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Day 6 started at noon, and that was only because I forced myself out of bed. I had to go back to the Silk Market to see a girl about a bag. When I got there, I raided some free W-fi over coffee and headed into the madness. I went straight to my target and informed her I was back. After some chit-chat I was shown to the basement, where I was confronted with the mother load of “replica” items. 3 hours late. I left with some outrageous deals, soon to be seen by many in the form of holiday gifts.
I had some lunch at the shops outside the Market, and walked into the chilling cold to find a cab. Now it turns out that my last day, though clear and crisp, was also destined to be the coldest. Under 30 degrees it turned out. I waited 30 minutes hunting for a cab, looking over my shoulder at the warm but oppressively crowded subway just 100 yards away. My arms, however were weighed down with $20,000 (had they been real) in goods. I dreaded the idea of cramming into a subway, despite the tiny chance (though I had no real idea) of a Sunday respite from the usual crowds.
After chasing down a cab and getting in before the woman inside had even gotten out, I headed home to shower, change and meet up with Max. It was our final night and Sarah and Zach met us out for a bite to eat and some beers. It was a perfect end to an amazing trip.
The following morning Max met me for breakfast and I headed to the airport on the express. I traveled back in time, leaving at 2pm on Sunday and driving back at 10:30am the same day in LA. I was shocked to see that I had brought the rain and cold with me. Oh well. I am so grateful to live a life that affords me the opportunity to take trips like this.
Check my Facebook for the final set of pics!
Around 11pm I met up with Max and hung out as we gathered up our group. Then it was off to The Workers Stadium for some clubbing! We started at a hot dog stand… just walk down the steps and push the button and the wall in the back opens to reveal a fantastic little bar hidden underground (See our video to watch us pretend we’re entering the club again).
We started with a few drinks and lots of rambunctious conversation. Then we noticed that the bartender was a very sexy young man from The Abercrombie and Fitch Chinese Training video that Max and Sarwa (one of his coworkers who was with us) had to watch before coming to the country. I observed that he was being hit on by two attractive male patrons. We made a few body language based hypotheses, and then a few drinks later, it was time to test them out. I saw an in and took it. Game. Set. Match.
30 minutes later we left with the hotter one in tow to a gay bar down the block. Unfortunately, at 3am it was pretty dead. One drink and it was time to get back over to Latte (the place I left my phone at a few days earlier). There, Max and I got out the dice, and the drinking games began! We danced the night away till 6am, and I mean DANCED. I think I lost 5lbs on the dance floor. Max’s friends Sarwa and Sarah can really cut a rug. Our gay-boy-in-tow got bored and headed home around 5. Oh well!! :P I wasn’t gonna leave when the dancing was that good! After some street food I managed to get in bed just as the sun was coming up across the west. Another amazing night in Beijing!
Click below to see the most recent pics from day 4 and 5. People who know me know I don’t really bother editing, so I apologize for the duplicates and blurry pics.
Day 5 started out with SUN!!! In fact, the sun was actually YELLOW!!! The rain had cleared away all the pollution and bright clear skies met me as I exited the hotel. I started with some street food (it’s so freaking good, why doesn’t LA have street food this good - oh right, health regulations - bummer). Then it was off for a long overdue visit to The Forbidden City.
WOW. I took way to many pictures because everything was so beautiful, and I’m sure not one of them does any justice to this opulent palace. The Forbidden City is China’s version of Versailles, and I’m not quite sure which one I wanna live in more. I spent 5 hours there walking around and exploring the treasures, and didn’t even get to 1/3 of the grounds. Some of the highlights (that I took all those pics of) include, a carved 600 ton single marble block, thrones that I desperately wanted to sit on (but they wouldn’t let me), animal guardians carved into the tops of the pagodas, relics of the imperial clockworks, concubines quarters (I need to get me some of those) and gate after gate leading the way from north to south across the grounds. I actually got to walk on the same pathway leading through the palace that was once reserved only for the emperor himself. There’s something spectacular about physically touching history like this in a personal way.
After The Forbidden City it was time to climb the winding steps up to the home of the Golden Buddha (no photos allowed) overlooking the entire Forbidden City for the quintessential photo. Sorry for all the duplicates, the position of the sun and the returning haze of pollution by the early afternoon made it a bit tricky. From there I got lost in the Hutongs (old windy streets of the original city) on my way to Ho Hai (the lake I walked around on Day 3). This time it was a hub of activity. I did a loop around the entire lake (a couple miles) and stopped for a beer and some more street food while enjoying my book overlooking the lake shimmering in the later afternoon sun. By this time the pollution had returned and the ubiquitous orange glow was spreading across the sky and touching the city. After stopping for a coffee, finishing my book and chatting with a few cool people on the lake, the sun had set and it was time to find my way home. I thought about catching a cab, but decided that it was a bad idea at rush hour and made my way across the city to the nearest (yet about 40 minutes away) subway station.
