It was a cold and wet morning, and somehow we managed to sleep in until nearly 10AM (earplugs and face mask certainly help). We’d been watching the weather forecast, so we were prepared for it. Would have been a miserable day to be out and about exploring on foot.
The morning started with a detour to a famous xiao long bao (steamed dumplings with a juicy soup inside) from Michelin Star restaurant chain, Din Tai Fung. They proudly had reviews of it being in the New York Times top 10 restaurants! There were even pictures of Tom Cruise being taught how to make the dumplings by the owner. However, we probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to visit (Sunday lunch AND Mother’s Day). It didn’t take that long to be seated, but the whole process was confusing. Though of course, it was worth it. Very good dumplings, but never as good as the first time we tried them (in Taiwan).
After a very decadent (for our backpacker budget) brunch, we went to explore 798 Art District. It was a bit of a mission to get there, requiring a transfer to the 909 bus. We got a little excited when we saw a 909 bus pull up to the bus stop (after spending a while searching for the bus stop) so we rushed to jump on. In our haste, we jumped on the right bus, but going the wrong direction. Of course it was a long way to the next stop, and another mission to find the stop for the bus going the other (correct) direction. But, as always, we persevered and found the stop, caught the bus and used my phone to track our progress to know when to get off. Traffic was horrible.
I didn’t read much about the 798 Art District to try and keep it a surprise for when we arrived there, but the biggest surprise was how utterly huge the area is. The area used to be a large electronics factory/district, but it shut down and the artists moved in. Navigating was difficult, as it was essentially small suburb, with loads of streets and alleyways, so it was quite difficult to know where to go. It shouldn’t be a surprise since it is in a disused factory, but it had this fantastic industrial look to it. It looked abandoned (probably technically is).
I mistakenly thought that there would be one ‘798 Art Gallery’ to visit, but the area is made up of countless small galleries, as well as loads of cafes and other shops. Lots of cool sculptures on the street, too.
Judge me all you want, I like to try McDonalds in different countries. I’d been waiting for the opportune time since we arrived, so for afternoon tea I grabbed a Double Cheeseburger (only because they don’t sell the regular one). Unsurprisingly, it was the same as Japan and Australia (you can make your own mind up if that makes it good or bad). About the same price, too ¥15 ($2). What really caught my eye was something that looked like a pork cutlet curry rice!! I would have ordered it, but I wasn’t that hungry and it seemed like a waste to order it just for a laugh.
I’d also been waiting all week for the chance to buy some Chinese Red Bull. Advertising for it is interesting (very different to normal Red Bull) – less focus on Extreme, more focus on study/productivity (from my interpretation of the ads). As far as my tastebuds can recall, it’s the same as the Red Bull you can buy in Asian supermarkets in Australia – no carbonation, and not as sweet. Like a lot of the convenience stores here, the drink fridge was turned off (drinks were all warm). I asked for cold one, and it ended up being frozen… ¥6 ($1).
For no real reason, we went back to the Wangfujing area. We weren’t all that hungry, but it was dinner time, so we decided to eat again. This time we visited a famous dumpling store (dumplings again!). They are the larger dumplings, with the thick and doughy shell (like Japanese nikuman). The meat dumplings were good, probably some of the best I’ve ever had (the vegetable ones were naturally at a disadvantage). ¥45 ($8) for a mixed platter of 8. Shame that the service was rubbish. As was the ¥20 ($3) local beer.
Killed time by looking at some department stores (still need some outdoor wear for Mongolia/Kyrgyzstan– no luck).
Walking a little further along the Wangfujing mall, we found another street food market, similar to the snack alley in the area – less scorpions, more sheep testicles (I like to think I’m game, until I see them there on a skewer in front of me). On an impulse (and because I thought it was something else), bought some average donuts ¥15 ($3). Risa bought candy fruits ¥35 ($5). She’d wanted to try it all week. It was unsurprisingly very sweet, though Risa may have been surprised.