April 9th, 2009

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[travel] Beijing Day One, summary recap

The day that was: We hit the road around 9, spent four hours or so at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, had a decent lunch of Peking duck, then spent a couple of more hours at the Temple of Heaven before coming back for drinks and dinner with AC. Deeply tired, combination of jet lag and hours of walking (in the wrong shoes, no less, thanks to my jet lagged brain this morning.) On the plus side, the_child got on famously with our guide. Also, shot about 1,100 photographs today.

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More photos, and more bloggy goodness tomorrow, as time and energy permit.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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[travel] A bit more on Beijing day 1, the day to come

Yesterday we got ourselves organized, changed money, and met up with our guide at 9 am. Off to Tiananmen Square, a very long stroll through the Forbidden City, a Peking duck lunch, then a long afternoon at the Temple of Heaven, follow by a visit to a major market.

Tiananmen was crowded, but not necessarily by Chinese standards. Ditto the Forbidden City. I've visited all these locations before, but they were new to the_child, and it was fun to see them through her eyes. She and our guide are getting along famously, and are using their Chinese names with each other. We also had our pictures taken a lot with other people, other people's babies, and so forth, for good luck.

It was very windy at the Forbidden City, to the point where when I tried some shots with the long lens, the wind was tugging the camera out of true. They seem to have come out okay, though. Having a lot of problems uploading to Flickr from the hotel here, so photo essays may have to wait for my return to the American shore.

The Peking duck was at a local restaurant specializing in duck. We were the only tourists there, everybody else was local. That's usually a good sign. Like most Chinese buildings, it was underairconditioned to American sensibilities. The meal was good, though they used a bing sauce instead of the hoisin sauce to which I am accustomed. We had about six side dishes as well as duck soup.

That afternoon, the Temple of Heaven was interesting in some different ways. The Forbidden City is essentially a giant, luxurious hutong — those closed villages which used to be all over Beijing and are still present in some numbers. The Temple of Heaven is unmistakeably a ritual space, architecture aggressively dominated by ritual intent.

Interestingly, the most Chinese place we went (in a modern rather than historical sense of Chinese-ness) was the park around the temple. People there were playing instruments, singing classical Chinese music, dancing, playing cards, hackysack, and generally living their lives in public with a great and boisterous enthusiasm. That was more fun than anything, in the sense of plugging in to what people were genuinely doing with themselves.

Leaving the Temple of Heaven, we went to a major indoor market. Talk about your hard-sell. Massively overstimulating. By then we are all pretty tired from jet lag and walking some miles over marble and concrete. Fascinating, though. I picked up a few presents for people. Tried to buy some pearls for calendula_witch, but the pearl selling section was quite overwhelming and I went into vapor lock. I'll have to take another shot at that later in the trip.

After that we came back to the hotel, and promptly hooked up with AC to go to dinner at a Chinese "home cooking" restaurant. Mom and Dad were tired, so they didn't come, but the rest of went. We were seated in a private room upstairs, with a menu which was four inches wide and two feet long and unfolded like a fan. It would have been twelve or fifteen feet if we'd unfolded it complete. A combination of Beijing and Szechuan cuisine, and many dishes were sampled — sesame peanuts, green beans with pork, chicken with cashews, fried spare ribs, steamed lily flowers and celery, and more. Chinese food in China is so unlike Chinese food in the United States. A truism, but accurate.

I was thinking as I wandered through the back halls of the restaurant about how much of a foreign place is in the textures, both figurative and literal. The walls aren't finished the same way, the light switches look odd to me, the streets are paved and painted differently, the air doesn't smell the same, the food is different, the snatches of conversation overheard on the street are incomprehensible. This is obvious enough, and I grew up this way, so it's not mystery to me. Still, every time I immerse myself in this sort of experience I am reminded all over again.

As for the day to come, we're off to the Great Wall shortly. We're scheduled for the Summer Palace after, but we may ask for some down time instead, to do shopping and just relax. Tomorrow is things cultural, including an art exhibit, kite flying in a park, and an acrobatics show, then tomorrow night we take an overnight train from Beijing to Xi'an.

Photos when I can, and more updates as they unfold. A reminder: I can't respond to LJ comments from behind the Great Firewall of China, so while I see them in emailed updates, I can't reply til I get back to the United States.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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[links] Link salad heads for the Great Wall

Shorpy with Youngest Lawyer: 1924 — There's got to be a fascinating story here.

The Heart of the Man of Commerce

Is legal same-sex marriage inevitable? — From a social perspective, I'd tend to say yes, unless conservatives succeed in shattering the liberalization trend of the past two hundred years. Which will ruin a lot more than gay marriage, at that point.

Barack Obama and secrecy — We didn't throw out one set of destructive, Constitution-shredding assholes just to install another. Hello? Obama? (Thanks to lordofallfools for bringing this to my attention.)

?otD: I'm looking for Mieville on this map of China. Where is it again?




4/10/2009
Body movement: urban walking all day
This morning's weigh-in: n/a (traveling)
Currently reading: The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville; The Solitudes by John Crowley


Originally published at jlake.com.

jay-China-avatar

[personal] Dreams of a jet-lagged man

So last night I dreamt I was involved in a pornographic reshoot of The Wizard of Oz. (This is indirectly a riff from Crowley's The Solitudes, which I am currently reading as part of my Melville avoidance strategy.) We were doing photography which would be mashed up with the original Munchkin work, and I think there was a bunch of digital retouching, too, but my problem was the rights clearances for the Kleptone's sound track which had been developed for this effort.

So while dreaming about sex with exotically-dressed little people, I had a copyright nightmare. Am I a writer or what?

Off to the Great Wall now. See some, all or none of you on the battlements.

Originally published at jlake.com.