16 June 2009

A Final Post from China

This is my last post from China before heading off on the journey back to
the states. Yesterday, we did the Great Wall. Today, we were entirely
more prosaic and stayed in town. First, we hit Mao's Mausoleum. it's an
impressive edifice that houses a big white marble statue of the old guy.
Then, in a creepy room behind the big statue, in a glass-enclosed
air-conditioned guarded-by-two-guys-with-whom-you-do-NOT-want-to-mess, is
Mao, dead, embalmed, and with a glowing face. Weird.

After Mao, we were headed to the Temple of Heaven when the heavens
themselves opened. We got soaked, and after 90 minutes of wandering
through the rain trying to find the Temple and a nearby market (during
which lightning struck our intersection, zapping out the traffic lights),
we bailed. We grabbed a quick (and surprisingly consistent) lunch at
McDonald's before heading back to the hotel to dry off and change clothes.

With the rain broken, we tried again, this time committing to cabs. We
gave up on the historic sights, considering that trying to see them would
only tempt the rain again. Instead, we went to the Pearl Market, where
you can by lots of cheap and wonderful things. Of high quality, I'm sure.
Benny replaced his lost digital camera. Daryn bought some computer
equipment. I bought some gifts of various aesthetic and historic value.

Then, we zipped over to the 798 Art District, which is definitely the
surpise of the trip. The 798 started out as an electronics factory, but
was repurposed into artists studios. Soon, it expanded outside of the
factory, and now there's a thriving art scene there. Lots of beautiful
work to be seen, including old communist stuff, new modern stuff
(sculpture, paintings, jewelry). I bought some lovely things there before
we zipped away to dinner.

Dinner was at a hard-to-find placed called 'Noodle Loft.' It was another
recommendation from Anthony Bourdain, and we wouldn't have found it if it
weren't for our intrepid cab driver, who made about 12 phone calls, trying
to figure out which side street hid our restaurant. Noodle Loft was very
tasty. We had crispy corn fritters, vermicelli with spicy pork, fatty
beef with mini-cannelloni noodles, egg and pork and fennel, and apricot
pork. Mmmmmm! What a nice meal to end our trip.

Hotel fires and crazy lightning not withstanding, Beijing was definitely a
surprising treat. I enjoyed it much more than Shanghai, and I hope that
the next I come, Sarah can come too!

It's 11.00pm here in Beijing. I'm up at 4 to finish packing before our
long long trip home. Talk to you then!

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