Archive for April, 2011

[Photo Essay] Xingcheng, China: Old City Walls

Many of you may not have heard of Xingcheng in Liaoning Province and its no surprise with so many destinations to go in China, this country level city witnesses minimal amounts of foreign visitors. Just a 7 hour train ride away from Beijing, its the perfect destination to spend one of the days over the weekend to get away from Beijing. Xingcheng has two highlights of which being one of the best preserved Ming Dynasty town and city wall in China. as well as a beach resort facing the Bohai Sea. This photo essay is my perspective on this city as I hiked along the city wall and peeked into the local peoples daily lives.

Xingchengs city walls have stood since they were first constructed in 1428. A good lap around the wall took about 2 hours to complete. As you can see, the weather was inconsistent, as it rained and stopped raining followed by sunlight upon my visit. (50RMB entrance 25RMB with student card).

Gucheng(Old City) Subdistrict is home to about 100,000 residents most of which were toddlers and older people. The youth in the city seems to have relocated to larger cities for better job opportunities.

You can see the Gulou(Drum Tower) in the middle of the old city. The roads that go through the drum tower are filled mostly with commercial shops(mainly toy shops and accesories). Dont plan to find any restaurants in the old city as I found none.

Along each gate on the north, south, east, and west sides were small markets that consisted of daily products and animals.

Looking east from the old city. The Train station is only about a 3RMB tuk tuk ride away from here. The buildings outside the old city tend to be much higher and newer.

A man talks on his phone along the city wall.

The watch tower on the east end of the wall.

Man walks by a deserted building.

Sneak peak from the west to the east side of the wall.

Rooftops of old city housings.

Most of the courtyards were used as storage for scrubs and other random materials.

Man bikes along the wall.

Mother and daughter are having a conversation.

Man rests along the wall taking a break from his work.

You could see flowers along the front door in most of the residencies in the old city.

A woman walks along the wall. I really like the yellow bricks with the green door.

A new shopping facility is in construction.

The other highlight in Xingcheng is the beach. Creatively, the beaches are named by numbers #1,#2, and #3. You can hope on bus #1 from the old city and get off at the last stop. This statue of the Chrysanthemum goddess welcomes you in.

Xingcheng is really pushing its beaches to become a commercial beach like in Beidahe but seems like they have much more work to do. The sea food was suppose to be famous but I only managed to find a handful.

The sand at Xingcheng Beach was really soft and was perfect to be lazy and stare at the Bohai Sea.

Xingcheng Train Station. A midway stop for trains going from Beijing to Dalian and for most trains coming from north-eastern China to the south.

[Photo Essay] Xidan: Happy Shopping

The Xidan commercial district in Xicheng District is a booming area for shopping lovers and Chinese consumers. Compared to the shoppers who go to the newer Sanlitun area, Xidan attracts younger shoppers from around Beijing and other regions in China. Xidan, having its roots from the Ming dynasty was a venue for visitors entering Beijing from the southwest part of the city and gradually developed into one of the largest merchant areas of Beijing. Today, Xidan is a symbol of Chinese consumption and a popular hangout place for Chinese couples and families all week long.

Coming out of Beijing Subway Line 1, Xidan Station, you run straight into Cultural Square. The fountain show takes place every afternoon until dark.

People await the fountain show as they take a breather from work. You can see all sorts of people here at Cultural Square.

Fountain show begins. Looking at cultural square from the north-end.

Xidan commerical district combines multiple department stores from China and Taiwan. If you cant find what youre looking for in Xidan, then you probably wont have any luck anywhere else in China.

As it gets darker, workers who get off work come out to have dinner and day-time shoppers start to head back home. You can see the newest Apple store in Beijng in this image. The Apple store continues to be a popular destination in Xidan along with new additions of Burger King, ZARA and H&M.

These bridges make it easy for consumers to go from one department store to another.

Xidan at sunset.

Another day is over in Xidan as the lights go on at Cultural Square.

[Photos] Jumping Around the Forbidden City

[Photo Essay] 798 Art District During Blue Hour

Beijing may not have the flash of Shanghais bund view and skyline but 798 Art District is Chinas answer to Greenwich Village and SOHO in New York. This art zone is a thriving artistic community that attracts artists and visitors from in and out of China. Located in Dashanzi of Chaoyang District, Beijing, this art district and its galleries thrives among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings, making it interesting to look at the archetecture. This photo essay takes a look at 798 Art District during blue hour, which refers to the period at twilight in the morning and evening where there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness.

6:30pm: Man walks by a dinosaur exhibit. Visitors can interact with public art throughout the entire art zone.

6:45pm: It is starting to get darker but on the bright-side, its only during this time that one can enjoy a moment with the artwork since daytime is always crowded with visitors.

6:50pm: The outlines of this cage-exhibit is seen in contrast to the blue hour-sky.

7:00pm: One of the main galleries, 798 Space Gallery, is seen in this image.

7:15pm: This artwork is titled "Man at Work". Sky is completely blue at this moment.

8:00pm: One of the sub-factories at 798 art district is seen next to an old railroad.

[Photo Essay] Panshan: AAAA Scenic Spot

Panshan, or the first mountain east of Beijing is a AAAA Scenic Area located in the outskirts of Tianjin. From the many guidebooks one can read reviews about Panshan such as "Mount Panshan is covered with lavish plantations and has a rich historical heritage...It is famous for jade pine trees, strange and astonishing peaks, clear waters, grotesquely shaped rocks and clusters of ancient temples". Since there are not too many mountains in Beijing, it seems like an attractive location to hike and enjoy some clean air. But to me, it was just a confused scenic area with really not too much to offer to be labeled as one of top 15 mountains in China. Note: this photo essay only contains images of what I personally saw and may not reflect experiences of others.

