Saturday, January 17, 2004

Beijing Nights

Chinese New Year is next week (the Year of the Monkey) and it seems like half of Beijing gone on vacation to visit their rural relatives. The hotel is so empty that they are even working with a skeleton staff, making for a really creepy THE SHINING feel. They have even started cutting back on the number of entrees on their lunch buffet.

It's Saturday; I finished all my meetings and work here in Beijing, so my colleagues and I thought we might see some of the city before we fly to Tokyo on Monday. The city has changed considerably since I started coming here in 1998, mostly for the better. Back then, you could always see your Red Army "handler" somewhere down the street from you, everyone quieted when you entered restaurants and nightlife was absolutely non-existent as everything closed around 9 PM. Today, I could see Beijing rivaling many of the cities in Asia for cultural events and nightlife in a few years.

To sample some Chinese culture on our trip, we started out at the Red Gate Gallery. The Gallery sits in the restored remains of the east gate to the city dating back to the Ming Dynasty.

It's a really cool space, atop a wall, that now backs to the Beijing State Railway line. The Gallery has an usual relationship with the government, as the space is actually a historical site, but they run a commercial business in it. The Gallery specializes in young avant-garde Chinese artist and I liked most of what I saw. Oil or acrilyc paintings seemed to be the most popular choice covering a wide variety of styles and subjects. Take a look on the website, they have pictures of many of
the pieces.

As the night went on, the weather turned nasty with snow and high winds. After a brief talk with our guide, we decided to call off our Wild Great Wall trip. Our guide thought the possibility of getting injured on the wall (due to slippery snow and unseen hazards) was simply to high. Maybe I'll get back here in the Spring and try it again.

With our wall trip called off, we decided to stay out a little late and sample some nightlife. Although many of the supposed "hot spots" were a little disappointing, we finally found a club called MIX which had a acceptable amount of hip-hop that made us feel like we might be home. Who says that engagement doesn't work ?

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