Another Day in the Life of China
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October, 26 2009

*****Greetings from Beijing

*****Local Color

*****Off to Xi’an

Fellow Investor,

The food in China is on average, better than expected. Chicken, pork and beef are sauteed, fried, or steamed and cooked in a sauce that often is brown or includes garlic and chili. It's not advisable to eat raw fruit or vegetables, which has eliminated salad from my diet. Contrary to warnings I received, they do have sweet and sour sauce, although the preparation is a little different.

Our meal at Courtyard did not disappoint. The highly rated restaurant is beautiful, with coi ponds and beautiful decorations. The food was the best Chinese I've ever had. We avoided the more unusual items such as the shark fin. Dinner included conch with asparagus in garlic and spicy chili sauce, a crispy half chicken, premium beef with spice rub and noodles, and sautéed spinach.

Including local beer and imported wine, the meal came to 1,030 RMB, or $140. For China, this is very expensive; when you consider that a very nice meal for two typically runs 350 to 450 RMB. However, a similar meal in Washington, D.C. or New York City would have cost double, and we walked away full and happy.

My wife Carrie and I enjoy eating Asian food as much as the next non-Asian. We typically have sushi a couple times a month and cook in the wok at home occasionally. But Chinese food twice a day? Not for me. Unlike Italian, which I am happy eating at every meal, I need an occasional break.

*****Last night we headed to the Ritz Carlton Cepe Italian restaurant, where we shared linguini with "Boston lobster." The lobster was displayed live at our table, which is a testament to the forces of globalization. I indulged in the arugula as well, thinking that at the Ritz, they've probably mastered cleaning vegetables for their western guests. The meal provided a much needed break. Apparently the Ritz prices are inflated around the world - $200 to $300 is the going rate for dinner for two with drinks, whether in Boston or Beijing.

*****There are over 100 dialects in China, and only 50 percent of the population can speak Mandarin, although they can all understand the language. Our guide Andy is from Beijing and speaks Mandarin, but says that even some people from Shanghai have a different dialect that he can't understand. Typically it's the older people who speak the local dialects, with younger people speaking Mandarin.

Children are now learning English early in school, but most Chinese that I've run into don't speak our language. Andy speaks very good English, although some words like Volvo sound like Wowo when he pronounces them - but by and large, our communication has been great. Meanwhile, our driver Mr. Chan speaks very little English, and I'm not sure he understands much of what we say.

Mr. Chan was shocked when I told him that our small province of Vermont (province is what they call states over here) had only 500k people. When Andy translated this for him, he laughed and told Andy that he is bad with numbers and I must have said 5 million. I told him our state was roughly 200 miles by 100 miles, which I was told is the same size as Beijing, which has nearly 20 million people. Andy and Mr. Chan thought it was funny that two well off Americans would live in a small town with only a couple thousand people.

When I told him our town has no police, he asked if we didn't need them because we all had guns. I responded by telling him I wasn't an NRA member, yet. Both of them found it to be hilarious when I told them that our town has a volunteer fire department. And when there is a fire, someone calls the volunteers, who go to the station to get the fire engine, and then go to put out the fire. In China, things just don't work this way, even in the rural areas.

Our guide has been excellent, and the driver talented at avoiding a couple close calls on the one and a half hour drive to the Great Wall.

The Great Wall was the most impressive of the sites we saw during our stay in Beijing. We visited an area further out from the city to avoid the crowds, although there were still a handful of tour buses.

Other sites during our Beijing visit have included the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and the Olympic stadium.

Now we're off to Xi'an (where China Natural Gas (Nasdaq:CHNG) is located) to meet up with my brother and see the Terracotta Army, which guards the first emperor's tomb.

More from Xi'an later, and I’ll pick up on what’s going in the U.S. stock market, too...

Until tomorrow,

Ian Wyatt

Daily Profit


Posted 10-26-2009 1:46 PM by Ian Wyatt
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