#15 Teaching at Taizhou Teachers College-Backpacking in Beijing - Streetlife

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July 2nd 2006
Published: October 15th 2006
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Garbage CollectionGarbage CollectionGarbage Collection

The hutongs are very narrow, so garbage collection is a coordinated effort by these hard working collectors who call out as they cycle through the rabbit warren of tiny lanes and alleyways, then shovel up the refuse from outside the houses. They then deliver it to the large truck waiting in a larger street nearby. Plastic bottles and clean cardboard are salvaged and sold at a recycling centre just down the street from us. No neatly packaged garbage in plastic bags or nice wheelie bins here!
This week I decided to take a quick trip to Beijing before I start out on my “Great Southern Adventure” into Guanxi, Guizhou and of course, Yunnan. An additional reason to go now is to avoid the huge summer crowds and the oppressive summer heat that arrive in July and August.

Beijing is an easy 13hr train ride that leaves Taizhou Railway Station at about 6.30pm at night and arrives in Beijing the next morning at about 7.30am. Really “painless”. Train tickets are offered in soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat (not often available) and hard seat. For the really unfortunate there are standing tickets as well! I booked a hard sleeper which consists of a 6 berth cabin arranged in 2 x 3 tier bunks and open to the corridor. As a larger foreigner it is always wise to request a bottom bunk as there is good “head space” to be able to sit up without giving yourself concussion, room to store your luggage under the seat, and no climbing up and down to use the bathroom facilities! I was pleasantly surprised by the immaculate carriage, crisp white sheets and a thick “doona”, as the air-conditioning gets a bit

Also known as wind-water lanes. This is one of the larger ones close to where I was staying.
chilly sometimes.

After an uneventful train journey, I arrived quite refreshed from a surprisingly good night’s sleep (thanks to the sleep mask and earplugs with which I always travel!). As the crowds surged off the train I had no chance to stand back and observe my surroundings and had to be content to “go with the flow” and before I knew it I was outside and in the main forecourt, looking around for a taxi. In actual fact I had wanted to hunt out the special foreigner’s ticket lounge I had been told about, so I knew where to arrange my return ticket at the end of the week. In China, unless you use an agent you can only purchase train tickets from your departing station, and only four days ahead, unless it’s one of the National “Golden” Weeks. There are no options for return tickets or multiple destinations. Consequently you need to be organized but as flexible as possible, because there are always so many people wanting to travel at any one time!

I arrived at my accommodation in the Dongcheng District about 20minutes later, giving me a taste of the enormity of this great city. Flyovers,
Ming Vases?Ming Vases?Ming Vases?

Panjiayuan Weekend Market (also known as the Dirt Market)is famous for its amazing range of Chinese curios tracing the crafts of many hundreds of years. All authentic, of course?! Buyers beware, this is not a place for the faint hearted with respect to bargaining! Fascinating all the same!
ring roads (there are currently 5 with one under construction), sparkling new high rises, cranes everywhere and an ever burgeoning number of vehicles on the road all contrive to amaze the first time visitor.

After checking in and freshening up, I took to the streets. It’s one of the first things I do whenever I arrive anywhere new. I like to explore my surroundings on foot, not only to orientate myself, but just to observe everyday life. The Beijing Downtown Backpackers is ideally located in one of the few remaining hutong areas of Beijing. Hutongs are the narrow alleyways that once criss-crossed the whole city. They consist of one-storeyed buildings built around walled courtyards. Some of these courtyards sport beautiful trees that not only provide shade from the unrelenting heat in late spring and summer, but also provide nesting grounds for many small birds.

These days many of the buildings are somewhat ramshackle and some once elegant courtyards are filled with a hodgepodge of “home handyman” shacks built to provide shelter for ever increasing numbers of people who moved to the city in search of work. However, there has been some recognition of the value of some of
Tibetan Inspiration for the LadiesTibetan Inspiration for the LadiesTibetan Inspiration for the Ladies

A colourful display of handcrafted turquoise, amber and coral necklaces and other accessories caught my eye. The equally brightly clad saleswoman declined a photo, especially when I didn't buy anything!
the more historic homes and these have been preserved. Some also have been “discovered” by wealthy locals and foreigners, being thoroughly modernized as private homes, hotels and trendy restaurants. Sadly, however, most of them are fast disappearing under the onslaught of bulldozers. They are victims of the modernizing mania gripping China, in particular the race to manufacture a thoroughly modern city for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.

