I got back from Beijing last week. It was a delightful trip, very refreshing and even surprising. I stayed with my best friend, Beccy, who's been living there for 3 months now, and she is loving it!
It took me a bit of time to get used to Beijing, it was a little frightening at first - the number of people, the roads, how much the city is developing, the way people interact with each other, the amount of foreigners living there, the types of transportation...it was all initially a little overwhelming and surreal.
But it soon all became rather fascinating. The city surprised me. It changed big time since I was last there as a kid. I remember the last time I was in Beijing, the locals would be so amazed by anyone with blond hair and go up and ask to take photos with them. They saw the blond hair as a symbol of gold/luck/wealth, and would swarm towards all my little blond classmates. Now, there are blondies all over the city, and no one asks to photograph them. Blond isn't in anymore.
I was surprised by how international Beijing felt now, and how many Europeans and Westerners were living and studying there. I spent my time there with a rather entertaining, raucous and great group of people from Italy, US, Switzerland, Sweden, UK, Tokyo & Indonesia. Good times..
But despite all these changes, Beijing still maintains the amazingly rich Chinese culture, architecture, rituals and traditions and everyday ways of life. Yes, on the street you see some sweet cars, but they have not forgotten about their more traditional means of transportation:
Bicycles! they have the normal kinds, the heavy duty kinds...
and the really HOT rides too:
Oh, and one cannot forget the MAO MOBILES!!!!!! LOVE IT!
I still saw a lot of Hu Tongs, which are the traditional homes in little alley ways, and they are gorgeous! So quiet and quaint.
the public latrines in the alley ways need a bit of work though..
And there's so much done to maintain old temples and historic sites. We went to the Confucian temple which was gorgeous and so green.
Here's Confuscious. Good man.
The Confucian scriptures were all carved in to stone tablets during his time, and there's a variety of these monumental stone pieces at the temple:
And of course, no temple would be complete without the giant drum and bell.
It was a very quiet and calm at this temple, and we were really loving the openness and trees all around. Look how tiny I look:
Lot's of parks in Beijing too...
Here's a view of the Forbidden City from a nearby park. We were on top of a pagoda looking down at the city.
Food in Beijing was good...as long as it wasn't local. The snake was a tad dry for my liking.
PSYCHE!! The friendly "meat-on-a-stick" seller man let me pose with the snake-on-a-stick. There was such a range of meat...silkworm, kidneys, testes, grasshoppers. YUM!
And then...the art scene! This was surprising too. I discovered there is even more happening in Beijing than even HK. And artists have wonderful spaces to work in. A lot of artits in Beijing have settled right outside the city in villages, where there's a lot of space and nature, and they have spacious studios, and wonderful gallery spaces are coming up in these areas. There are great big courtyards with artist's studios and galleries around, and public sculpture is popular in these villages.
One of the spaces I went to see, called the Three Shadows Photography Centre, was a beautiful grey brick building, with lots of outdoor space for screenings and performances.
This centre has 2 huge gallery spaces and the largest photography library in China. It was so exciting to see a space like this, with darkroom and large printing facilities, and the people who work there are really enthusiastic about reaching out to artists, as well as providing a great platform for artists to exhibit and work from. They even have a very appealing residency program.
Penn photo people...if you end up going to Beijing in March, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with what's happening in this town!
There is so much more to this city, and I definitely know I'll be going back. But I am happy with the little taste I got of China..it was definitely refreshing.
This week Beccy comes to HK!! More adventures to come..