Beijing Lifestyle

[Beijing Seen] Malatang at Dongsiliutiao

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.

[Photos] Beijing Capital International Airport

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.

At its opening, It was the largest man made structure in the world in terms of area covered, and a major landmark in Beijing representing the growing and developing Chinese city.

A 98.3-meter monitoring tower stands at the southern end of T3

The expansion was largely funded by a 30 billion yen loan from Japan and 500-million-euro (USD 625 million) loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

[Photos] Beijing Railway Station at Sunset

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.

[Photo] Beijing Apple Store Scuffle Aftermath

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.

[Photo Essay] Beijing Snap Shots: One Week of Spring

If you've lived long enough in Beijing, there's one season that we all look forward to and that is Spring. Beijing in my opinion only has two seasons: Summer and Winter. Spring and fall add up to a minimal 2-3 weeks out of the year. So when Spring arrives this city becomes much more active and people enjoy this season as much as they can. This photo essay was my attempt to capture as much as the city as I could during different times of the day. From the central business district to the hutongs in Gulou: I hope that you can feel the energy level of this city in one of the best times of the year.

1. A group of men pass by a public art at the Art District in Pinguo near Shuangjing. You can see Guomao, the central business district of Beijing, in the back ground to the north-west.

2. Heading north towards Guomao is Jianwai SOHO. The white buildings are noticeable from the south end of Guomao. Jianwai SOHO has commercial, residential, and office spaces along its 18 towers and is a popular destination for workers in the area for lunch and dinner.

3. Going west from Guomao is Qianmen, one of the major shopping areas in Beijing. This photo was taken at Qianmen Street: one of Beijing's oldest commercial area that has recently been renovated.

4. A woman walks by a group of pots at one of the side streets from Qianmen Shopping Street. QIanmen is home to some of the oldest restaurants in Beijing and serves a collection of famous Chinese dishes from all over China.

5. Families enjoy a nice weekend on Qianmen shopping street.

6. The National Museum. Photo taken from the Tiananmen Square. The museum was recently re-opened after its long renovation was completed.

7. Visitors exit the forbidden city and head south towards Tiananmen Square.

8. This Underground pass connects the Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City entrance.

9. Chinese tourists take a rest together besides the Forbidden City.

10. Chinese tourists are easy to spot with their identical caps.

11. Visitors enjoy the nice weather at the Forbidden City.

12. At the north end of the Forbidden City is the flower garden blooming with colorful flowers as you exit out.

13. Visitors glance over the Forbidden City from the top of Jingshan Park, located directly north of the Forbidden City. You can overlook most of the city of Beijing from this park.

14. Crowds gather at a local music performance at Tiantan Park, near the Temple of Heaven.

15. An Old man teaches how to dance with sticks to anyone who is interested at Tiantan Park.

16. As the weather gets warmer, more and more people can be seen at the park dancing and singing. I met people who were over ninety years old who wanted to exercise and keep healthy.

17. At Beihai Park, one of the largest imperial gardens in China on a sunny afternoon.

18. Taijiquan sessions take place daily from early morning to dawn at Beihai Park.

19. Students are walking home at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

20. A group of local high school students eat Stinky tofu together near the Drum Tower in Dongcheng District.

21. A vendor prepares pineapples to be sold by Drum Tower. You can find all sorts of fruits and small snacks in this area around the Drum Tower.

22. A hot pot restaurant attempts to attract customers as they sing songs and welcome people walking by.

23. A vendor takes a break from work. Photo taken near Nanluoguxiang.

24. Workers along Gulou Da Jie.

25. A family takes a rest in front of the Bell Tower.

26. Pedestrians make room for a car driving through the narrow commercial hutong of Nanluoguxiang.

27. Bikers and pedestrians await the green light at an intersection in Wangjing, the Korean Town of Beijing.

28. Residents of Dongcheng district enjoy a game of ping-pong. They are always looking for new contenders and they practice every day.

29. A mountain besides the Jingshanling Great Wall(located in the outskirts of Beijing) reads "Praise Chairman Mao" in white characters.

30. People rush out of Beijing heading east at Sihui during sunset. Guomao is in the background.

31. People crossing the overpass bridge at Shuangjing during sunset.

32. The dancing continues at night-time at Shuangjing bridge.

[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.

[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.

[Photo] View from Jingshan Park, Beijing

It’s been an interesting year as many of my friends from Japan and the US has visited me thus far. I think I was slowly getting used to the same old routine of sleep, eat, and work and I rarely had a chance to get out and see Beijing these days. Here is a photo that I took from the top of Jingshan Park, located directly north of the forbidden city.

[Photos] 798 Art District: Fat Man

It’s always a good idea to visit the 798 Art District in Beijing if you are ever in town. I made my way over to this location to hear New Yorker’s Beijing correspondent, Evan Osnos speak about journalism and ethical dilemma(expect a post on this event over the weekend). Walking through, I ran into this sculpture of a fat man and could not help but to snap a couple photos. It’s supposed to be gorgeous in Beijing this weekend. Spring is finally here.

