blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 5 in Beijing: Olympic Park and hutongs

Written May 14th, 2015

Pond and tower at the Olympic Green
Chris finished giving his training course today and will spend the morning with one of the profs tomorrow morning. In the afternoon we'll be able to go out together again, not far, as it gets awfully hot in the afternoons, when I come back to the hotel room for a rest and the thermometer says 25ยบ, which feels cool. I didn't fall asleep today, watched some of Gone with the Wind on the DVD-player instead.

This morning I decided to see something modern, the Olympic (Ao Lin Pi Ke) park, which is accessed by three well spread out tube stations; I chose the middle one, Olympic Green. To reach it, I had to take Line 13, the railway on stilts, giving me a view of hutong demolition below, the slums everywhere giving way to tower blocks, to Zhichunlu, two stops to the north, then transferred to Line 10 along a long passageway, then at the fourth station along that line to Line 8, two stops. Line 10 used to be our nearest tube line when we stayed at the "Hornki Great" Hotel four years ago, so as I went through Mudanyuan station I thought of Sha, George, Rob and Sally who had been with us then.

At the Olympic Park, with IBM building

Bird's Nest Stadium with future athlete
Imitation Bird's Nest lamp

Surfacing at Olympic Green is quite a thrill, because you're immediately surrounded by wide, clean spaces and futuristic architecture and art installations. There's also a big pond that I remembered seeing on the way to George's 2011 astronomy conference dinner. It had waterlilies and boats in it. I walked by the side of the pond as far as the entrance to the Olympic plaza which seems to be inspired by Tian'anmen Square, being so vast and rectangular. Ai Weiwei's Bird's Nest Stadium is on one side and the Water Cube and wiggle-topped IBM building on the other. I could have ridden in a little train-bus like the sensible people, but I chose to zigzag the whole length of the plaza on foot, which I estimate to be at least 3 kilometres, so by the time I'd reached the Olympic Sports Centre station at the far end I'd really had enough walking for the day. The heat was already intense and it was not yet noon.

A long walk through the Olympic Sports Centre

Rickshaws waiting for passengers at Shichahai
Too early to return to the hotel, I had time to return to another interesting place on our previous visit to Beijing: the district known as Schichahai near the central hutongs. Sha had taken us to a wonderful teahouse there, but I didn't go inside this time. It had been too precious an experience to repeat by myself.

In the Yandai alleyway
The lakesides were still fun, although rather more tacky than I remember. I walked the Yandai (tobacco pouch) alley again in both directions, jam packed with people, didn't buy anything except postcards, and dodged the rickshaws and bikes coming at me in all directions, with the drivers shouting, “Lady! Rickshaw!” My lunch was another rip-off: 95 yuan. It was quite a good imitation of a Hawaiian pizza, but that price was ridiculous.

What I enjoyed most was veering off the beaten track to see what the hutongs were like behind the scenes. Scruffy in the extreme, but more genuine.

Qianhai Lake
Chris sent me a text message to say he was finishing work mid-afternoon, so I made my way home from Beihai Bei as I'd done the day before yesterday, easy once you know how. None of it feels so strange any more. I checked out some more dining possibilities in the big shopping mall and we ended up at a very good restaurant called Sizzlers this evening, packed with young Chinese trying out the knives and forks, before another stroll round the university campus, where 60,000 people live. We saw a warbler-like bird I didn't recognise, fluttering in the fir trees. The rose beds look lovely. Children were playing round the central pond, among them two little boys with toy spades, doing some gardening.

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