Thursday, April 1, 2010

Beijing Postcard Day 4 Around the Hotel Part 2 of 2

It's... that time of the week where we visit China! Continuing on Day 4 in Beijing around the hotel, see all posts on our China trip here.

After wandering off on his own for a bit, David returned to the hotel to find me feeling better. He told of his discoveries which got me all excited so we had a quick bite to eat and left exploring the neighborhood together.

Not far from the hotel a low-rise apartment, a typical style found throughout China. Various businesses occupied the shops at street level, hair salons, convenience stores, small eateries and so on.
Some residents prefer to shop at a fruit and vegetable store like this one.
Others prefer to buy direct from the farmers that drove their truck loads of produce into the Hutongs. This one was selling squash and shu choy. The lady in red did a fair bit of haggling before agreeing to the price, bargaining is a big part of Chinese life. A negotiating tip shared by a fellow traveller: show no interest in the product and start at 50%. We were uncomfortable with the idea at first but got used to it as we gained more confidence towards the later part of our trip.
Construction materials took up a corner of the sidewalk, were they building or tearing down? It seemed bricks were a commonly used item, we came across lots of them at just about every building site.
A home facing a small but busy street at Dongrongxian Hutong, the owner made great use of its compact yard. It housed a storage shed covered with potted greenery. At the very front, some piles of old and found bricks propped up a proud display of more plants.
A group of workers strolled by in the dimming light. We could smell dinner in the air as the locals headed home. In the foreground, some typical Hutong homes with curved roofs, just like the ones in the movies. At the end of the street a strange dome shaped building caught our eye, it seemed out of place. We headed towards it to investigate.
The National Centre for the Performing Arts, informally known as The Egg, was one of the most captivating buildings I ever saw. It looked like a star studded planet rising out of its surrounding waters. We were not the only ones that marvelled at its grand size and serene atmosphere, local tourists were capturing its quiet beauty with their cameras. Numerous residents were out for their evening strolls, chatting with one another and walking their dogs. It was a peaceful Autumn evening.
Along a quiet street, a group of cyclists rode by and rang their bells to warn pedestrians of their presence. The identically dressed men travelled in two lanes with even spaces between them. Employees from a nearby company perhaps? We wondered while we continued towards a distant glow.
The far-off lights turned out to be Tiananmen Square, we were surprised it was within walking distance from our hotel! At the square, a few topiaries resembling popular Beijing attractions were displayed. When we saw The Great Wall of China and Temple of Heaven, we smiled as we had already been there. Many locals and tourists were getting their pictures taken by entrepreneur photographers. For 10 RMB your photo could be ready in 10 minutes.
The nearby underground pass led us to the Beijing Subway, we rode the newly opened Line #5 which was extremely clean and modern, complete with safety sliding doors. Above the car doors a route map with an animated light that showed the next stop. A random stop took us to an area similar to Xidan where we browsed a shopping centre and ate a bento style dinner.
We returned to the hotel to finish 3 loads of laundry... Did I tell you there was a washing machine in our bathroom? It was the cutest little thing! I could not figure out the Chinese characters but the icons said it all. The dryer at the common laundry room cost 10 RMB per cycle, we were pleased to have clean clothes for the next few days.

The next morning we ate the bountiful breakfast one last time and left for the airport bus 15 minutes walk away, tickets cost 16 RMB. At the airport we reminisced about our Beijing days. It certainly was an exciting and delightful visit, Beijing was a great start to our China journey. We enjoyed some major attractions but my being sick gave us a chance to roam the neighborhood and experience the Chinese way of life.
I am signing off with a short video of Wangfujing, which we toured on our first night, click on the picture to play. It opens with a Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics store onwards to a night market lined with souvenir shops and street snacks of a different kind. An outdoor big screen TV showcases China's new trend that echoes Western ideals of brand name shoes, handbags and jewellery.

4 comments:

  1. this so interesting!

    thanks for sharing!!!

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  2. Great photos of street life. I especially like the fifth photo.

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  3. Can't wait to see where you're heading to next. It sucks being sick on vacation but at least you bounced back really quickly! Thanks for sharing.
    Ben

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  4. Great photos and i loved the story. That performing arts center really look magical.

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