Discovered today on a bike ride – the former Lester School & Technical Institute, now the Shanghai Seamen’s Hospital. The rest of the neighbourhood isn’t in great shape; quite a bit has been torn down for the (extremely convenient) Xinjian Lu tunnel to Pudong. Hopefully this one, at least, can be preserved:
A few months ago, I posted pictures of my Beijing commute from home to my language school. Since then, I have moved from my old apartment in Beijing’s northwestern university area to an apartment within the city’s Second Ring Road. The Second Ring traces the line once drawn by the imperial moat and city walls, so I am now living in “Old Beijing” — you can find my alley (or hutong) on Qing dynasty maps from the 18th century. In addition to a new flat, I also have a new commute destination in the city’s Central Business District (CBD) on the East Third Ring. I am blessed with perhaps one of the city’s most pleasant commutes, as it takes me along the old imperial lakes (Shichahai/Houhai), around the back of Jingshan Park to the northern end of the Forbidden City, and then east-southeast past Chaoyangmen to the Third Ring. According to Google Earth, the total route is 9.43km/5.86 miles. Here is a map of the route.
Since taking these pictures, I’ve discovered an alternate route that takes me through one of Beijing’s pleasantly leafy embassy areas. It diverges from the following route after I pass the massive Chinese Foreign Ministry building, and in a happy coincidence takes me past the North Korean embassy. I’ll try to post pictures of that route soon.
And now, the pictures!
An early morning ride to the Summer Palace was marred by the remnants of the worst sandstorm I’ve seen in a year and half. I felt particular sympathy for the men engaged in the largely futile task of sweeping sand off the streets with large brooms. Their work succeeded in liberating the sand for a few seconds, creating magnificent clouds — which then settled back down onto the streets.
As of the early afternoon, most things remain a shade of orange-brown.
I passed by the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School on the way, which looked all the more unfortunate in the morning light for having had the trees that line its entrance brutally pruned since my last visit.
I’ve seen photos of bicycle commutes from around the world, and felt that it was time to make my contribution. My commute is a short one — 15 minutes each way on a normal day. The pollution today was terrible, so I decided to take it very slowly. That had the advantage of making it easier to take photos. The commute is hardly as impressive or beautiful as others I’ve seen, but I hope it’s interesting in its own way. I decided to start taking pictures 5 minutes in, which meant I didn’t get photos of my neighbourhood on the way out. The photos at the end, taken on the way back, fill in these missing bits.
Here we go…
If second-tier Asian tourist attractions are sometimes creepy and forlorn, China’s contributions excel in creating a mood of melancholy creakiness. I think I first became aware of this when visiting the original site of the Harbin Ice Festival, a small park in the city centre. The bulk of the festival has moved across the river and turned into a gloriously gaudy mini-Disneyland-of-ice that really has to be seen to be believed — but the original location is still home to a nearly deserted and rather shoddy display of ice-animals, aircraft carriers, and submarines.
I noticed this phenomenon again on a much larger scale at the Chinese National Aviation Museum, located on a particularly dusty strip of land outside of Beijing’s North Sixth Ring Road. The complex is huge, looking rather like a derelict James Bond set, and housing more F-6 fighters (Chinese-made MiG-19s) than anyone is likely ever to want to see. It is also home to a massive display hangar built into the side of a mountain, and a giant aviation graveyard containing crashed and/or rusting old trainers, bombers, fighters, transports and helicopters, Liberation jeeps, mobile radar stations, missiles, and the private aircraft of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. All of this is nicely complemented by a deserted children’s merry-go-round near the museum’s entrance. The visit took place a few weeks ago, just before the spring weather started moving in.
If you’re reading this on the main page, you can see more photos by clicking the “read the rest” link.
It’s just after Christmas in Beijing, which puts us firmly in the middle of Coal and Cabbage season. Oddly enough, the huge piles of cabbage that overtook the sidewalks at my university last year do not seem to have materialised again.
Coal, on the other hand, is still abundant. While the use of coal for household heating within the 4th Ring Road is banned, the minute I cross over the 4th ring on my morning ride to school, I can taste coal in the air. I ride past coal-fired road-side cooking stands and dodge around coal-laden flatbed tricycles, and if I’m lucky I get to school with only a mild case of black lung.
Of course, if you’re using low-grade high-sulfur coal, some basic safety precautions should be followed. This sign, hanging near my university reminds us that, “when using coal for heating, a vent must be installed”.
A few days ago, I was walking down Wangfujing Dajie, Beijing’s main shopping street, when I came across a public sculpture exhibition dedicated to world peace. Clearly, the standard olive branches and children-holding-doves material, while represented, wasn’t enough for the organisers of this exhibition. The vast majority of the pieces were instead of the time-honoured peace symbol of the headless Japanese soldier. As I stood in front of one sculpture depicting a katana slicing through the helmet of a Chinese soldier, I overheard two parents in front of me telling their five year-old daughter, “You see, this is because the Japanese came to China and killed us Chinese people.”
As I continued along, I came across a statue of Joseph Stalin, posed with his pipe and looking friendly as he chatted with FDR and Churchill at Yalta. What can you say?