16 May 2011

Hutongs, Lakes, Temples + Towers: The Day We Took Beijing by Storm

Today, even despite the large, puffy blisters on our feet, LB + I were crazy fucking ambitious:

We took a taxi to the Nanguanfang Hutong, walked around + did some shopping at Houhai Lake, harassed at every corner by pugnacious rickshaw drivers, then we walked + climbed up both the Drum + Bell Towers. After taking a little break at a café filled with old New Yorkers that expats had probably left (hence, the dog-eared covers), we walked to the subway + finally located the Lama Temple, which, in case you didn’t know, is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist temples in the whole frigging world where we got to, among other thing, watch Tibetan monks chanting—it was fucking amazing. Deliriously cool shit, man. As it turns out, LB + I had walked into the Lama Temple before, several days ago, but when we didn't see any signs, we assumed we were wrong + turned around. That’s when all of our problems began. Today, it was so fucking easy I felt like we had newly acquired superpowers. After inhaling incense for three hours, we walked right to—believe it or not—the fucking Confucius Temple. And now I understand why it was so hard to find it, there are no signs or anything anywhere until you’re already there. After walking through many courtyards, reading an abridged biography of Confucius’s life, separate into tiny moral lessons, we walked virtually across the street and ate an early, superdelicious, vegan dinner of sweet and sour chicken, sautéed roasted seitan pot rost, sticky rice in Taro leaves + a light, delicate chocolate mousse at this restaurant called Xuxiangzhai. After buying some tea, we took the subway back to Dongchen, bought some breakfast stuff, snacks + water at Henderson’s Market + came home + watched Chinese music videos + a TV5 French documentary about Egypt in the post-revolutionary stage. A fantastic, highly efficient, picture-crazy kinda day. Even better, my feet haven’t exploded in my shoes either.

A few other things I’ve noticed in Beijing:

13. Speaking even one semi-decent sentence in Mandarin is a fucking liability. The instant a Beijingese thinks you can speak Mandarin, they really let it flow + then you’re really fucked.

14. While many Chinese look like well-fed bamboo poles, I’ve seen more than a few Chinese fatties, which is amazing to me. To be honest, I’ve never seen so many overweight Asians in my entire life, at least not since the last time I’d visited Houston (okay, I just made that shit up because I’ve never been to Houston but I know it used to be the Fat Capital of America before Miami snatched the trophy from Houston’s lip-smacking jaws). My theory? China’s diet has many similarities to America’s + as more + more Chinese drive to work instead of walking, as globalization begins indoctrinating fast food nation into every country, more + more Chinese begin to eat + live like the fattest fucking people on earth!

15. Contrary to my worst nightmare, the majority of travelers in Beijing aren’t American or European, they’re Chinese from other cities + provinces.

16. The kind of looks that Chinese women give me run the gamut between the following:
Sheer disgust/horror/primal fear/hostility (aka the White Barbarian has arrived) to mild disgust/mild horror/mild fear to indifferent to neutral to slightly intrigued (which country did this white ghost come from?) to smiley in a pitying/ethnocentric way to coquettish/fluttery to hey baby, is it true what they say about white men?

Here are the pics:

Snacks we Bought at a Supermarket Called Henderson's:

Wandering through a Hutong:

Here's another Hutong that's Really Dope, Especially at Night:

Houhai Lake:

The Drum + Bell Towers:

In the Streets:

The Palace of Peace + Harmony Lama Temple (Yonghegong Temple):

The Confucius Temple:

At Xuxianzhai Restaurant

Back out in the Streets:

The Beijing Subway:

Back in the Supermarket:


letopho said...

Just got back! I had a 12 hour layover/stopover in Beijing and was able to escape the terminals and explore!

People seemed cold, but we were happy to see a great subway system and a new meets old community!

Thanks for the post!

letopho said...

I just came back from visiting Beijing during a 12 hour layover/stop over!

Was able to escape the terminal and explore a "new meets old" community.

Thanks for the post!

letopho said...

I just came back from visiting Beijing during a 12 hour layover/stop over!

Was able to escape the terminal and explore a "new meets old" community.

Thanks for the post!

JACKSON BLISS at 水と魂 said...

letopho, it's awesome you got to explore the streets a little bit. by the way, did you get a transit visa? I know the chinese don't play around with their visas, that's why i'm asking. the subway was really good, though so crowded it was ALMOST a turn-off. LB + i got smooshed almost every time. totally agree with your new meets old assessment. you'll have to go back another time for the full experience. china's worth it.