I arrived in Beijing night before last for the front end of a two-week stint in China. Yesterday I hired a driver and went to the nearby town of Mutianyu to see another section of the Great Wall. (When I visited Beijing earlier this year, I visited the Badaling section of the Wall.) Below are a few photos I snapped. The weather was hot and humid, but I persisted long enough to make it to the top of mountain visible in the rightmost photo.
Beijing is an interesting place. Very little English is spoken here, so if you go somewhere in a cab, you need to take a card with the name and address of your hotel written in Chinese or you may not get back. On the other hand, cabs are cheap. You can go across town (an hour’s drive) for about $10. Or you can hire a driver for the day for about $100.
Finding a place to eat can be a challenge because none of the signs are in English. (One exception: The big sign on the Wal-Mart Supercenter across the street from the Microsoft office.) On my last trip here, the folks at Microsoft recommended a restaurant to me and I spent an hour wandering up and down the street comparing the Chinese characters on a sheet of paper to the characters on the signs. Few restaurants offer English menus, so I only go to places with pictures on the menus. If you pick a dish without seeing what it looks like, you’re liable to end up with a bowl full of eels or worse.
Saturday it’s on to Shanghai, which is a lot more cosmopolitan than Beijing. I know of some good Thai restaurants in Shanghai and even a good pizzeria or two.
Tomorrow I get to introduce Silverlight to Microsoft developers here in Beijing. I can hardly wait; even ASP.NET AJAX has gotten a little old for me, but doing talks on Silverlight is an absolute blast. I love telling the story and seeing comprehension come over the audience. We’ll see if I can get the lights to come on in Beijing.
POSTSCRIPT: Last night I tried to leave a modest tip following a pleasant meal at a local restaurant. As I was leaving the restaurant, my waitress came running after me waving the tip in her hands. At first I thought I’d forgotten to sign the credit card slip or something; then I realized she thought I had accidentally left money on the table. I tried to tell her “it’s for you,” but she didn’t understand a word I was saying. I just smiled and walked away. I wonder what she did with the money? Maybe it’s in lost and found.