Daily Archives: June 12, 2013

The Director’s Cut

As we wind down our Beijing Experiences, here are a few photos that made the director’s cut only.

What could this be for, do you think?

What could this be for, do you think? Take a WILD guess.

I took this 15 minutes after we took off from Beijing. 7 of the 8 people in these two rows were already asleep and basically slept the entire way home. It is amazing to us where the Chinese can sleep.

I took this 15 minutes after we took off from Beijing. 7 of the 8 people in these two rows next to us were already asleep and basically slept the entire way home. It is amazing to us where and how quickly the Chinese can fall sleep.

I know you will find this difficult to believe - but this guy is asleep as well.

I know you will find this difficult to believe – but this guy is asleep as well.

These lovely red velour chairs are seats for a bar, but taken out of the rain. Just down the way there were purple ones just like them. Lovely.

These lovely red velour seats for a bar, but taken in out of the rain. Just down the way there were purple ones just like them. Lovely.

Our hotel adjoined this one - The Beijing Hotel. People spoke of it with reverence - "It is a government hotel". There wasn't a time that we walked by that someone wasn't taking a picture of someone else standing in front. So ....

Our hotel adjoined this one – The Beijing Hotel. People spoke of it with reverence – “It is a GOVERNMENT hotel”. There wasn’t a time that we walked by that someone wasn’t taking a picture of someone else standing in front. So ….

I think it is supposed to be a knock off of "Clark's" - but who knows.

I think it is supposed to be a knock-off of “Clark’s” – but who knows.

Now, I am all for garnish on a blueberry danish - but parsley?

Now, I am all for garnish on a blueberry danish – but parsley?

"Hospital of Femoral Head" - just what the hell has to be wrong with you to wind up here?

“Hospital of Femoral Head” – just what the hell has to be wrong with you to wind up here?

This building is at the entrance to the airport. I wonder if something is lost in the translation?

This building is at the entrance to the airport. I wonder if something is lost in the translation?

And on our way home…

We have tried all year to get the photo of the Baldor factory - but it is hard as the train goes by at 300 km/hr. Finally, however, here it is - top right corner! Hi Terry and Beth.

We have tried all year to get the photo of the Baldor factory just outside Shanghai – but it is hard as the train goes by at 300 km/hr. Finally, however, here it is – top right corner, yellow rectangle! Hi Terry and Beth.

And once we were back in Jiaxing…

All the staff received a box of lichee fruit yesterday. The interior of the container is 18" x 12" x 4". Thank goodness we got them to stop giving us 2 of everything!

All the staff received a box of lichee fruit yesterday. The interior of the container is 18″ x 12″ x 4″. Thank goodness we got them to stop giving us 2 of everything!

Finally…

Just where did YOUR mind go?

Just where did YOUR mind go?

Beijing Bird Nest and more

By the time we got back from our sodden trip to the Great Wall, the rain had stopped falling.  After hot showers and a nap, we walked 3.4km to The Silk Market, the Beijing version of a knock-off mall.  Much nicer than those in Shanghai–very clean, glass-enclosed shops monitored by video camera, making it a hazard for shop owners to pursue would-be clients out of the shops ( a regular occurrence in Shanghai). We spent a bit of money, walked back the 3.4 km and pondered the differences between Shanghai and Beijing, China’s two biggest cities (at the moment.)

Shanghai is a busy,  multi-ethnic, hip, happening place.  It ‘s architecture is endlessly fascinating, and not just in Pudong.  Take a cab anywhere and you can see a variety of building styles, cheek by jowl, but with space in between.  Today I noticed that many of the buildings are curved or in some way, divergent from rectangular, as if it is a crime to build regularly shaped structures.   There are still many 5 or 6 storey walk-ups, interspersed with stately old homes and modern buildings.  Look up at the skyline and you’ll see pencil points, turrets, pagodas, crowns, pearls, gilt domes and bottle openers.  In the French Concession, stately old French-style mansions still exist along tree-lined streets and lanes.  It’s a wonderful clutter of styles.