[Photo] Beijing Dungeon

Once in a while I like taking photos of random things and make it look cool. During Spring Festival, I wanted to take a panorama photo of the fireworks all over Beijing by going to the top floor of my office building. But the door was locked to the balcony and I wasn’t able to do so. I came up with this photo instead. I’ve been lazy with posting photos this week and I plan to do a much better job next week.

[Photos] Where the Hell is Matt? in Beijing

This past weekend, youtube phenomenon and world traveler known as “Matt” was in town to shoot scenes for his newest video. He said his journey across 100+ countries started in 2003 when he was backpacking in Vietnam and his friends thought that it would be interesting to take videos of him dancing badly all around the world. Eight years later he has a sponsor endorsing his travels around the world, has his own t-shirt and is living a Forrest Gump-like life. He was nice enough to take some videos with us as well(youtube/tudou). It was interesting to see Beijing expats and local Chinese come out and dance together with Matt. It seems like everyone in China is dancing these days.

[Photos] Fireworks in Beijing during Lantern Festival 2011

I wasn’t able to get the best photos possible for Lantern Festival since I still had to do work this evening but I managed to capture what was going on right outside of my office in Central Business District, Beijing. Same time last year, right around my block, there was an incident where the fireworks inflamed one of the major buildings in Beijing and so this year the city did a great job locating fire fighters, police officers, and guards on every corner of the city making sure that everyone had a safe and fun lantern festival to end the Spring Festival. Nonetheless, I have never seen so many fireworks right in the middle of downtown in a metropolitan city. This would never happen in Tokyo or New York. The scale of the world’s largest uncoordinated fireworks was tremendous as you can hear fireworks at every corner of the city this entire week. Here is a video that showcases the fireworks from Chinese New Years eve. Enjoy the photos as well.

The Aftermath

[Photo] Beijing Bicycle in Andingmen

Today’s photo is from Andingmen安定门. Andingmen, or the gate of stability, used to be a gate for the former city wall. I really enjoy walking around this area scouting for unknown restaurants and shops. This photo was taken in front of one of my favorite dumpling joints in the city. They even have fruit and tea flavored dumplings which sounds non-Chinese but surprisingly the apple dumplings are quite good. Spring festival & Chinese New Years is just right around the corner.

[Photo] Drum Tower with Moon Light

As the title suggests, I spent some time walking around Gulou this weekend and was able to come away with this one photo. I think this is one of my favorite photos so far in the year 2011. This was taken right at dusk with the Beijing winter sky and moon light shining the Drum Tower.

[Photos] Beijing Opera at Beijing Laoshe Tea House

I had the opportunity to watch a tea ceremony, Beijing Opera, magic show, hand shadow show, and Chinese acrobatics in one location: Beijing Laoshe Teahouse. It was great for any foreigner who can’t fully understand Chinese and to enjoy bits of Chinese culture in one evening. Located near Qianmen Subway Station on Line 2, I would recommend it to anyone who is in Beijing for a short trip but would like to experience everything listed above. The setting is extremely casual too. They serve you different kinds of tea based on the season of the program and enjoy the show munching on traditional Beijing tea snacks. Here are some photos I managed to take of the Beijing Opera part of the night.

[Beijing Lifestyle] Christmas in Beijing

As you can see from the photo below, Christmas in China is not quite as Christmas as it is back in the states. I think it’s just Asia in general but even in Tokyo, I never quite feel  like it’s Christmas. The interesting part is that most people celebrate Christmas not to commemorate the birth of Jesus but more so to just ‘celebrate’ since “western” people do it and that’s the cool thing to do. Last time I checked, Christianity in Japan makes up a mere 1% of the total population. But since Japan absorbs almost anything from Valentines Day to this celebration of Christmas, it just seems to me to be a marketing scheme for department stores and cake shops to make more money. Also, you can’t forget that KFC is also the place to be for Christmas. Also in China, KFC is a popular destination for Christmas. But nonetheless, its not quite the Christmas feeling you would get back in the states or in Europe. Check out a photo from Beijing and another one from Japan.

Photo taken at 'The Place' in Central Business District, Beijing. This is by far the most Chritmas-like location in Beijing that I have found. Eventually, there were ice carved sculptures but still is lacking.

Photo taken at Fukuyama city in Japan. You can see the Japanese style 'Torii' which is a traditional Japanese gate used mostly in Shinto Shrines all over Japan. You can see a little bit of Christmas decorations but again very minimal.



[Photos] Wuyuanqiao, the far North East Corner of Beijing

Way past Sanyuanqiao and Wangjing, to the north east is Wuyuaniqao. Not too many people get to come out this far, well, since there’s nothing out here but a bunch of migrant worker communities, repair shops and factories. But I used to walk around here a lot when I was teaching English at the migrant school on weekends. In the early mornings at 7am theres already a lot of movement in this area as workers and shopkeepers get busy making breakfast food. You can get here easily by taking the .4rmb(7 US cents) buses from either Lianmaqiao or even from Guomao and get off at Dongxindian.

