Jeez I’m already in love with this place. Such a different vibe.
On the top of that, you won’t believe the gem of a place where my hotel is located. Tucked in a middle of a narrow lane (they call them Hutong here), it’s an old office courtyard all done up and full of hip cafes bars and restaurant. My hotel is quirky and just superb. The room is plain and small but peppered with memorabilias and a slick glass bathroom. Perfect if you’re a single traveler. Not so sure if you have to share your room.
And, wait for it, a taphouse with a selection of 30 draught craft beers, most of them IPA. 5 meters from the entrance of my hotel. Beer tasted: #9: 100 flowers hidden deep. Rinsing a nice Traditional JianBing
The time to realise that the WIFI is hopelessly slow, I’m going on my favourite way of exploring: the total random walk.
This is how I discover that I landed a hotel in the 798 of Faingjia Hutong.
My random walk takes me to the heart of the hutongs district – Gongchen- with its numerous shops and bars
798 Art District
Metro Line stop Gaojiayuan to open soon
Not for the faint hearted, like the statue of what seems like the Wall Street bull being fucked from behind by a big Chinese man. Talk about symbolism. From what I can observe and read, this might well happen sooner than later. More on this on a separate post.
Now let’s explore the rest of 798. The IPA just kicked in and I’m feeling elated.
AMAZING place. Highly recommend. There’s art at every corner, sometimes tucked in the courtyard of a cafe. New design business area adjacent to it, area 751, with a massive Audi building and other industrial design companies.
Finally doing the proper touristy thing. Tour to the Great Wall
Walking up to get the tickets I met a young Italian couple from Rome, Carola and Alessandro. We climbed over a limit wall to the highest part (unauthorised) and we all got a beer at the top. Selfie with the lovely Lady there. Carola bought me a good luck ribbon too.
We were all exhausted as the climb is quite steep.
and it turns out it’s comedy night at Hot Cat Club. Impromptu and free amateur comedians. Chinese seem to joke easily about their sexuality. Not the giggling childish way of the Italians, or the subtle and slightly contrived way of the anglisaxons. No they’re just direct and matter of facts .
Chinese humour is irreverent. Cheeky. Direct. Quite refreshing actually
They seem to be at ease joking about anything but politics, as a comedian from Hong Kong experienced when facing a wall of silence when he tried.
To be honest he just wasn’t funny.
Hot today, so walked to Jingshan park, climbed the hill, enjoyed the view above the forbidden city, then hired a bike and did every. Single. Hutong.
At 34 C I am calling it Bikram biking.
Baihe vegetarian restaurant with amazing fake chicken. Food is superb. Ordered way too much but who cares. Who knows when I’m going to find such a selection of veggie dishes.
Pricey, ($100) but again I ate for 2 and the quality is high
Then a night cap at the brewery institution: The Great leap brewing #6
Queuing in Tiananmen to get into the forbidden city and rivets of sweat are drooling down my back and legs. ME. I rarely sweat.
Forbidden city my arse. Half of the planet was visiting this place with me today.
Sanlitun it is then.
And this took me the the second scam by the rigshaws.
My friends if you ever land in Beijing DO stay clear of these. Absolute shamble. Metro is faster and so cheap ($1) and if you really can’t be bothered use a taxi they’re still cheaper than these things. And at least they take you where you need to go.
Finally made it to the hotel 2 hours later after bloody rigshaw left me in the middle of fucking nowhere even asking me for fucking $5. Breathe.
Exercise. Yoga. Shower. Good to start again.
Back at the beer bar
#8 Ming IPA
then at 10pm will head for some punk electronic at Dada
And then it hits me. Confirming what a well travelled colleague once said to me: for all their idiosyncrasies, in every country I’m going through, people are just all the same. We all have human needs: we eat, we have families and friends, students listen to rebel songs, young people go clubbing/dancing.
We just do these things in different ways. But the needs are the same.
The differences are being magnified as issues only by demagogues and populists to push their own agenda, leveraging on a very human fear: the fear of the different.
Because It’s easier to manipulate people when you aggregate them under a common fear. Taking their attention away from the real issues.
Au revoir Beijing
It’s been great. It’s tempting to compare China with Japan but one really shouldn’t. They are 2 very different cultures on so many aspects. With their good and their bad. China might lack Japan’s organisation and discipline but it compensates with its cheekiness and directness.
It only occurred to me on the last day that I needed to react like an Italian when being scammed (read: raise your voice and get angry) to get the right results. Still on Anglo Saxon mode.
Don’t get me wrong most people I interacted with here were absolutely nice. But I saw their reaction when pushed by rude people and it’s perfectly normal to react abruptly.
Time to take the K23 overnight train to Ulaanbaatar.
Guitar serenade from French Gilles and a nice Mongolian chap about the Kangaroo from italy who is going very far. Other Mongolian neighbours joined all very inebriated. Lol.