Saturday, March 25, 2006

As a consequence of the weather in Beijing rolling slowly towards the relatively pleasant I'm freezing, or at least my flat is. As the temperatures rise the authorities turn off the heating, all at once, everywhere in China (though only half of China is allowed heating at all). So as the gales howl and temperatures drop at night the flat is getting pretty nippy. This isn't a big complaint as I'm currently warm and comfy with the help of some extra thick jumpers.

So, it's only Saturday evening and already it's been a funny old weekend. Yesterday evening after a long days work I was, well, stood-up is the honest description. It turned out that said standing-up was only a 14 hour time-shift but will get onto that momentarily. Anyway, not wanting a wasted evening I headed towards the local bars and arranged to meet some friends. In between cancelled plans and newly made plans was an hour, left hanging in the air, open to the elements. Somehow I found myself in a cafe drinking herbal tea reading a book containing three lectures by C.P.Snow on Science and Government, thus far a study of the relationship between a German and British scientist around the 1920s. Anyway, a nice little read but not what I would normally take clubbing with me. So, friends and I intersected at the appropriate point in the evening allowing the effects of herbal tea not too put me in an overly relaxed state.

A pleasant evening dancing and chatting with most and sundry. Arriving back at a semi-godly hour and chatting briefly with friends in various continents in mixed states of insomnia.

So, at ten this morning my standing-up hiatus came to an abrupt and slightly bleary eyed end as the phone rang and a lunch was planned. With a slight diversion into the office to try and see if my subconscious had worked out anything about dual coxeter groups in my sleep (it had, it was half right, not good enough) I headed to the East of the city and ended up in a quite bizarre restaurant. This is something that Beijing has got down to a fine art. If you took a survey of all the possible stereotypes and generalisations that people may have of Thailand, boiled them down to their very essence and wrapped them in a banana leaf you would have, well, you'd have The Banana Leaf. Almost certainly Beijing's most gaudy Thai restaurant where you get sung to by a mixed transgender band and winked at by waiters and waitresses alike while plastic palm trees provide a jungle above you but. In fact, as you walk in you have to leave any sensibilities and inhibitions you may have in a small coffer which is locked and returned at the end of your meal so the singing and overall atmosphere was actually a lot of fun. Not only this but it was the single best Thai meal I've ever eaten. With tom yum soup infested with king prawns the size of lobsters and banana roti to soothe the sour burn and compliment the lemon grass infused in everything it was an exceptionally well made meal.

So, after some wondering around and sitting in cafes I returned to the office to finish a little work and now, wrapped up like a swaddled infant, I shall attempt to catch up on some sleep.

OK, after some photos which have been in short supply of late.

Spring is definitely in the air as a stroll through Tsinghua University gave an opportunity for some blossomy photos:

This statue in the Tsinghua grounds is a tribute to the doctors who battled SARS while it put East Asia into a state of extreme panic. I certainly wasn't really aware of how people felt but from what I've been told it was a genuinely terrifying time in Beijing.

In the taxi today I got a few shots. This it would appear is the most sedate way to travel and read your book while watching the world go by.

I liked the colour contrasts in the this scene as the workmen are given their tasks for the day.

and finally, this is the reason that I don't cycle in Beijing. As we entered a ten lane highway this guy is peddling slowly along in the middle of the road on the phone. To cycle in Beijing it appears you need not only a complete disregard for life and limb but also a temporary loss of any form of adrenalin release which would make you realise that most situations here are utterly terrifying.


OK, that's it for now.

2 comments:

Shelley said...

Beijing looks just beautiful. I've gotta make a point of getting up there sometime. But Shanghai and Beijing are actually pretty far away, as you know so its hard to get very far away from home base. Will you be there for the Olympics?

Jonathan Shock said...

Beijing (or at least bits of it) are indeed stunning and the blue sky that comes more regularly than I'd expected is a great bonus. Give me a shout if you ever venture up here.

I will be leaving officially before the olympics but may pop back depending on my situation at the time. I'm still not sure whether Beijing is going to be hell on earth or an artificial idyll when the circus rolls into town. Will be interesting to find out.

All the best,

J