Posts Tagged ‘Beijing’

On today’s online version of Corriere della Sera an interesting video by Beijing based restauranteurs that explains a little about how to make it in Beijing with an Italian restaurant.

Difficulties catering to sophisticated Beijingren and sourcing genuine Italian products (such as mozzarella di bufala, salami, burrata etc).

PS. Sorry it’s all in Italian!!


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The unusual thing about Beijing, at least to the untrained eye, is that just outside the city there’s nothing much at, all just low bush. It’s a bit like the city has sprung out of the desert, a desert caused by the  pretty extreme weather with its static, sand storms, freezing winters and piping hot summers.

When you get into the first of a series of four ring-roads, however, the scenario completely changes and you are surrounded by a tall, modern urban sprawl. We spent a lot of time travelling into the centre from our third ring. And yes, I can confirm the traffic at rush hour is pretty dull and it takes ages to get about so… GET THE TUBE!

We took the tube everyday and ok, we probably didn’t travel in rush hour (but how many tourists do?) but we found it fast, modern, clean and efficient. All the stories about huge crowds, being unable to get off at your stop due to sheer mass of people are nonsense! If you’ve been on the London Underground at rush hour then this is a breeze. It’s even air conditioned.

Third ring-road

The iconic CCTV tower

Another view from  the ring-road

View from behind the China World tower

China world tower

China world tower

China world tower

One evening we were taken for drinks to the Sunlitun area known for its bars and a huge modern shopping and entertainment complex.

We didn’t visit the more grungy drinking dens that  have made this area famous, but stayed in the smart, new patch. It was pretty much like any ‘trendy’ place anywhere in the world, but if you have an interest in buildings (or drinking!!) then it’s worth visiting.

And finally the most iconic modern landmark in Beijing- Tian an men square. We only ever saw it from the opposite side of a busy road (the side the forbidden city is on) and were not tempted to risk our lives crossing into this big, grey pretty empty space.

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On our last day in Beijing we visited the architectural wonders of the Olympic park. Four years on from the event I was surprised at how clean and well kept this space was although it is more than evident that many of the buildings have been empty for ages and that the space is a bit too vast to be filled properly.

Let it suffice to say that between one tube stop and the other we walked about half an hour.

We weren’t there long, but every day we spent in Beijing was sunny and bright. I honestly didn’t sense any of the terrible pollution although of course if you are next to one of the ring roads it’s a bit smelly. I suppose I was lucky but there you go.

The sensation of space was amazing and although there were people visiting the site and going to the winter wonderland set up for kids within the stadium it felt a bit like the moon.

The inside of the super clean stadium also known as the Bird’s Nest.

That sky is so blue it’s hard to believe tha pollution is a problem. Electric shocks from the static yes, those I did experience at a rate of about 7 a day, sigh!

Olympic seating should be a sport in itself…

There’s an amazing view from the higher levels of the stadium although the actual structure didn’t impress me that much as it felt sort of plastic-y rather than the steel giant that I was expecting.

The winter wonderland set up for kids.

Apparently the building below is supposed to look like a microchip. I suppose it does, but aside from that I rather like it. It’s been named the Digital Beijing Building.

More of the iconic landscapes from the Olympic village. Wonder what London will leave behind?

The Beijing landscape is fascinating with its mix between ultra-modern and industrial (eg the smoke coming out of that factory just behind the stadium). Kind of reminded me of Futurist paintings like the following : Sironi, Paesaggio Urbano

What do you think?

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The Fuli Plaza (also Viva Plaza) on the third ring road was our closest stop the hotel for a quick eat. As we were in constant movement most of the time it was nice to grab a quick bite close to the hotel without actually eating inside it.

On our last day, sleep starved and over excited as everyday on this trip we visited the Olympic park and the Temple of heaven. We also got lost (things look so close on the map and then you walk for hours) and managed to fit in a trip to the Hutongs near the Information office. All this with a flight in the early afternoon makes me think it was quite good going.

Anyway because I get nasty unless I’m clean and fed we also managed to grab a bite in one of the restaurants in the Viva plaza and shower before boarding the plane.

I’ve been trying to remember the name of the hotel but really can’t quite remember either way after being served a very chinese can of coke (ke kou ke le) as I remember from my Chinese lessons!)

We ordered a ‘mild’ dish.

Now, all the red in this dish served in the black wok complete with wooden spoon are chillies. Their seeds are all over the rest of the food. How can this be mild??!

To be honest we should have known, Having been treated to Sichuan cuisine throughout the week we’d got the inkling that in China spicy means spicy. I now post this as a reminder to ask for completely bland version of everything next time I’m over!

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On the last Saturday of the Far East Film Festival in Udine we also witnessed and took part in a series of outdoor events. We also viewed the film Mitsuko Delivers, but more on that in another post.

Saturday the 28th April was also apparently world Tai Chi day and the classes that gave a demonstration on the green were certainly blessed with a beautifully sunny day.

Local schools performed Tai Chi and Qi Gong in the park in the morning and afternoon.

In the afternoon in Piazza Matteotti (the main square) a giant Mah Jong game was set out. I still haven’t properly sat down to read the rules but I really must give it a go soon.

Some tables were set out in the shade for origami sessions aptly named ‘Far East Folds’. This attracted lots of families, but it was cute to see that people could just drop in and out of activities without any pressure.

And an I-Ching reader also told fortunes free. Unfortunately the only thing I could clearly see lying ahead of us was a long queue in the sun so we gave up on that one!

A lmost forgot the gritty Bijing flickers photographic exhibition. We felt this really showed the underground urban nature of Beijing life which we sensed  although we know it so little.

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Because winter is bloody cold in Beijing the Beijingers are devout to their hot-pots.

You crowd into a relatively small restaurant (ours was somewhere off the East third ring practically opposite the Renaissance Capital hotel), sit rather close to a lot of people (we came on GroupOn discount night so you can imagine how crowded it was) light up a cigarette and huddle close to the steaming pot with it’s little lump of burning cinders glowing below and sparks of lit ashes puffing up out of the little chimney and into your soup.

The broth tasted like chicken and had various ‘things’ floating about in it. We were also served a little dish of sesame sauce to dip our food into after cooking it in the hot-pot and drank tea.

I was told that hot-pot must have lamb in it and this is it (just above) cut so finely it looks like parma ham.

We also had some veg to dip in, the above are mushrooms, and some large rice noodles. It would be very humiliating for me to say how many of these slippery noodles I dropped in the hot-pot to be fished out much, much later by more expert chopsticksmen than myself.

The next day, in one of the more touristy hutongs we spotted these brass hot pots for sale. Shame it was a flying visit or I’d have taken one home very gladly!

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