Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beijing: out and about!

July 16-17 (from my traveling journal)
Breakfast at the Hotel, then taxi to Qianhai Lake to visit the old Beijing's Houtongs: tiny narrow alleys, smelly shops, street sellers with the most amazing fresh vegetables, outdoor barbers, tiny and not so tiny streets bursting with everyday local life; connecting lakes with side parks their benches filled with locals seeking breathing space and cool air. Ancient men and women, old people sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by grand kids, young people, busy people, people resting or just waiting for the day to go by..., some practicing Tai Ci, others giving music lessons, staring at the beautiful lake, the lotus in bloom, the tourists passing by on super loud and super "speedy" rickshaws. Hot, noisy, smelly, incredibly old in the shadow of the ancient Bell and Drum Towers, in  the center of a city growing modern, bigger, flashier by the second! 

QianHai at the heart of central Beijing's houtong.
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afternoon: taxi to the Museum where we first saw a so-so modern paintings exhibit with a general "Olympics" theme and then spent time immersed into THE most amazing classic Chinese Brush painting exhibit from the Palace Museum collections: fantastic!!! 
Later we walked down Wangfunjing, stopped by the mega department stores, haute couture designer "temples" and Malls, street food market - the street later turning pedestrian only with the buildings covered with Olympic Games logos, promotional photos and of course a super giant Yao Min!!! Then we finally reached the old Beijing Hotel and had magnificent tea at Raffles Hotel; such old world elegance, so very close to Tiananmen Square!
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-------------------------------------Raffles Hotel Beijing

July 18 - Space 798: Thanks to Weihong's "must seen" list, Friday evening we did make it to the magical super charged in creative energy, super cultural modern art paradise of Beijing's Dashanzi Art District. Walked through the gallery packed streets and although late we did manage to visit the Ullens Center where the very best of Chinese art is showcased: the most thrilling contemporary art place in China!!!

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