I was part of the media invited to Beijing by Sony Ericsson on a four day trip -- the mobile phone company was sponsoring the Women's Tennis Association and the itinerary promised a ticket to catch the final match, an interview with SE's branch manager in Singapore, and lots of free time.
I actually wasn't expecting very much from Beijing -- the accumulation of 'horror stories' about the city over the years had me forming a perception of the city that was not flattering. The terrible flight over didn't help either. During a particularly bad bout of turbulance (the plane was shaking so violently you could hear the toilet doors rattling) the bottom of my muffin was wet with tea that had sloshed over, and the elderly passenger next to me had his whole tray flooded with coffee.
I realised I was dead wrong about Beijing the moment I set foot in the airport -- it was as modern as any other I've ever seen, and probably even better than some others. On the way from the airport to our hotel (which is very swank), the city landscape was an ecletic mix of both bricks, motar and wood buildings standing side-by-side with concrete, steel and glass high-rise skyscrapers. While traffic was chaotic, it wasn't nearly as bad as what I had thought and we reached our hotel at around 4pm, with about two hours to unpack and settle in before meeting in the lobby again at 6.30pm for dinner -- we were going to have the capital's most famous dish, Peking duck.
We were shuttled to a duck resturant which according to our tour guide Echo, was legendary for its Peking duck -- it seems all the famous people and state guests come to the Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant to eat the bird.
The first thing I noticed after biting into the dish was how was how oily the skin was, much more so than the ones you get in Singaporean. There is literally an explosion of oil when you bite down -- which, according to your preference, you may or may not like. Echo explained later that the duck is force fed about 10-20 days before being killed, which explains the fatty-ness of the dish, and after that roasted in a oven fired up with fruit tree wood (in this restaurant at least) to give the dish a special fragrance. We then washed down the whole meal going through around 10 bottles of Nanjing beer. Very yummy.