The Linked Hybrid in Beijing

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Linked hybrid in Beijing (under construction)

Last weekend, I was given a tour of the Linked Hybrid’s construction site out in Dongzhimen, to the northeast of Central Beijing. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the Hybrid is a 8-tower habitation complex, complete which outstanding feature is a “link” of bridges connecting the towers at the 20th floor. These structures will be public spaces: shops, cafés, and even a swimming pool.

The Dongzhimen (东直门) hub sees the 2nd ring road traverse it, is a interchange section for subway lines 2 and 13, and will become the city-side terminal to the new Airport Express to be inaugurated just before the Olympic Games. 1.5km away from Donzhimen is the Sanlitun Embassy Area, making the Hybrid an even more attractive choice for Beijing’s class of international dwellers.

The Hybrid is a scheduled for completion in August 2008.

Flickr set of the walk

This article was originally posted on Spacing Montreal.

Eggs are so fresh in Beijing…

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Eggs and shit

That they still have bird shit all over them. This picture was taken last week, when I bought groceries from the nearby mom and pop shop and cooked for myself, but I also just came back this afternoon from one of Beijing’s cleaner fresh food markets, the Sanyuanli, in Chaoyang, in eastern/central Beijing. It will be covered more in depth once I get to process my pictures.

All the magazines you will ever want

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Newsstand on Xidan
Newsstand on Xidan, Central Beijing

Perhaps you would think that Beijing is an international city, and that you could easily find newspaper stands or bookstores to hold your favourite magazines. I pretty much gave up on it, a week and a half in Beijing. I knew that in a Chinese-language speaking city, there is not much incentive to hold expensive, foreign-imported magazines (where one copy of the Economist equals 35 times the price of the China Daily’s English edition).

Continue reading “All the magazines you will ever want”

This is the stuff that you drink in Beijing

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Red Star 紅星

In Beijing, you have two main choices in terms of domestic drinks. Either the watered down beer, usually Tsingtao or Yanjing in Beijing, or baijiu (literally something like “white wine” or “plain liquor”). Baijiu is a 50-60% alcohol per volume, stronger than the vodka we have at home, and would be intriguing to include in any type of cocktail.

This particular brand of baijiu here above, Red Star, is probably the most commonly found/purchased in Beijing. It is an erguotou, an inexpensive type of baijiu.

New Bang's presents spankin' rock/electro concert at Beijing's 2 Kolegas

We saw a bottle of the stuff on a poster of a show in town this past Saturday at the 2 Kolegas bar out in Chaoyang Park. It was a rock show with Joyside, Carsick Cars (both big names), Recycle and Shaka, with an electro (yes, they mix these in China…) set by Sulumi and DJ Dayong.

We are asking ourselves: is Red Star to the Beijing hipster what Pabst Blue Ribbon is to the North American one?

Grocery shopping at Tesco in Beijing

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Tesco in Beijing

In the whole tourist experience, what interests me the most is to be able to answer the question: “what do they do over there in everyday situations?”.

On the second evening that I was in town, my friends Fiona and Scott, American and British expatriates living in Beijing, took me to Tesco, a large British-based international grocery and general merchandising retail chain, with branches in China.

Going to Tesco may not be your “average citizen” experience yet (it seems like small mom&pop grocery stores are still very popular), but it is another interesting view of how it is similar back home, yet with Chinese (or populous country) peculiarities.

Grocery shopping at Tesco

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How to refill your China Mobile SIM card

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China Mobile RMB50 voucher

Last week, when I arrived in Beijing, I bought a SIM card from China Mobile to put in my cellphone. It is widely considered as the best brand in China. The SIM card (for the number) cost me RMB280, as well as an extra RMB50 for a first voucher (the time money is not included in your original SIM card purchase with China Mobile). The price I paid for my SIM card was vastly above the normal price, which is around 100 RMB (at most 150 RMB), that I was given or that I found on the web. I suspect that I either fooled myself, because I knew the market price (but had a brain cramp in RMB<->CAD conversion), or that the market price is changing because the Olympics are coming. It needs verification. Special numbers do cost more – usually those with lots of 8s. Mine only had 2 eights out of 11 possible numbers.

There are several plans, and I did not explore them all unfortunately. My hosts suggested that I got a M-zone, specially marketed to young people

The first 50 RMB lasted me a week and a half. This is the second 50 RMB refill that I bought from a nearby florist, and which you can safely buy from anywhere that isn’t necessarily a China Mobile shop. It is a voucher that you tear open for a refill code. In order to refill, you just call the number on the voucher and bear with the heavily accented automated service’s English. For some reason, my voucher in fact gave me 60 RMB worth of time-money.

