Pre-lowering expectations:

Clumsy. It’s our second trip that we started with fast food, and the king size coke was too huge to finish so I was like “Auste, can you pour it into the bottle coz I’m gonna spill it”. With concentration on her face she performed an outstanding operation and didn’t spill a drop. So while I was grabbing a straw on the table, I knocked over the bottle and spilled half the coke! Time to go…

After our veggie burger meal we were about to get a coffee, and I saw this right between Cafe Ritazza and Mister Donut with all the people walking to their gates. It was so quick and efficient that Auste and many others didn’t even seem to notice. A mum was holding a see-through plastic bag and a little boy had his pants down and was just peeing into the bag. He finished, pulled up his pants, and they went their ways. I was like “C’mon, we’re not even in China yet!” At this point, we lowered our expectations about China even more because we heard lots of not-so-good stereotypes like this. From experience in Asia, we didn’t expect ANY Beijing vegetarian restaurant to be good!

One of the reasons for our lowered expectations of China, is the Chinese vegetarian food in Thailand – it is so awful that we thought we would pretty much starve here. So we packed 6 kg of snacks. That’s right. 6 kg of food from Bangkok. It was rather funny to wait for our checked in “luggage” once we landed, as it was a tiny backpack full of just food, rolling on a huge conveyer belt.

Take full advantage of airline food:

This wasn’t the first time we were flying with Hong Kong airlines and, learning from our mistakes, before this trip we rung the Hong Kong airlines directly to check if any of our flights included meals. And even though our Expedia booking didn’t mention a thing, both flights had complimentary food! Of course by default the standard meals were reserved for us, but we asked the advisor to change them to vegetarian. The flight was amazing and we were served hot grilled vegetable sandwiches with cold beer!

We tried entertainment on the screen but we were too sleepy. Next thing we knew we had to catch our connection. Tip: leave plenty of time for all the gate searching etc in Hong Kong, as you will likely have to take the shuttle train to get to the right section of the airport. We’re not even in China yet, but we already can’t stand how loud and clueless everyone is, lunaticking inside the Hong Kong airport. Another tasty veggie stew and 3 hours later we landed in China.

We’re here:

The first odd thing I noticed that the toilets in the arrivals area stunk of cigarette smoke! The airport and the express train were super easy, we just followed the signs, bought two single tickets, saw a train, jumped in, and only then checked if we were on the right one – yay! We thought we’d better enjoy the English announcements while we can. Finding the hostel was easy thanks to “” app. It was also very comfortable, with free wi-fi, which for beginners in China is so limited, because IG, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Youtube, Yahoo and pretty much everything else you use to connect to everyone on the internet… doesn’t work! The receptionist showed me how to use the Bing maps in Chinese, but I gave up there and then.

Ordering food experience:

We figured that in Beijing, downtown Beijing to be more precise, close to the metro, served by young people, we would communicate in English. No, no, no. We showed them our comprehensive vegetarian card, they understood, and gave us a Chinese menu (with no pictures). From our expressions they instantly understood that giving the menu to us is like giving a dollar bill to a fish. Then they glued their eyes to their phones for a good few minutes, where I thought, perhaps they aren’t looking for food images or something to help us out, perhaps they’re just checking their phones..?

Luckily they WERE willing to help us out, in fact they were so keen that they translated every vegetable in the menu! So we sat down, of course having no idea whether the vegetables were cooked, raw, whether we ordered one plate each, if they came with rice, and so on. Then one lady showed a translated sentence on her phone “What do you need?” – we were both like, we just ordered the vegetables, what do you mean what do we need? Out of despair I pulled my “eating noodles” expression and they understood. Next thing… she shows us a translation with “What do you need?” again… We were completely lost, but we kind of guessed they probably meant if we needed anything else – and acting out a “No, thanks” seemed to work. The order was done, but we still had no idea of what was coming.

One man brought the coal, another brought the grill… Okay, so Korean barbeque it is! Man, this doesn’t seem to end! Being vegetarians we never really had this experience in Thailand, and now we sat there with the grill, clueless faces, and a camera. So we were just taking pictures of the grill. Now this we didn’t expect: the lady came back with her phone showing “Can you use chopsticks?” – we must have looked pretty bad. When the food arrived I was still taking pictures waiting for the grill to get hot, and apparently it was hot so the lady started putting everything on – were we supposed to do it ourselves? Throughout our time there she grilled everything for us, filling our plates with stuff that was ready. We were glad she did so, as we possibly would have burned half the ingredients.

Next awkward part: we had a bowl each, and they brought some soy sauce, cold noodles and two glasses of hot water. We thought finally we can do something ourselves, even though the combination looked weird, we were going to mix the hot water with soy sauce and the noodles – voila. If we weren’t baby-sitted by our waitress, we would have ended up on Chinese comedy show. So apparently you need to grill the noodles and just splash soy sauce over them. The hot water remains a mystery…

All the veggies and noodles we had there were absolutely gorgeous. In fact, it was one of the tastiest meals we had in a while. And what an experience! I guess the moral of the story is… HAVE A NOTE! Ask information, reception, or any friends to write EXACTLY what you can, and cannot eat, ingredients, example dishes, special diet, way of cooking, etc. Google is not an option. People have their own ways, and it’s hard for them to guess what these weird foreigners might want.