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Dinner on Houhai Lake

April 18, 2004

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Thanks to a tip from Calum, an expat we met at the hotel, we had a fantastic last evening in Beijing, wandering along the shore of Houhai lake, stopping in for a drink on the rooftop of one of dozens of new bars popping up there, then heading over to Kaorouji restaurant to order some great food. At 7, our boatman paddled up to the dock and a waiter carried our ginger beef and cashew chicken out to the boat. We settled in for a twilight ride, under swooping bats, serenaded by the gentle music of Chinese lutes and harps wafting over from passing boats, our ride lit by dozens of tiny paper boats each lit by a candle. We'd heard about this boats from Calum, but we hadn't been able to bridge the language barrier with the boatman enough to ask about them.

As our ride neared its end, I began to gather up the items on the boat's narrow table. One bag appeared to contain folded red napkins, and a collection of 20 or so small discs, that might have been after-dinner candies. I popped one in my mouth to sample. "Mmm... tastes like ... wax .... it's the candles!" The 'napkins' were the paper boats, folded. We scrambled to light a few candles with the lighter also provided in the baggies, and got about four off on their way before we made it to the dock, bringing the rest home for a celebration later this summer.

Can't think of a better way to say good-bye to China than this timeless experience in old Peking.