Truly a perfect day in Beijing. T-shirt weather, pollution free air, stunning palaces, great conversation, a good book, and it’s not over yet. I’m meeting Max back at Sanlitun Village at 11pm for my second to last night out on the town. Maybe we’ll try that gay dance club again….. hopefully this time it’s open. :P
Stay tuned!! Tomorrow morning is The Antique market!! “Smart shoppers get there at 4am” - good thing I have no more money left to spend. I think 8am will do just fine.
Well it was pouring on Day 4 so The Great Wall was out. It’s funny because Max says it’s only ever rained once since he’s been here. Turns out plan B was just as fun. :)
We started the day with Max meeting me in the lobby of my hotel just as I was finishing a dim sum breakfast. We headed off to Sanlitun Village to catch a matinee of Immortals (minus any sex scenes - you totally notice the odd cuts in random parts of the movie, it’s hilarious). When we got out we still had the whole day ahead of us so it was off to The Book Worm, this adorable little shop that smelled like Sundance. Cold, coffee, books, sponsored liquor and excitement. There was even an organized panel discussion going on while we were hanging out. We kicked it with some beers for a bit and read our books as the rain began to recede.
After the book worm it was off to the silk market to pick up my suit. They killed it. I have to give major props to Greg for sending me off with a few great pictures for them to copy. They got every detail right (Ryan Gosling eat your heart our - I only paid $140 for mine!!). We managed to escape without spending another penny, despite the aggressive sales people. Max and I agree this place is amazing. From a marketing perspective its great to watch these pros use every trick in the book on unsuspecting tourists. Forget reading books, if you wanna study influence, spend a few days at The Silk Market.
We then got a snack and headed over to Wangfujing. Otherwise known as The Night Market. You really need to check the pics to understand. They have everything you’ve never wanted to eat - on a stick. Grasshoppers, live scorpions, tarantulas, grubs, fish, worms, intestines, and much much more. We opted for dumplings. Much safer. Special thanks to Sonny and Sheri for telling me the best place for Peking Duck and Cha Su Bao on the block (we took pics with the big happy duck). :P
Exhausted, we headed back to my hotel, watched the chaos in the US on CNN. Chatted for a few hours and called it a night. It ended up being a perfect rainy day in Beijing, relaxing yet full, and lots of fun.
More fun Chinese incongruities - ATMs are called Cash Recycling Machines, and instead of receipts they print “advice.”
I got an early start on day two, and headed to Ho Hai to walk around the lake and check out the Hutongs (long winding streets that are what all of Beijing used to look like). Turns out it’s mostly an evening spot with restaurants and bars lining the lake and the hutongs shuttered up till later in the day. It was still a stunning mile or so walk around the lake, with people practicing Tai Chi and chinese puppies running around yapping at ducks. I decided if I was really gonna get my shopping on, I had to go to Silk Street.
Silk Street is an exact replica (though much much smaller) of the malls across the border from Hong Kong in Shinzen. So I had practice on my side. You really have to bargain like your life depends on it. I bought a bag for Greg that started out at 3800 Kwai ($608) and ended after 30 minutes of haggling and walking away twice for 500 Kwai ($80). I also bought myself some sunglasses for about 6 bucks each a wallet for $15 bucks, and a custom suit for $140 (I could have gotten it for $100 but the sales girl confused me with her math!! :P).
Later that night I met up with Max and his buddy Zach and we decided to go clubbing. After hitting 2 places that were not our cup of tea, we found a Steam-punked out club with killer bartenders and awesome music. We played Jenga with the bartenders and the locals and I learned a dice/drinking game. The pictures from that night are LEGIT, but unfortunately they’re all on my iPhone, which I left at the club. Even a return 30 minutes later and some very helpful staff yielded no results. I crawled into bed around 5am.
