In the past few days, I have been milking the same cow – being taken out for lunch and dinner in the name of my birthday.
The best part was my stay on Tuesday at Dong Fang Hotel, a historical hotel southwest of Jianmen, by my lovely friend Tara.
In the end of January this year, I have discovered, to my delight, this highly interesting hotel. Beijing boasts plenty of luxurious or modern hotels but hardly any old hotel with characters, my favorite type. Built in 1918, Dong Fang was China’s first luxurious hotel. At that time, the concept of urban planning was just being introduced. And the hotel was very much at the heart of the New Culture Movement and many front runners of the movement as well as China’s most famous literates, like Lu Xun, Cai Yuanpei, Lao She, Ba Jin, all stayed here at different times.
When I wrote a blog about this hotel, I mentioned that I’d like to spend one night here. My thoughtful friend Tara decided to fulfill my wish – as my birthday treat. Australian Tara is one of the most creative people I ever know. Though trained as a lawyer, she has produced and directed films and documentaries and written scripts. Her head, under her lovely blond curls, full of interesting and original ideas, she has been very helpful in providing suggestions to my troubled novel. I felt indebted to her, even before this hotel stay treat.
Tara also invited her writing partner, a dynamic English lady Juliet to come along. We check into the best room, a suite where general Bai Congxi once stayed. After that, we had a hearty meal at a down-to-earth restaurant just across the street, followed by drinks at the hotel’s bar. Though the bar is interesting enough with period features and pictures of famous people and events, we preferred to sit outside as the evening was gentle and temperature perfect. We have a saying in Chinese: “When three women get together, they stay a play.” We certainly did.
Returning to our suite, with child-like delight, we examined our antique furniture, the old style calendar decorated with cheongsam-clad beauties and the calligraphy set and such. Lying in the massive bed, we three enjoyed the leeches I brought as our middle night feast.
The next day, we walked around the old part of the wing and checked out the board outside many of the rooms which explained which celebrities stayed here and their brief life stories. I shared with the two ladies what I know about these influential people.
It was a very memorable stay.
It was a bit of luxury to get away like this in the middle of a week day. Sometimes I do feel slightly guilty that I have such a pleasurable life and I don’t work that hard. But I loved every minute of my night out with Tara and Juliet. In a long run, I think spending quality time with people much smarter than me is beneficial. Besides I’ve long made a point that to live an interesting and rich life is far more important than to achieve highly.