Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beijing - day 1

I went to Beijing and Shanghai for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. it's been a few years since I last set foot in these two cities. I have always like Beijing for its culture and history. it's a pity that every time I was there, I never get to see everything due to its vastness. this time I was there for about 2.5 days and it's always too short a stay.

waiting for my luggage at the Beijing airport

I had my birthday dinner inside the Mei Mansion, an elegant 200-yr old Beijing courtyard, home to Mei Lanfang (梅蘭芳), the internationally known Beijing opera legend. Mei contributed his whole life to the performing art of Chinese theatre and originated his own style of blending acting, singing and dancing in one performance, known as the unique "Mei school", which later reformed the Beijing opera contemporaries. Mei Fu Jia Yan (梅府家宴) is a restaurant now operates inside his home which serves recipes passed down through generations from Mei's home chef. there is no set menu or dishes, the chef will design courses for customers according to the season and what's fresh from the market each day. and the menu for the night will be hand-written by a calligraphy artist on a piece of red paper for customers to keep.

tucked inside the deepest of one of Beijing hutongs (胡同: traditional courtyard residence neighborhoods formed by joining of many narrow alleys), Mei mansion was hard to locate. no taxi can go inside the small alleys so traveling inside the hutong requires one to walk or get on a three wheeled motorbike ride. once stepped inside the mansion, the manger would give a brief introduction of the history of the place. the yard is divided into Yulan, Green Bamboo, Willow and Long Branch, each has a room for several tables. the decor recalls old Beijing style with old photos of Mei around every corner, costume he wore, aged furniture in 20s style and on the background, Mei's songs are playing softly throughout the yard. it's indeed a very unique and exquisite experience to have dined there.

style is private kitchen so the menu (red paper) was set before our arrival

portrait of Mei

close by to Mei mansion is the famous bar area of central Beijing, Houhai (後海). it's a popular place for nightlife with many pubs and bars operating along the Houhai lake. a mixture of the old east and the modern west, it's rather surreal to see the many western pubs, with singings of modern pop & rock songs, set in the scene of a tranquil lake with traditional Chinese stone bridge structure. I took a walk along the lake on a chilly rainy night, enjoying the colorful reflections of the neon signs upon the lake.

the bar area at Houhai

with music playing along the lakeside walk, quite romantic

reserve a table at Meifujiayang: Meifujiayang

read more about Mei Lanfang:

hit the bars and pubs at Houhai: Houhai nightlife

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