Ken’s Diligent Service in Beijing: Day 2

On arrival in Beijing, Henry informed me that he'd be having dinner with Nancy Berliner, so I'd be on my own for the evening. Nancy is the curator of Asian art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and has joined us here because part of WMF's joint project with the Palace Museum involves a touring exhibition of objects and interiors from the Qianlong Garden, which she'll curate.

Determined to reset my internal clock, I vowed to stay awake as long as I could, so set off toward Tiananmen Square, about a 20-minute walk from the hotel. It was even larger than I expected, with the giant, rosy-cheeked portrait of Chairman Mao smiling benevolently down on his subjects. After taking a few obligatory photos of stern-looking uniformed guards who all appeared to be about 14 years old, I headed back to the hotel, taking a detour down Wangfujing Xiaochijie, or “snack street.”

The snacks in question are basically anything that can be skewered and grilled, which—along with benign tofu and veggies—included centipedes, grubs, and scorpions that continued to wriggle until the moment they hit the brazier.

Okay, I'm a wimp and passed on the critters-on-a-stick, and ate back at the hotel. I also passed on several offers to be escorted to “nice lady bars,” whatever those might be. Now it's time for a good night's sleep before our first meeting at the Palace Museum first thing in the morning.