We arrived at the lamasery after lunch. It was spectacular: shrine after shrine, each one housing a bigger, more impressive buddha than the last. Jaw-dropping paintings, decorative art, incense, sand sculptures; the place was awash with people and yet also peaceful.
From the peace of the temple to the throngs of the market place; we descended from Nirvana to the depths of the black market.
Spread over multiple floors, we perused everything from trainers and handbags, to tea and gadgets. Sellers caterwauled from every stall. This was shopping at its most aggressive. Bartering was the order of the day with prices dropping from 800 Yuan to 100 Yuan on a single item.
It was exhausting, fun and probably quite vile. I felt like I had slipped from a higher consciousness to a lack of conscience. And yet my new gold converse feel rather comforting on my tired feet.
By dinner time, we were still shopping and really still quite full from lunch, so it wasn’t until very late that we started looking for a restaurant in earnest. The place we found was on a tiny hutong, east of the drum tower called Mr Shi (pronounced ‘sher’). It was really not the most salubrious location but having had a good experience with our lunchtime restaurant, we felt it was worth a go.
Inside was chaotic and frankly filthy (motorcycles parked next to tables, sticky tables and chairs etc), but that wasn’t going to stop us. Mr Shi is famous for his dumplings, so we ordered three kinds: pork and pepper, beef and carrot, egg and leek.
Mr Shi invited me to come into the kitchen and have a go at making some of the fried dumplings. I obliged, of course.
On the side, we ordered 1000 year old eggs, cucumber and garlic salad, and crispy fried green beans with Sezchuan pepper. Absolutely, utterly scrumptious.
As well as the delicious food, Mr Shi was hilarious. We laughed and giggled all the way through our meal and didn’t stop over the long walk back.