In front of a cleaner are pool tables and locals enjoy a game of pool as they await customers

A man prepares a giant crape for breakfast. 2 rmb(30 US cents) per crape.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Photo] Chinese Longevity

I really enjoy walking around Lama Temple on the weekends. Here, you can  see so many things that make you feel like you are in China. Since I spend most of my time in the central business district, it’s really nice to get out and walk around the hutong. I found these peach-looking objects with a chinese character on it. This character 寿means longevity in Chinese and you can find this character all over China within people’s houses. We can all agree that a long, healthy, prosperous life is one of the most admirable and highest goals of humanity and especially in China longevity is something that is valued highly. The peach is not only a symbol of longevity but it comes from an ancient story of the fruit that enables immortality which this peach of immortality can only be planted every 3000 years.

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[Beijing Lifestyle] The Scariest thing on the road in Beijing: Audi A6

Today’s post might be found as being random but I really need to get this out to everyone. Every day I get up and go to work like most people do here in Beijing. I walk about 5 minutes from my apartment to the subway station and take the subway for about 2 stops where I get off. From this subway stop I walk about 10 minutes listening to music on my ipod and sometimes I forget that I am indeed in China where pedestrians never get the right of the way. Even when the light is green one must make sure there are no cars coming. I Look left, then right and then look left and right again just to be sure. In China, there’s a common feeling the driving is power and has authority on the road. One can see cars parked in sidewalks and parked in the most inconvenient places. Within the hierarchy of automobiles in Beijing, I personally have noticed that there are way more Audi’s than a Mercedes or a BMW. I was told that driving a Audi A6 is a way Chinese people show off their status as only government officials in China back in the days could ride them. Even more, I have noticed that the nature of the driving attitude in China is bad as it is, but Audi A6 drivers are easily the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Audi’s and all but with the driving attitude and the numerous number of, let me add another description, a Black Audi A6’s, this vehicle has really been one of my biggest enemies and frightening thing on the streets. So everyone in Beijing, beware of Audi A6. In Beijing, even commuting to work is a survival game.

Beijing Central Business District in the pollution. There is no Audi A6 in sight but you never know when it will pop out at you.

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[Beijing Restaurant Review] How Japanese Food is Perceived in Beijing

If you ever get a chance to visit China and look for Japanese food you would be surprised by the number of Japanese restaurants there are in the major tier-1 cities. You’d think because of the recent Sino-Japanese tensions, Chinese people would boycott Japanese food but as a general rule of thumb, it really has no effect. What I find most interesting through my stay in China over the years is that a majority of Japanese style restaurant owners in China don’t have any connections with Japan at all. I ask them what they think about Japan and the common response that I hear over and over is that they can sell Japanese food for a much more expensive price than Chinese food. This is because in China, consumers know that Japanese products are considered high quality and thus, much more expensive. In China you’ll see a Takoyaki restaurant with the name Hokkaido (北海道) or a ramen restaurant with the name Nagano (長野). In Japan, Hokkaido is not known for Takoyaki and Nagano is not known for ramen. But in China, Hokkaido is a rather popular tourist destination for the lavender fields and so a lot of people associate Hokkaido with random Japanese food for their marketing strategy to attract more customers.
In Beijing you can find anything from B-Class Gourmet, as they call in Japan as being ordinary but still tasty dishes like ramen, udon, dumplings to upscale venues providing sushi and sashimi imported directly from the Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market. You can enjoy a 130RMB (about $18USD) all you can eat and drink Japanese food or spend 15RMB ($2USD) on a bowl of Yoshinoya Beef Bowl. Some of the Japanese restaurant owners say that although they attract an abundance of Japanese customers from a pool of about 10,000 Japanese residents currently residing in Beijing, without attracting the Chinese consumers their business won’t last. So the Japanese food in China has a bit of a Chinese feel to it creating a brand new fusion.
From my view point, Beijing has adapted the idea of Japanese food as any foreign country would. Like in the US, when you think of Japanese food, sushi, sashimi, ramen and sake comes to mind. Beijing is exactly like that incorporating the exotic high class model into Japanese cuisine.  Most people here are surprised to find out that Japanese people don’t actually eat sushi at least once a week but only maybe once a month on a rather special occasion. But the fact of the matter is that in America, most middle income families can afford a night out at a high-end Japanese food restaurant but in China these restaurants market their food towards high class Chinese and expats so the majority of the population here in China doesn’t get to interact with Japanese food and culture at all.

At Kagen in Beijing, a American Style Japanese grill restaurant. Chinese chefs are busy preparing the Robatayaki.

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[Beijing Lifestyle] 10:32PM Shuangjing, Beijing

The hustling city of Beijing is a great place to be. There’s so much excitement during the day but when the clock hits about 9pm or 10pm the city of over 20 million people gets relatively quiet. Seems to me that Chinese families usually go home early and start their day early. Even the Beijing Subways are closed around 10:30pm. From Shuangjing, one subway station south of Guomao, the central business district in Beijing, one can get a nice view of the Beijing skyline. When we think of skylines in China, we all think of the Bund in Shanghai. For those of you not familiar, here’s a photo of the skyline at night from the south side of Guomao.

Taken from the southside of Guomao in Shuangjing. You can see Jianwai SOHO, China World Tower and the LG Twin Towers.

At night, Beijing experiences a relatively quiet environment much different from daytime.

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