Despite the fact that my photography skills are far from amazing, I just wanted to put up a handful of pictures of Beijing from the past few months. These are likely to be a collection of places or landmarks you may recognise, but I’ll put in a small description as well in case you’re not familiar with them. (The purpose of this post is also just to get myself into the habit of blogging, so that I start to do it regularly and don’t fail miserably!)
Welcome to Beijing! This is the view from the window of our apartment. This level of smog is not unusual in Beijing; it has even been worse! Compare it to the next photo, taken on a clearer day...
That's a little better! The skyscrapers in Beijing seem to stretch for as far as the eye can see, and in between are scrubby worksites, presumably where future skyscrapers will stand.
Another view from our window, looking in the direction towards the Olympic Village.
The main intersection of Wudaokou (五道口 - literally "five-road intersection"), the area in which we live. Besides the subway station, it boasts a fair number of foreigner-friendly bars and restaurants, the odd skanky nightclub (like the infamous Propaganda) and a shopping centre. The area is popular with students (due to its proximity to Peking University, Tsinghua University and BLCU), so it is not uncommon to run into other foreigners here.
- A view down Chengfu Road (成府路) from Wudaokou. We cycle down here every morning to get to class at university. Note the bus stop situated slap bang in the middle of the cycle lane on the left-hand side!
- The Summer Palace (颐和园 Yíhéyuán) is in the far northwest of Beijing, not far from our apartment and the university campus. It’s a great place to come to escape the heat on a warm summer’s day, if you can bear the crowds. It was constructed by the Qing emperors, and is comprised of Longevity Hill (万寿山 Wànshòu Shān) overlooking Kunming Lake (昆明湖 Kūnmíng Hú)
Onto another lake - this is Weiming Lake (未名湖 Wèimíng Hú - literally "no-name lake"). Situated on the campus of Peking University (北京大学 Běijīng Dàxué), it is a popular tourist site in itself.
Further towards the centre of the city, the Beijing National Stadium (a.k.a. the "Bird's Nest" (鸟巢 Niǎocháo) was the central focus of Beijing's Olympic Games in 2008, and therefore attracts hoards of domestic Chinese tourists. And by the looks of it, Minney Mouse as well, apparently.
The stadium is illuminated with warm reds, oranges and yellows as dusk falls.
The Beijing authorities have been preserving certain traditional alleyways, otherwise known as hútóngs (胡同), where Beijing residents would traditionally reside. This is an example of one such hutong.
The National Centre for the Performing Arts (国家大剧院 Guó jiā dà jù yuàn) is situated right in the middle of the city, right next to Tian'anmen, and is, in a word, huge. I'm not sure how it compares to the Bird's Nest stadium, but it's pretty big.
Living in Beijing, it doesn't take long to realise that China is full of superlatives, and is proud to think it is full of the biggest of everything. The sheer size of Tian'anmen Square is one reason why it's so imposing (it is among the biggest city squares in the world). This picture is of the Forbidden City, on the northern edge of the square. On a rainy day like this one, it can be an especially dreary place.
The Temple of Heaven (天坛 Tiāntán) was constructed under the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. We've been here a good few times, simply because it's so nice. This photo is of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿 Qíniándiàn).
Some aspects of life in Beijing are not as comfortable as those in the UK, but as I look back over photos from China (and the memories attached to going to some of these places), I have a real sense of excitement to get back there, see more places, and get to know more people. It was in fact my New Year’s resolution to make more Chinese friends, as it is easy to slip into the trap of not leaving the bubble of Wudaokou, and therefore staying among groups of Western expats.
The challenge now is the packing – I’m on a tighter baggage allowance this time round and, after having dug out my old PS2, I don’t think I’m going to be able to leave the UK without it. So I’ll be heading back on Monday, having a quick stopover in Beijing for one night, before rushing off on a night train up to Harbin. Hopefully I’ll be able to get Internet up there, so in the cold, cold evenings I’ll keep a record of what I’m up to on here.