A storm that never came…

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Beijing before the storm

On Thursday, while walking in the Peking University area, we felt a storm looming upon us. Darkened skies, winds rising. It however never materialized: a few big drops, and a fear of golf-size hail later, a bright light appeared away on the horizon, between the buildings at 1 o’clock in front of us. It reflected messianically on the newly built office towers just across the ring road.

Ourselves Beside Me at Beijing’s D-22

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Ourselves Beside Me's Li Yangfan
Ourselves Beside Me’s Li Yangfan

On last Friday, we went to the D-22 in Northwest Beijing, near Peking U and Tsinghua, to catch the You Say Party! We Say Die! show. Perhaps more well-known to the Beijing audience was the opening band, Ourselves Beside Me (sic), a girl trio formed in early 2008, notably by ex-Hang On The Box bassist Li YangFan. I first heard of HotB last summer, in Beijing Bubbles, the documentary film I always quote when talking about the Beijing rock/punk scene. It was only after reading up on Ourselves Beside Me that I realized that one of its members was with HotB. The name of the band in fact comes from the last track of the last album released by HotB in 2007, prior to its demise.

>> Listen to the entire Ourselves Beside Me show at D-22 on 2008-04-18 – 14 Mb.

Their music is not as loud as HotB, if it is a measure for comparison, and it actually reminds me of stuff that I used to listen to way back in 2001, like Buffalo Daughter. From what I gather through the articles, OBM is so new that they don’t sound the same at each performance that they had so far.

Tous les jours 多乐之日 is in fact a Korean bakery

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Tous les jours 多乐之日

In fact it is. Based on what my expat friends said, and the Korean music that was being played inside, cafe/bakery chain “Tous Les Jours” is in fact a Korean-owned business. The bakery section resembles the self-service places that you find in Hong Kong, and to a certain extent, Chinatowns around the world. The branch that I went to was outside the Wudaokou subway stop on the 13 (the stop you use to get to Tsinghua and Peking U), where there is also a relatively large population of Korean students.

It is basically a cafe like would find in Asia. They serve you sandwich which bread is sub-par for the tastes of a Montrealer (it’s like sliced bread, but slightly sweet), but which fillings are familiar (ham and cheese) yet exotic (something else that tasted kind of sweet). It’s a little pricey for the average Beijinger, but totally affordable for the visiting Canadian (32 RMB for a lunch).

The interesting anecdote with Tous Les Jours, was that protesters against France’s stance on China and the Olympics, who protested in front of the many French businesses in China like supermarket Carrefour, were also seen in front of the Wudaokou branch of TLJ, as testified by one Beijing expat blogger, and another satirical blogger (who had a picture – which indeed shows the plaza facing Wudaokou station, where Tous Les Jours is, with full of people on the street + security guards).

The Beijing Subway (Part 2)

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Evening rush hour at Xizhimen station 西直门

One of the bizarre things with the Beijing Subway‘s interchange stations, like Xizhimen (西直门) in the northwest of central Beijing, is that you need to walk an incredible distance between the stations on both connected lines. Xizhimen is the station that connects Beijing’s original circular line, Line 2, or the Blue Line, with its new Line 13, or the Yellow Line, which is a city rail line that takes more than an hour to semicircle to Dongzhimen (东直门), its terminus near the East corner of Line 2 (also future hub for the Airport Express to be inaugurated in June 2008). This previous photo shows the station at rush hour, on a Thursday evening at around 5:30 PM.

The Line 13 and Line 2 stations of Xizhimen are actually separate stations. From the newer (inaugurated 2002-03) Line 13 station, you have to walk a good 10 minutes to get to the Line 2 station. below a shopping mall, outside through path like you find at amusement parks). If it’s rush hour, they would also make you walk outside, across the Xizhimen interchange/overpass to get to the subway stop’s opposite eastern exit.

Tunnel at Xizhimen station 西直门

If you don’t have to walk across the overpass, like I did on Wednesday, you then go through tunnels that seem to belong to an old or undeveloped interchange station. These are a little eerie, and may’ve been useful in case of a nuclear war. In fact, whereas the new subway lines make you feel like if you were in Hong Kong, the old ones (especially Line 2) definitely make you feel like if you were back in the Cold War era.

Let there be blue skies above Beijing

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让

We had two beautiful blue sky days on Tuesday and Wednesday, after two days of rain. A quick look now indicates that the haze is starting to come back.

A friend living here says that Beijingers love it when it rains, because it usually means that a strong wind on the next few days would carry away the pollution. Pure blue skies are a rarity in modern-day Beijing, for entirely different reasons than Hong Kong.