SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 17, October 2016 - Page 104

plane tickets and showed them our passports. And there we were, with the ticket counter employee who gave us our tickets and “Gangnam Style” playing in the background. We just had to feel confident that everything would be alright.

We landed in Beijing and took a cab to the hotel in the middle of town. The streets were very noisy and surrounded by all sorts of unimaginable means of transport. The air was completely polluted by smog; it made no sense to open the windows to get fresh air. Thousands of people were walking in a rush wearing facemasks, everyone in his or her own world. The subway was equally crowded. But nobody pushed, everyone entered and it was difficult to understand how everything worked so perfectly, especially given that no one lifted their gaze from their mobile phones. They were very kind and smiled all the time, though I still don’t know why....

The only thing you know in this kind of journey is that you never know where they are taking you, how it continues, or how it ends. Surrealism is what seduced me about Asia; you are immersed in the experience of living it, enjoying it, and learning from it.

Beijing has great food markets where you can find everything you’d expect and more. The market starts at Wangfujing Snack Street located in the Hutong west of the main street. The main street itself is full of restaurants and stalls which offer a variety of street-style food. After dark, it becomes an exotic nightlife destination within the city. The lights themselves are a spectacle in the market area.

Further north and perpendicular to Wangfujing is Donghuamen street. The modern Donghuamen area originated in 1984 as a night market next to the Forbidden City in the heart of the tourist area. It’s known for its relatively high prices, which attract diners and native visitors who cannot resist walking around astonished, admiring its unique stalls of exotic snacks. While there are many restless globetrotters in the area, only the most adventurous will dare taste some of the food. Menus range from snake meat, silkworms, scorpion, caterpillars, beetles, and tarantulas, etc. All are fried, grilled, sautéed, or confit and then given on a stick ready to eat.