I was actually quite shocked by the extent of the “redevelopment”. I only had to walk two blocks from my accommodation to witness the devastation just at our doorstep. Older folk were sifting through the rubble trying to find something else to retrieve, their meagre belongings on an old cart. Now, don’t get me wrong, these buildings weren’t bulldozed around these people’ ears, and perhaps they were just scavenging to make a few yuan (RMB), but the image was very graphic for me. I realize that the hutong dwellings were not ideal. Many had no running water, bathrooms or electricity, so life must have been pretty grim at times, but the social networks and way of life seem gone forever for many of these people. I wonder how they will adjust
Beijing Downtown BackpackersBeijing Downtown BackpackersBeijing Downtown Backpackers

A non descript grey building in amongst the remaining historic buildings of famous Nanluogu Xiang. This was my "home away from home" for 5 days. The staff were terrific, spoke great English and were full of handy hints for getting around the city and beyond. I also met a lot of really interesting travellers from all over the world and thoroughly enjoyed my stay here.
to living in imposing grey high rises in the “burbs”? The answer may well be with optimism, as modern utilities will make life a lot easier and besides, the Chinese people are such a resilient bunch. I will put my “bleeding heart” foreign attitude away!

This walk was to be the first of many in the ensuing days. Beijing has so many wonderful areas to visit, and of course provides for a visit to some of the closer sections of The Great Wall. Consequently this is the first of five blogs, each with their own theme. Read on and enjoy!

Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 25


Historic Residence This WayHistoric Residence This Way
Historic Residence This Way

Some of the most important historic homes and alleyways have been preserved for reasons of cultural heritage- and commerce, of course! The archway on the left indicates a gateway to a historic alleyway where life goes on as it has for centuries- almost.
Yuppy AlleyYuppy Alley
Yuppy Alley

Nangluogu Xiang stretches for several blocks, with fewer and fewer "original" buildings. However, it is a great place to come to relax in a chic cafe and indulge in the Western flavours that are not often available to me in Taizhou.
Abandoned in a HutongAbandoned in a Hutong
Abandoned in a Hutong

I had a wonderful few hours wandering the winding network of lanes and alleyways, never quite knowing what I might find around the corner.
Destruction of the HutongsDestruction of the Hutongs
Destruction of the Hutongs

A confronting sight to say the least.

One example of the rapidly changing character of the hutong neighbourhoods. Facades are reproduced, but there's nothing "original" about the interiors.
Neighbourhood Watch?Neighbourhood Watch?
Neighbourhood Watch?

Bilingual reminder that the neighbourhood "aint what it used to be" Police recommending people lock their windows and doors.
July 1 CelebrationsJuly 1 Celebrations
July 1 Celebrations

During my wanders I stumbled on July 1 Celebrations, acknowledging the anniversary of the formation of the Chinese Communist Party.

Elegant lady dances to celebrate the formation of the CCP.
Traditional AccompanimentTraditional Accompaniment
Traditional Accompaniment

Performing outside the neighbourhood party offices, these senior gentlemen entertained passers by and provided accompaniment to the myriad of lady dancers.
Street View of Drum TowerStreet View of Drum Tower
Street View of Drum Tower

An afternoon stroll took me to the nearby Drum and Bell Towers.
Drum TowerDrum Tower
Drum Tower

This drum tower dates from the time of Kublai Khan and once marked the centre of the old Mongol capital. It has been repeatedly destroyed and restored since its original construction in 1273.
Drum Tower Steep ClimbDrum Tower Steep Climb
Drum Tower Steep Climb

A climb not for the infirm or unfit!
View from Drum TowerView from Drum Tower
View from Drum Tower

Another grim reminder of the disappearing hutongs. Just a couple of weeks ago, this view afforded visitors an insight into how each courtyard is a community in itself.

I was lucky enough to catch the last drumming performance for the day. In earlier times,there were 24 drums kept inside the tower. They were struck 13times at 7pm to indicate the beginning of the evening hours and the closing of the city gates. They were then struck again every two hours until 5am.
Original DrumOriginal Drum
Original Drum

This is the one original drum remaining. A little worse for wear, mind you! It was damaged during the Opium Wars of the 1800s.

16th October 2006

Aussies in Thailand
Well Tread, its the 17th oct.2006 and most of the Gold Coast hashers will be over in Thailand...Bummer!! This following Wed run is on the Indy Track.But no one will be there ! I came back to hash after a short spell and what happens they all leave ..Is it me or :-( or do they just want to catch up with You :-) Have a great catch up with everyone elose mate..Di

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