Panshan is located 88 kilometers north-east from central Beijing. On the bus you can see very quickly that 1 hour away from Beijing is quite a different place. A nuclear power plant is seen from the bus.

Old man awaits visitors at the bus stop at the outskirts of Panshan scenic area. Construction continues in this area as you can see in this image. Be ready to be stormed by tens of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers as they are the only way to get to the Panshan scenic area if you are going there on your own. Tuk-tuk driver's will tell you that they won't be able to drive you up to the main entrance since their engines aren't capable of climbing up hill.

Engrish isn't just a problem for Panshan but this was right in the entrance of the park. Not too many foreign visitors were to be seen so there's no need to change the sign but "Footwall of water" always wins. I agree with the direct translation of the Chinese characters.

This was the best part of the park. Although the air was comparable to Beijing, the pine trees along the road were enjoyable and nice to look at until a park shuttle bus driver and black taxi drivers honk past you letting you know that he exists and will be passing you.  Continued renovation since the 1990s make it easier for Chinese families to visit by their own cars. 

View from Panshan looking south. New developments are still being made.

The newly built hotels have a middle eastern feel to it as you can also see a housing community in the back ground. I was confused if Panshan was just nice to look at or the scenery looking from Panshan is nice as I took this image.

More development projects to be completed in Panshan to attract more visitors.

A dam at Panshan. Nothing more nothing less.

These ducks could be heard from miles away.

This was unexpected on my part but I had to come away with a photo. According to the taxi driver, this sculpture has roots from one of the episodes from "Journey to the West". Panshan has over 70 temples within the scenic area (most were sadly destroyed but the Japanese army during WW2) but I just don't think it has the infrastructure ready to be labeled as a AAAA scenic area from my visit. It would be interesting to see how much has changed in a couple of years just like every city in China as it goes through its transformation.

Make sure you take a look at my other Photo Essays by clicking here.

[Photos] Construction Around Nanluoguxiang

Living in China is definitely one of the best choices I have made thus far in my life. Coming from a Japanese background and heavily influenced by American culture, China is the perfect place for me to play around with my lost roots and observe and feel what Japanese people have lost over the years through the daily activities of the Chinese people whom I witness. But just like every corner of the world, income gap prevails and is seen in Beijing. Behind the blue construction fences are migrant workers working day and night while the rest enjoy their shopping along side Nanluoguxiang. Photo taken at the south gate of Nanluoguxiang, one of the most well-known commercial and touristy Hutong in Beijing.

[Photos] Wangjing, the Korean Town of Beijing

One of the hidden gems of Beijing in my opinion is Wangjing (望京), which translates to ” the view of Beijing”. I doubt that this part of the city located in the north-east corner of Beijing is listed on any of the guidebooks. But my love for Korean food goes to an extent where I will be looking for the best Korean food in any foreign country I visit. In Beijing there are Korean chain restaurants like HanNaShan who serve you Korean BBQ but they don’t even have Korean beer or have no idea what Makgeolli (Korean Rice Wine) is. So very quickly I discovered Wangjing, the K-Town of Beijing. It is said that there are approximately 120,000 South Koreans in Beijing but 70,000 reside in this area. I personally would recommend the Korean food court area by the newly completed  Line 15 Wangjing Subway Station where there are buildings full of just Korean restaurants. If you reside in Chaoyang district and think that Wudaokou has the best Korean food I think you should give Wangjing a try. Here are some snap shots I came away from Wangjing the other day.

Since 1999, Koreans began to flock here in Wangjing fleeing escalating housing costs in downtown Beijing.

20 years ago the area was a plain old suburb where ox carts and bicycles plodded along dusty roads.

Signs are all in Korean, making it easy for Koreans who do not speak Chinese to reside.

A vendor sells Korean ginseng, a medical plant that helps develop human brain efficiency, in front of a Korean food court.

[Flashback] Mount Bandai, Fukushima Prefecture 2010

Couple days ago, my Chinese friend had asked me if I had ever been to Fukushima Prefecture as he wanted to get a better sense of what this whole region is like. Chinese media has been covering the radiation levels as much as western media and you could easily find an article or two on the front page of the major news source for the last couple weeks. Putting aside all the talks on radiation, Fukushima to me was a place full of nature and beauty, attracting tourists from all over the country. Last summer, when I briefly visited Fukushima what stood out to me the most was Mount Bandai. Mount Bandai is located in the outskirts of Tohoku’s second largest city of Koriyama and is famous for its “goshoku-numa” or the 5 color lake (see photo below). These lakes were formed with the volcanic  eruption imparting mineral deposits to the Five Colored Lakes giving each of them their own delicate color. In China, there is also the famous Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan Province, which also has these colored lakes in a much larger scale. From what I know, the vast majority of Koriyama residents have not evacuated and are trying to live their lives as normal as possible but it’s just a shame that these beautiful sceneries won’t be seen for some time until the radiation levels lowers in the region. It’s a pity that Mount Bandai and Jiuzhaigou were both located near where the natural disaster had occurred. I wanted to share some of these images since you rarely see any news on Fukushima but the radiation these days. I thank you for your continued support for Japan. Japan still needs friends.

[Event] DJ GOWHERE at if Bar Saturday Night