My favourite season in Beijing is spring! After the cold, dry and yellow winter, the gras is so green, the Magnolia trees are blooming in the Summerpalace and colorful flowers are everywhere. It does not rain much in spring, the sky is clear and blue. That is why April and May are the best season to visit Beijing. April/May
Moon cakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival was originally a harvest festival and on this day people used to eat all kinds of fruits and round moon cakes. Nowadays the tradition is still well alive. People gather together with family members and friends (this year of 2007 it was in September 25th) at dinner time and then later go out and watch the moon, eat fruits and moon cakes.
Special foods eaten in the Mid-Autumn Festival include:
- Moon cakes
- Cooked taro
- Edible snails from the taro patches
- Water caltrop (a type of water chestnut resembling black buffalo horns)
- Rice paddies cooked with sweet basil and
- Fruits (apples, oranges, pears, peaches, grapes, pomegranates, melons, pomelos, etc.)
There are several versions about the Mid-Autumn Festival and the origins of the moon cakes; you may read them in the link I provide down here.
The traditional moon cakes are made with sweet fillings of
- Nuts (wu3 ren2)
- Mashed red beans (dou4 sha1)
- Lotus-seed paste (lian2 rong2) or
- Chinese dates (zao3 ni2)
- with or without a cooked egg yolk inserted in the middle.
Nowadays, there are all varieties of moon cakes, some of them made with the most exotic fruits like durian or if you like tea you might buy green tea moon cakes. They now also target different kinds of people, like vegetarians, health-conscious folks (like me), diabetes, etc. and now they come for the “big sale” about one month before the festival starts.
Besides buying moon cakes to eat in the Mid-Autumn Festival, people also buy them to offer as presents to friends, family members, clients, etc.
Tea Shop South of Tianenmen Square
South of Tianenmen Square is a market area that I don't think is too frequented by foreigners... or if it is, it wasn't when we were there!
In the market, there were tons of the typical shops selling lots of average stuff. There was one shop, however, selling awesome Chinese Tea for completely outrageous prices. Jesse and I bought 5 huge bags of various teas (jasmine, oolong, fruit, etc.). It cost us about $100 CDN. We worked out that if we had bought the same amount at home, it probably would have cost us about $700 CDN!!! Wow!
One of the best things about the shop was that the owner did a whole tea service for us with 3 different teas. It was pretty fun to watch, and the tea has a way stronger flavour when it is steeped properly. She was very friendly, and told us to come back if we were ever in Beijing (probably because we made her sales for the day!).
AN AMAZING MARKET
This market was amazing. As well as the usual array of stalls, selling touristy souvenirs and local crafts there were some food stalls selling many weird and wonderful delicacies. For sale to the brave customer were scorpions on sticks [some were still alive and wriggling on their sticks] and some interesting looking insects on skewers. Chinese crafts and weird and wonderful exotic food.
Modern Rickshaw, the Chinese Tricycle
chinese version of the Tricycle, similar to the Tuk Tuks of Thailand and Tricycles of Philippines and Cyclo of Vietnam. cost 20 RMB a short ride of 3 kilometers and 5 rmb per kilometer afterwards. a real novelty here in beijing and is used mostly for delivering small supplies to small shops around the city of Beijing hence you can see this a lot in beijing.