We moved to Beijing in August 2018 for the start of some serious madness. I wish I could write more extensively about the whole country, but alas they really do make you work like a salaryman and we have managed to leave the city once since we’ve been here. Luckily the city is a monster and there’s loads to do, so we still have plenty to blog about.
We live near Wudaoying Hutong, one of the funkiest in Beijing, in fact it’s so funky I decided to grow out my beard and buy some hemp underwear, but Lorena said I looked like Mr. Twit and the pants were really itchy. BUT I have developed a taste for single origin Ethiopian coffee, or something.
The Hutongs can be teeth achingly hipster and is full of young westerners tooling around on e-bikes, but there are lots of bars and independent shops and what not, all in all a bit like living in Brighton with better noodles.
Then, if you go right out of the house you go to hipsterville and if you go left there’s the Beijing High street party complete with pound (Yuan) shops, fruit and veg shops and what not. So it’s the best of both worlds. We’re also nearby to Lama Temple if you’re in a Buddhist frame of mind (we haven’t been yet, always the way isn’t it?) and a Confucius Temple (me and Lorena went it was cool) as well if you’re feeling Confusioned?
The hutong is the best that Beijing has to offer. You have to excuse the absolutely rank smell when you pass the public toilets (I go for the cover the nose, Lorena goes hold your breath), it’s because the old Hutong houses don’t have inside loos. Luckily our building is a bit more modern (a bit) and has indoor plumbing and some nice gardens complete with ping pong. Once your nose gets over it there’s always something to see, often people on mopeds driving on the pavement admittedly but at least they drive slowly. I did see a car driving ONE THE PAVEMENT as well so maybe I should be thankful for the mopeds.
We often cause a bit of stir when we’re out and about, because we’re not, you know, Chinese. Still, if you don’t mind a bit of celebrity status without the access to VIP areas or stretch limos, then it’s OK. In this trip to the local park we ended up in a race with this mother and child (me and Tommy were in the other car) and we hung out with some OAPs who had their tops off and were hanging off monkey bars and putting Tommy and Danny’s attempts and gymnastics to shame.
We have done a few of the big ticket items here as well, starting with the Forbidden City. The FB is massive and well, massive. It has lots of roofs. And people. And it’s Forbidden. And I’ll go again if I have to, if people come and visit. The kids were a bit bored. So was I, a bit.
We went to a big boating lake and park near the Forbidden City and in fact near where we live. We had to wait in a big queue to get a boat. What they don’t tell you about living in a country with a billion people or whatever it is, is that there are queues for everything. I suppose that should be obvious, but it never occurred to me.
Anyway the boat was nice but the lake is full of boats, because there are a billion people here and they always seem to be in the same place as us. Still got some good pics so that’s that. There also a temple on top, and not for the last time in China we walked up loads of stairs. It turns out although the Chinese are not religious supposedly, they do like a bit of a pray for luck and what not.
Me and Danny also went to Beijing Zoo and looked at people looking at pandas. It was big, a bit depressing in places and better in others, and there were about 50,000 people there. And we saw kid take a crap on the path, which was the highest impact moment of the trip.
One day we stumbled across the Olympic park, which was hosting a marathon event. So once again we saw strangeness. This time lots of police marching about the place and a chance to re-enact Chariots of Fire, which as it turns out started a trend, after we took this photo everybody else starting doing it. Weird.
We’ve also found a great flea-market where never mind the massive Buddha statues and jade porcelain, we got a BOX of Horrible History books for about 5 quid! Danny also found a Russian hat, which will be useful for the Beijing winter and Tommy got some calligraphy brushes for his burgeoning wax on wax off calligraphy career.
Another shopping extravaganza can be found at the ART 798 district which is supposed to where you go to edify yourself with modern art galleries, but was in fact where we had some dodgy pizza and I found the first Journey album (it’s a belter). There is art there by the way, we were just too busy shopping to look at very much at it, but a return visit awaits.
Finally, for shopping weirdness there’s Nanluoguxiang Hutong which is JAM PACKED with young Beijingers buying utterly pointless brightly covered crap. We’re off there again today as the boys love it, because it’s full of brightly covered crap.
I can’t sign off without mentioning the food. After about two months we finally convinced Danny to try some dumplings which have got the thumbs up. That means we eats dumplings, quite often. So it’s either Mr Shi’s dumplings (including deep fried banana and chocolate dumplings) or it’s down the road to Punk Noodles which is noodles and punk (and a bit of ska).
