Congratulations. You finally made it to the middle kingdom and climbed the Great Wall of China, which was on the top of your To-Do list in China. At Mutianyu Great Wall, which is becoming much more popular for foreign tourists(i.e. the newly installed Subway sandwich at the entrance of the wall), you can easily make your way up to the top of the wall in thirty minutes if you’re in shape and roughly one hour if you like to pace yourself and absorb every step up. I’ve been fortunate enough to have enough visitors in Beijing to climb this portion of the wall four times in the last year. It amazes me that every time I go, I run into the same vendors whom are farmers from the region and make a living by selling second-hand drinks and food for five to six times the original price. They climb this wall every day at sunrise and climb down at sunset. They say that they are not registered with the city nor the Great Wall and told me that “It’s not easy to make a living out here nowadays and so we have to be creative”. They told me that they mainly target French tourists who they say are the easiest and most curious customers who are willing to have a conversation with them at the top of the wall. The younger sister of the vendor is practicing her French along with her English. It’s interesting to get away from the city of Beijing and go past the 6th ring road to see that China mostly is still a developing country with most of its people living off of 300USD per year which is roughly one-third of urban areas in China. The country side and people who reside in these regions feel that they have become forgotten being excluded from the main cycle of life and modernity that is taking place in China.
Another observation I have made is the high level communication for business that surrounds the Great Wall. At Dongzhimen Long Distance bus station(located in Beijing city central), I say that a majority of foreigners are headed towards the Great Wall(either Mutianyu or Jinshanling). These tourists are here since they are going on their own to avoid being with a tour group. At this terminal, are countryside farmers who come out to the city early in the morning and annoyingly follow/”guide” foreigners to the great wall. Trust me, they have a sharp eye for who is a foreigner and who is not. Once the foreign tourists give in and are on the bus to the wall, these farmer “guides” start making calls to their black cab drivers on arrival times and who to expect. Since I speak a bit of mandarin, these “guides” were communicating my background and China knowledge etc. When we got off the bus, sure enough there was three to four black cab drivers who share the same network with the old lady to discuss plans and prices. Since getting to Jinshanling Great Wall is a bit tricky, you have to ride a black cab if you are going on your own. The locals know this and this new process and networking by working together seems to be really helping the local farmers in the region to make some extra cash. The black cabs can range from 300-700 RMB round trip depending on how much you can negotiate and how much you are willing to pay.
One of the many advantages of living in Asia is the variety of food to choose from. In the variety of food is also a variety of combinations you can come up with when you decide to eat Malatang. Of the many options I have seen that being: shrimp, fish balls, tofu, bean curd, lotus root, mushrooms, chicken, beef tendon, and noodles seem to be the malatang all-stars and much more get cooked in a pot of steaming broth laced with Sichuan peppers and sesame oil. Prices can rage from simple snacks(3RMB) to a full dinner (15RMB). My favorite out of many in Beijing is this joint located in Dongsiliutiao Hutong. It’s a nice place to mingle with locals and the owner, Mrs. Ma, who is originally from Sichuan has been cooking up Malatang for almost 2 decades. If you like your food real spicy then it is definitely worth a try when you’re in China.
I’ve seen all sorts of ways parents carry their children around the city but this one was just too good. Happy Friday from Beijing.
I was originally going to post this yesterday since the air quality in Beijing the past couple days has just been tragic. But what do you know, the wind kicked in over night and Beijing is beautiful today with bright blue skies. Rain and wind are our saviours! But I wanted to post this photo from 798 art district, where will be the place to be this weekend for the Intro: Electronic Festival in Beijing. I’m really happy that they are holding the event at 798. Hope to see all of you at 798 this weekend.
Completed just in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Beijing Capital International Airport is now the most busiest airport in Asia. Living in Beijing makes it simple to travel around Asia and I myself have called Beijing my home for the last year. Coming back to this airport always has a special feel to it, well assuming that it’s not polluted outside, but when I came back from Seoul last month I took my time to snap some photos of the ceilings in Terminal 3. It’s massive and the photos don’t do justice.
One of the most recognized monuments in the world, the entrance to the Forbidden City shows up in countless articles and photo blogs when talking about Chinese politics and Beijing. I wanted to take a fresh perspective by focusing more on the nature that surrounds this monument. Enjoy.
Upon leaving for my latest thirteen hour train ride over to Dalian in Liaoning Province, I took some time to snap away some scenes from Beijing railway station: the oldest station in Beijing that’s been around for almost sixty years. Since my train was to leave at night and it was during China’s labor day three-day weekend, you could see a lot of people rushing in to catch their trains. Beijing railway station to me is a special place since my first trip to Beijing couple years back started from this station. I had no idea I would be back working here but it was nice to look around and take some photos here during sunset. I think the photos can do most of the talking but I wanted to show some movement in these photos.
Last Saturday afternoon turned out to be an interesting one for me at Sanlitun Village, one of the premier shopping malls in Beijing. A group of people wanting to purchase the brand new white iPhone 4 and iPad 2 clashed with Apple Store employees in a fight that caused the store to close down for several hours. Sources like gizmodo and WSJ have a pretty good coverage on what went down but it was interesting enough for me to observe the aftermath as this all folded as if nothing ever happened.
I first noticed the crowd getting larger and larger around the apple store, and so like most curious people I decided to check it out. Throughout this week with the release of iPad 2, you could feel in Beijing the tensions and pressures of people wanting to get one for themselves. Beyond the hundreds of observers, I noticed the large amount of security guards lined up in front of the store along with one side of the glass door to the apple store being completely shattered and gone (see photo below). You could see that the venue didn’t want any more attention and chaos as I witnessed a number of people yelling for them to open the store since they were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to get their apple products today. Then a man came around and started sprinkling water on the clean pavement to stir the crowd away. His action inspired me to take out my camera and snap this photo. This water method worked so well that he alone cleared out almost half of the hundreds of people in a couple of minutes. 30minutes later the store was still closed but it was really as if nothing happened at all. But nonetheless the demand for apple products here is growing substantially.