In Beijing, our overwhelming impression of the architecture was that things were built to impose:  along the 12-lane Chang An Lu, the buildings are squat, heavy, linear affairs of no more than 18 or 20 storeys, largely lacking in points of interest.  Even their more adventurous buildings give the impression of  somewhat dour bulk.  No walls of video or flashing lights here.  The Museum of Natural History is off-putting–the thought of that much “natural history” was decidedly uninviting:  the staid-looking building is nearly a block long.  Many more traditional-style buildings remain in Beijing, whereas all but Yu Yuan Gardens in Shanghai’s were razed during The Cultural Revolution.  The hutongs or alleyway neighbourhoods in Beijing also differ from those in Shanghai.  They are enclosed in walls and structured around ancient rules regarding the four directions.  Streets of all sizes are tree-lined, shady and lovely and there are many small lakes designed for relaxation and a slowness of pace.    A visit to the Houhai neighbourhood gave us a taste of local cuisine, hutong insights garnered  from a pedi-Tuk-Tuk, and a vision of the pedi-boats to be rented on a clear day  Nice, but hip and happening, no, although the bar scene looked like promising, judging from the plethora of velour-covered banquets.  Beijing takes itself seriously, as the home of the government must.  Cabs don’t honk, drivers obey traffic signs and pedestrians wait for signals.  All very correct. (Ed. note: One of the things which really stood out to us was that Shanghai’s women are FAR more sophisticated than Beijing women. Even Jiaxing women match the Beijing women. )

Our pedi-rickshaw driver was quite a card.

Our pedi-rickshaw driver was quite a card.

The lake was quite lovely - and in the sun would have been quite the place.

The lake was quite lovely – and in the sun would have been quite the place.

A different view of the lake.

A different view of the lake.

Residences along the hutong.

Residences along the hutong.

This tour was very obnoxious - they come in to a small, enlcosed area and if the guide isn't yelling through their mike, the people are yelling at each other (likely "Look at the foreigners").

This tour was very obnoxious – they come in to a small, enclosed area and if the guide isn’t yelling through their mike, the people are yelling at each other (likely “Look at the foreigners”).

(Ed. note: For the sake of accuracy and journalistic integrity, the 5 preceding photos were actually taken on Friday, the day we visited The Forbidden City, and not after we went to The Great Wall.)

On our last night, we decided we really had to try Peking Duck.  Officially, it is now supposed to be called Beijing Duck but somehow it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  After reading the Lonely Planet guide book (thanks, Michael and Barb), we decided on Dadong, where the duck is purported to be 43.5% leaner than others.  Pretty exacting numbers, we thought, and decided to give it a shot.  We asked the concierge to call us a cab but instead, he directed us to a new Dadong a block away, just off Wangfujing Lu, a pedestrian shopping street.  WOW!  It was an average-looking sort of restaurant with pretensions to modernity, but the food was simply amazing.  Of course we ordered the duck immediately upon seating, as it takes some time to prepare.  Then, we started with duck pate, enough for 4 people at least.  Really really good.  Then sauteed eggplant with about 20 garlic cloves and a wonderful sauce.  Again, amazing.  We weren’t expecting fried rice noodles with osmanthes to be anything special but it was fantastic!  First the accoutrements, then the duck finally arrived.  It is hard to describe how delicious this was.  The skin was crisp and razor-thin, and dipped in sugar, it literally melted in your mouth.  The duck meat was unbelievable–so lean, moist and delicious!  The finale was  fresh lichee, still on the branch, set in bubbling dry ice.  Too much wine and a few scotch for Geoff and the meal was perfect!  No question it was the best meal we have had in China.  Cost?  $150 and worth every penny.

More rain greeted us on our last day so we rented a private cab to take us out to the Bird Nest, then on to the airport.  We all saw this structure during the 2008 Olympics, and it still has the power to inspire.  The beams that make up the ‘nest’ are huge– Geoff stood in the picture for perspective –with lots of odd angles that make for lots of dusty ledges, very difficult to clean.  It is, nonetheless, a wonderful stadium, still in use.

The Bird Nest from afar - sort of. We are in the Olympic Park.

The Bird Nest from afar – sort of. We are in the Olympic Park.

Look at me - I can stand on one foot!

Look at me – I can stand on one foot!

I am sooooooo tiny!!

I am sooooooo tiny!!

Because of the weather, we didn’t bother with the Summer Palace or the Temple of Heaven, but we enjoyed our quick view of the capital just the same.