A twenty-minute walk brings you to Ghost Street which is packed full of restaurants. We’ve only been once, but it was good eats and there was Fried Enema on the menu, which admittedly we didn’t order.
I’d also be nervous if I was born a duck in these parts and they don’t just eat the breast, but the blood (congealed) and intestines (in a hot pot, not too chewy). Then there’s just about anything else you can think of. It is of course nothing like Chinese food outside of China and usually has INDUSTRIAL amounts of garlic, but as long as it’s interspersed with proper food (mashed potatoes and chips) can be quite tasty a couple of times a week.
An honourable mention has to go to Shibao Street near my office in Haidian. Haidian is a bit boring to be honest unless you like office blocks but Shibao Street is a food court on steroids and has just about everything you can imagine and a fair bit that I couldn’t.
We’ve settled into routine of wandering up and down the high street, going for the odd pint of IPA, record buying (me, there are some good record shops in Beijing), buying fake Lego (the kids, it’s an EXACT copy and a 1/4 of the price) and buying sensible stuff for everyone (mom, boring).
I spend a fair amount of time in the subway, which gets busy, which is funny for about 30 seconds and the kids either get the bus on their own to school or get a Chinese Uber. Work for me is on the 8th floor of a corporate headquarters, which gets so busy at clocking in time that I walk up the 8 flights so I don’t have to share a lift with about 30 other people. The office culture is weird, they all have a kip on their desks for about an hour and then go home super late. I don’t do either of these things. My colleagues mostly ignore me as I don’t speak Chinese (an unexpected benefit) and I don’t have to go to any meetings for the same reason (even better).
The boys school is small and rubbish.
That was it really. It was great to get away from the city but it was a lot of hard work. getting further afield may have to wait.
In other countries you find Lego sets for about $100 and in China it would be the exact same thing but different company and it would only be 30 dollars!!!!!!!
the one on the Left is my one witch is fake and the right is the one that is real and once i got i realized even the box looked the same!!!!!
There are plenty of music venues in town and even kids are welcome, so we’ve experienced Death Metal, Punk, Drag Shows and Salsa, in fact everything except Chinese pop (not a great loss to be honest).
More Beijing Autumn 2018
We’ve done a few Tommy free days of late, he’s just too cool for school now. So anyway here are a couple of us at the Temple of Heaven another big tourist destination in Beijing. It’s basically a big park with the temple at the centre, which is pretty beautiful. Recommend, yes.
We also took a trip to the huge museum in Tienanmen square, which was less recommend. The most stick-in-the-mind thing about it was trying to get in, which required airport style security checks where we saw security confiscate pens and lighters among other things. The museum itself was packed (even by Chinese standards) and full of massive rooms filled full of lots of basically the same thing, like the really big old coin room. Now I like old coins as much as any ex-childhood coin collector but after twenty cases full of ’em? I’m starting to lose the will to live. Recommend, no. Maybe that’s why they confiscated all the lighters and pens? to stop bored patrons writing on stuff and/or seeing if it was flammable?
We let Tommy come along for a Sunday park day, we should do more of these really. This one was at the Olympic Green, which isn’t far from the house or indeed a big mall, so all bases were covered. Nice to see Beijingers do their Sunday thing as well. I’d go again in warmer weather but it wouldn’t be top of the list.
We’ve been been playing rugby (by which I mean Tommy and Danny, natch), this has kept them in contact with posh white kids, so they can grow up to be stock brokers and keep me living to the life to which I’m sure I would become accustomed. The games are not the same quality as the UAE, but at least they don’t have to train in 40 degrees heat either. They’ve had a couple of competitive mini-tournaments and both boys got man of the match in their respective age categories.
The boys have played friendly tournaments. In this one they got to the final but it was not to be. They made some new friends along the way though.
In this tournament they both got man of the match awards for their respective categories.
Me and Madam Butterfly also had a couple of kids free outings, to the park for some Yunnan folk dancing (nice not to have the kids, they would have just take the Michael). Oh, and I forgot to mention, Beijing has pretty colours in the Autumn.
And to the Drum Tower (not the rolling tobacco), both recommends, especially the Drum Tower, which is the Chinese equivalent of a clock tower and if you get there in the morning you can see a bit of drumming as well.