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April 06, 2007

Avoid the Display Pancakes at the Raffles Beijing

Day 29: For my last two nights in Beijing, I stayed at the Raffles Hotel, a big, colonial-style spread right on the main drag where Western business people like to stay in China so that they can forget they're in China. But the hotel has one thing going for it: breakfast. You can get whatever you want--porridge, bacon, fried rice, dumplings, eggs, noodles in broth, waffles. I opted for noodles and fried rice, for the simple reason that I wasn't interested in pretending that I wasn't in China. But then an unusual thing happened. I came down with a craving for pancakes, which, to be honest, isn't all that unusual.


It happened like this: I passed the pancake station and noticed a display plate with two exquisitely formed cakes dusted with icing sugar. I ordered some. I went back to my table, waited, but no pancakes. So I returned to the pancake station and there were my pancakes, exquisitely formed and dusted with icing sugar, waiting for me. I brought them back to my table and dug in, only to find that they were cold and chewy, with a hard, barely warm crust. I set the plate aside in disgust.

About forty seconds later, a waiter arrived with another plate of pancakes. "No, I've already had mine," I said, pointing at the rejected plate. He apologized and took both away. And it hit me: I ate the display plate.

Later that day, I did some laundry--which is to say, I put some shirts and underwear in a cotton sack and left it outside my door so that someone else could do laundry. Colonial-style living, I remarked to myself, isn't so bad. The prices seemed disgustingly high, especially for a city where a taxi across town doesnt cost more than $3. But when the laundry came back, it all seemed worth it. It had been folded by an undisputed master; each piece of underwear delicately wrapped into a perfect roll. Blown away by the presentation, it occurred to me that my underwear now looked too good to wear. The truth is, I had a mind to eat it. And they probably would have tasted better than those display pancakes, especially with a dusting of icing sugar.

Posted at N 39 54.451, E 116 24.158


Oh, how funny! And how like something I might have done.

Like the time I wasn't wearing my glasses, and leaned against actor Richard Boone, thinking he was a telephone pole.


Mark, I gather from your post that you are wearing boxers - correct? If so, can you tell us which kind you prefer? Are they 100% cotton?

How many pairs did you pack? Not 80, right?

AND... What about the Mongolians? Do they wear boxers or briefs or French boxers (I love those - very sexy).

Thanks for the insights.



This post was very funny. I can imagine the craving you must have had if you ate the display pancakes. I know the feeling of being away and wanting a familiar taste (maybe a bit of subconscious homesickness?), but I've found it much better to always try the local food first.

I'll remember that about the displayed food.(lol)and I am Lovin this...reading on

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