Sunday, August 05, 2007

Beijing - Extra Photos

There were a load of images sitting on my camera for the last month that I had not realised were still there, so it was a nice excuse to follow up the Beijing post with a few extra words and pictures.


LiQun Roast Duck restaurant - heart-stoppingly good

The first that is certainly worth talking about was LiQun roast duck. Quietly hiding down one of the 'HuTong' back streets facing imminent destruction, this unassuming place has hosted a flotilla of presidents, diplomats and statesmen in its chaotic surroundings. The number that have had severe heart problems after leaving is probably relatively high - never has such crispy, perfectly oily duck passed these lips ... and almost certainly never in this quantity.

Jade and I accompanied Pearl - a designer at Nokia in Beijing, who had been in the capital a few weeks. It was really an amazing insight to quiz her on the design scene here - fascinating.


Chefs up front, delicious ducky destruction behind


No Shit - No Shit!

LiQun is probably a fair reflection on the general type of food available in Beijing - immediately very tasty, dry, oily and in many cases spicy, it's delicious, but after a few days it does become rather too much and the incredible salt content ends up destroying your palette. Delicious, yes - but in moderation please, if only for the sake of my poor heart.

The second of the major extra locations I wanted to document for a moment was 798 - the art district that has semi-taken over an industrial zone, and substituted manufacturing units for art galleries and concept shops. It was really quite charming to see real steam emanating from the pipes around the installations, and the hipsters reflected off the windows of galleries hosting student exhibitions. The only thing, as ever here, was the background thrum of pollution resonating in the air - sadly even the books in the arts shop were all covered in a fine layer of dusty residue - a sad detail.


Making way for a new development


Cruising the streets


Hole in the wall


I am convinced I see Lenin imprinted in fabric of the wall


Pipe dreams - I kind of wonder if an artist was let loose on this


Nike + Industrial Art = Concept Shop


Mao's Jacket - amazing how iconic it has become


Stringing it together


Later in the day we were passing the Audi dealership, and obviously in a drive to increase the profile of the brand in China, they had imported the one-off 'Avus' concept from the 1990s, along with the new R8, S5 and a range of other tasty morsels. But the 'Avus' - I really think I saw this as a child at the Birmingham motor show. Certainly - very dramatic... but I would not like be the one to keep it looking shiny.


Web Gallery here:

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Beijing

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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