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Monday, January 10, 2011

N. China - Day 5, Part 3 - Beijing: Beihai Park

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx

***

N. China
Day 5 - 3rd November - Beijing: Beihai Park
(Part 3)

4pm was neither here nor there, so I decided to visit Beihai park. Admission was 5¥. The concept of charging admission for a public park was strange to me, but in China everything was chargeable (except for seeing Mummy Mao).

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Beihai Park, with willows and water lilies

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Plaque on "Jade Flowery Inlet" (island where the White Bell Pagoda was)

Admission to the temple with the impressive-looking White Bell Pagoda was 12¥ - but the doors closed just as I came.

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Sunset, the Lake and poetic Weeping Willows

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Stone building and the White Bell Pagoda

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Stone path

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Random building

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The lake at sunset

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Stone stairs

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Tower at the start of the colourfully-named "Long Corridor"

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Long Corridor

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"Customers are advised to dine in restaurants of higher sanitation ratings"
Presumably this restaurant displayed its rating so prominently because it got an A. I didn't notice sanitation ratings before this

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Lake

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Long Corridor and balustrade

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"Fangshan (Imitation imperial) Restaurant"
The Mandarin doesn't enlighten me as tothe meaning either

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Willows and lake
Not quite Westlake but it has its charms

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Bridge and White Bell Pagoda

At this bridge (or another bridge in another garden with a similar view) one white guy was taking photos. An old Chinese man came by and advised him of a better spot which would afford him better composition. They didn't speak each other's language, of course, so I helped to translate. Being asked to translate Mandarin is a novel experience.

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Another plaque on Beihai Park

At 5:06pm, I made enquiries and was told it would take 1 hr to walk a round around the lake. I asked if that was the time a slow walk would take, and was told it'd take twice as long if I were slow. According to the map, it didn't look so far (my estimate was 2km), so I wondered if a slow pace in China meant that one paused to drink tea. I was thinking of trying the route, but sunset was around 5:30pm (it closed at 8pm) and I had a supper appointment, kept in mind the law of diminishing returns and decided not to tempt the fates.

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Last lake shots

I then took a long walk to a subway, since coverage was so horrible. To think that coverage was even worse before Olympic preparations (they had only 2 lines until 2002). Considering that the subway has been around since 1971, this was a big disgrace.

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"China Welfare Lottery"
Welfare if you're not the one buying it

There was a Breadtalk clone there (except that it had cakes also) called "味多美":

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Breadtalk clone

I walked into a store selling miscellaenous female crap (accessories, moisturiser, soft toys, hair accessories etc). While inside I made 2 shocking discoveries:

1) They had a male staff member
2) Hairpins cost 16¥ for 100 and 8¥ for what looked like 50. This is much more expensive than in Singapore (I think you can still get 50 for under $1).

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Haw for sale. When I saw this sign I knew the characters for the candy that the hawkers had been selling near Tiananmen, but I still didn't know the English translation.

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Long queue for a store selling nuts and other dried fruit (?!)

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Place making bing - but I'd had a pseudo-Zinger (similar except not-crispy and not as nice) from a stall near Beihai Park already.

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"好姑娘品牌内衣" ("Good/virtuous maiden brand underwear")
Presumably bad girls shop somewhere else.

I can imagine the T-shirt now:

"Good girls go to Beijing
Bad girls go to Shanghai"

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Songs of the Revolution: "60 eminent song featured"
"Songs of workers"

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"Best Car Music... an alternative interpretation soul music shook the ultimate volce of the angels"
Angels presumably don't have very good taste in music
Apparently this CD was the only recommended CD of the China Car Noise Co-operation Committee ("中国汽车音响协会唯一指定专用 CD"). In America, you listen to CD. In Communist China, CD listens you.

While waiting for my supper appointment, I took a walk with some other people in the hostel. They were quite taken by the Wumart supermarket - I think its being well-heated, modern, having price tags and most importantly partial crossing of the language barrier (some items had labels in English, and even those which didn't had pictures on them - the miracle of modern packaging). If you're not brave enough to walk around and point in food places, that's the best you can do!

Supper (though I hadn't had dinner, so perhaps supper wasn't the right word) was the best food I had in Northern China: Korean BBQ. And it wasn't just because of the company.

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Korean appetisers - they didn't let us only order one item, since they had to cover the cost of the 'free' appetisers. This is the most [free] Korean appetisers I've ever gotten - maybe the place being in Koreatown had something to do with it.

I especially liked the cold pumpkin soup

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My supper date

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"Smokeless" grill

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Grilling pork

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Pork with seaweed and chicken. The former was very good, and the latter not bad also.

My hostel had sold me my bed as being in an 8-bed room at 25¥, but I got one with only one other person in it and a [spoilt] ensuite. It was cheap and good, although not that central (but then, all you need is a subway line). My next hostel would be very hard to go to (you needed to take a bus or taxi to it from a subway), so I tried to recall what was going through my mind when I booked it.


The long road the Chinese had to travel to civilization was evident in the 2 most common responses to me when I said please or thank you: I was either ignored or met with surprised looks.

I had a theory that the phrase "gentle reminder" was a translation of the Chinese phrase "文馨提示". However it appears outside of East Asian sources, so the theory is wrong.

I was amused that subway windows had stickers on them indicating the date they had been sterilised.
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