Friday, February 03, 2006

First a few photos from the last few days before catching up.

The natural history museum isn't great but there are a few interesting displays.

One of the classic Tiananmen square pictures that must be taken by all tourists.

I think that they're not too happy about people taking pictures in the silk market but I got an 'artyish' one of Dan looking over the skyline from one of the unused floors.

Well, it turns out that an hour and a half foot massage is quite nice. We were invited by a friend, FK, of a colleague of my father's to an Eden of relaxation and unwinding where our tired feet were soothed as we ate some dinner and chatted. This woman works as an energy efficiency consultant and has had a series of very interesting jobs over the years beginning with a PhD in AI. Living in Beijing for three years and having emigrated from Hong Kong to England at an early age, she seems like a great person to know here.

A subdued intermission as Dan's camera goes haywire and loses all of his photos from the last week...not impressed!!

Following a thoroughly uplifting 90 minutes I felt light footed which is impressive for a man carrying feet as unwieldy as mine! We headed to a street of bars in a hutong with FK which is a lot more pleasant than most of the bar streets with their Philippino pop and constant harassment from vendors of all varieties of service. Chatted for another couple of hours over martinis and knibbles before heading home - well home via an unexpected brief, three hour pop into a local club where we got chatting to Sierra Leoneans and Peruvians for some interesting conversation.
The Sierra Leonean guy, though from a very wealthy family over there seemed pretty up-beat about the situation for the last four years.

A late night and a full evening ahead meant that we didn't get much done in the day but we did wander around the silk markets for a while trying out our haggling techniques. Though a lot of the 'art-work' is mass produced, there's some really impressive craftsmanship in some of the statues, chopsticks, traditional clothes and silk paintings. We left with reasonably untouched wallets and headed back to refresh before a big night out.

We met up with a friend in an Uyguir restaurant where we ate mutton and hand pulled wheat noodles with belly dancers and traditional music our evenings accompaniment. From there we headed to a local bar pleasantly popular with locals and expats alike before heading back to Banana club (see this post for a detailed description) to see Paul Van Dyk whipping up the locals into a state of euphoria. Another great night at this completely decadent club as we saw waterfalls of Absinthe set alight and more caged dancers doing there thing. A truly early 90s clubbing experience in total as thousands of glow-sticks were thrown into the audience and we raved the night away.

Tired of foot but feeling relatively well considering the time of departure from the club we decided to take it easy and so went to the CCTV tower (Central Chinese Television) to take a panoramic view of the city. At around 450m tall, it's the highest point in the city and even the 230m observation tower gives a superb view of the city. Getting there at a little past four meant that with an intermission for coffee at 80 floors up meant that we saw Beijing in light and dark. Unfortunately Dan's photos were excellent though I got a few reasonable snaps.

Even on a clear blue day it becomes obvious at that height how atrocious the pollution is. One problem is that you don't notice it so much as the air is so dry. Your skin doesn't become too dirty from it but I'm sure that your lungs do.

The tower is pretty unmissable when close up but because of the highrise proliferation I've only seen it once before!

In front of the tower are some elegant looking dragons guarding the entrance

Dan taking a look through the fuzzy binoculars

From the lower viewing platform you can get a pretty good view straight down.

The sun beginning to set, giving the hazy pollution a good glow

Clouds over the mountains made the howling winds and freezing cold seem a little more bearable.

The tower lit up impressively as we left.

After this we went for a somewhat ill-advised walk to get dinner through an area that felt pretty threatening. I have a habit of stumbling into what I later find are the most dangerous areas of a city, having managed to do so in both San Francisco and Sidney. Though very dark and peppered with shady looking characters we emerged an hour or so later having had a great meal and seen another area of the city.

On good advice we had a really quiet night in and watched The Dancer in the Dark - By Dogme directed Lars Von Trier, it's not true Dogme95 but its naturalness still makes its disturbing story even more heartbreaking. A superb turn by Bjork, I'd recommend this film but be prepared to finish watching it feeling pretty moved.

No comments: