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Although I am the final member of my family to visit Beijing – I mean really! – I have finally made the jump; after spending a few days in Shanghai on business, and spending some time with Anke & Lars, I flew up to meet Jade and finally get myself acquainted with the ‘Northern Capital’.

I don’t know exactly what I expected, but I somehow think it was a little different to what I have seen so far. I knew it was going to be big – but not quite so WIDE. 8 lanes, wherever you go, it seems, and it has this distinct feel in my eyes of Brussels, but on some kind of massive scale. And with a couple billion more Chinese people I guess. And it sound like a stupid thing to say, but it really feels like a city that has been here for a while already. Just in the same way that Japanese or European cities have that understated confidence.

The people here are pretty friendly so far. Nicer than Shanghai which seems to attract arseholes from all the different regions of China. I also really like the way they talk with what sounds like a bee in their mouth. It makes understanding them really quite difficult, but some of them understand that foreigners can’t follow the buzzing noises. I have been complimented a couple of times on my Chinese, but I suspect that is because it is obvious I have a ‘foreign’ accent – the longer you stay in Taiwan, and the better you get, the less people seem impressed. So I have to take this with a pinch of Salt.

What makes Shanghai cool, in my opinion, is a bunch of foreigners opening cool places. Beijing, on the other hand, is cool because it is Chinese people opening these places, driving the music scene and pushing the boundaries.

In fact – tonight was super. I headed out (in the middle of the second biggest electrical storm of my life) and after an age managed to secure a seat in a taxi heading to SanLiTun. All it said on the map was ‘Bar Street’, so I was a little surprised that there was this amazingly little row of indy bars, wach sporting a singing act. I rolled up, had some food and beers and after an hour or so of listening, got chatting to the singer. We talked about music in Taiwan and China and Japan and Europe, and it was a really fascinating just to talk. He gave me a bunch of cooler places to go. And so it is.

Shanghai, I think, is probably world class if you fancy getting yourself drunk, congratulating yourself that you followed the gold rush to China, and perhaps picking up an STD. But on impressions so far, I am more taken with this place.

More coherent posts to come, I hope. And Jade arrives tomorrow!

My first pot of tea in Beijing – which turned out to be Soy Sauce

A couple contemplate things in BeiHai

The Wall

The capacity for Chinese to sleep anywhere is peerless, but at least here they chose a nice location to install themselves for a sunny afternoon

A guy practicing his calligraphy with water – which of course evaporates… rather beautiful, I thought

The local barber watches the MaZhong game while waiting for his next customer

The day after Jade joined me, we headed straight out for the Great Wall at MuTianDi. We arrived pretty early to avoid waves of crowds and heat, and it paid off… and just check out the seller hauling his loads up the hill in the background

Life thru a lens

This charming chappie was the guy shouldering the drinks and food over the great wall – the prices were pretty extortionate, but he was so friendly and dashing that I simply had to patronise him

The watchtower

Stretching into the distance – it really is the most amazing, crazy construction. I can very well see why the Chinese are proud of it, appearing like an English castle that has been straightened out like a roll of tape over the hills

The Forbidden City – These urns were filled with water, and small fires were even lit under them in the winter to keep them liquid. In the event of fire, these were then available to smother any flames

Jade struts her stuff

Secret garden

Beige is not an option

The immense crowds that made the experience rather tiring. And although it sounds rather gloating to say it, after seeing Kyoto, the immense, unsubtle scale of the Forbidden City is pretty intimidating – though a perfect match for the inhuman proportions of Beijing

Some higher res images here, too:

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