catch the last subway of the night back to our area. We barely made it.