Day Three - started with brunch at 10am downstairs at my hotel. I really scored with The Swisshotel Beijing. Nice rooms, and a great location right over a subway station. Then it was time to get lost. Not really that hard to do here, considering that nothing is in English and the city is monstrous. Found my way to Lucky Street, wherever that is, and decided to stop for a 2 hour massage for $80, a bit overpriced, but after loosing my iPhone I needed it. I kicked it around Sanlitun Village (upscale shopping neighborhood) grabbed some coffee and worked on my book. Now I’m back at the hotel, blogging away before I head back to silk street to try on my suit and have it altered, before meeting Max and friends near Peking University for some casual drinking tonight. Tomorrow is Max’s day off and we’re hitting The Great Wall!!!!
Some reflections on China - It’s really busy here. But not as busy as I was imagining. The whole place is so spread out, I have a feeling I’m having the same reaction that people have when they visit LA for the first time. It’s also pretty damn cold. However, the creepiest thing by far is the pollution. There are no shadows her because there is no direct sunlight. It’s 4pm and it’s been dark for hours, not quite night, but more like the whole city is on a very low dimmer switch. Visibility is 2 blocks at most, so working out where you are can be difficult. (the pics from my hotel room make it look like it’s brighter than it is because of my killer camera :P).
The best thing so far is the street food. I just love the stuff, so much variety and all so cheap! I don’t know why anyone would ever eat in a nice restaurant. I have no idea what I’m eating of course, I just point at what other people are having and they laugh and hand it over.
I love all the incongruities. Light switches go down instead of up to turn on. Public toilets are everywhere, but they are the squat kind. You pay for everything including drinks BEFORE they start to make it. There is no tipping at all (awesome). All doors say push, or pull, but they really all do both. I’ll keep em coming… in future posts.
The city is building like they will never run out of money (they might not - they have all ours). This truly is the most architectural city I’ve ever seen. Every building is trying to be more creative than the one next door. Well, every new building that is. The old buildings sit in between, crumbling away, remnants of 80s concrete utilitarianism. Yet, construction continues around the clock. When I come back in 20 years, I’m sure the city will be unrecognizable. Then there’s the Communist Buildings. Like the Workers Stadium, or the CCTV building. Monuments to unlimited government resources and the pride of a people. I’m sure when I see the Olympic Village I’ll be floored.
The social differences are very obvious as well. The place is DIRTY bordering on disgusting at points. People shit in the street, pee everywhere and spit like it was going out of style (I’m sure the pollution has something to do with that). Smoking is ubiquitous. Of course I only notice these things because I’m a judgmental American, if I grew up here, it would all be common place.
Well if you’ve made it to the end of this you’re either my dad, or a close friend. So keep reading for more fun from The Middle Kingdom. Love and miss everyone!!!
PHOTOS HERE!! - https://picasaweb.google.com/111673508261637052651/20111115
So after missing my flight here, sitting in the airport for 9 hours over 2 days and a 14 hour flight, I’m finally in the Middle Kingdom!!
The City is monstrous. The people are on a fast pace and there’s something to eat or buy on every street and every corner. I love it. :) Yesterday I checked into my hotel and met up with Max and some of his friends. After an awesome dinner, and checking out Max’s kick ass pad in the middle of party central (otherwise known as Sanlitun Village), we met up with some more friends for drinks. My body had no idea what time it is so around 1am Beijing time, I headed back to my hotel to crash out.
I awoke today at 7am and am waiting for Max to meet me for breakfast before I head out shopping for the day. PS - to all my friends. It’s freaking cold here in November…. Just an FYI. :)
I’m an American who works abroad. Today I woke up earlier than usual and while soberly checking the international news, I saw immediately (and everywhere) that Osama bin Laden had been killed. Good news, I suppose. The almost mythical leader of Al-Qaeda, who nearly everyone had forgotten about, was dead and dumped in the sea. He had been irrelevant for long, I thought, but perhaps his death would lead to some much-needed reflection about the catastrophe that was the last decade. Right.
I will not remember today for Osama’s death. I will remember it for the way I felt watching the videos of my countrymen celebrating in the streets of New York and Washington. I don’t recognize them, these people waving flags, singing, and pouring their jubilation into the night because we killed someone. And what about all the others that have been killed? During 10 years we spent unbelievable amounts of blood and treasure, enacted unthinkable civil liberties legislation, and turned ourselves into brutes for this.
And there we were out on the streets. Brutes. We have become brutes.
Yes, the world is a better place without Osama bin Laden. But I fear what this has brought out in us. The structural factors that create Osama bin Ladens still exist, and unless we work to change those, we will continue to undermine ourselves by giving our attention to tomorrow’s straw man.
I remember when Pete’s Cafe first opened. There was a tower of bottles behind the bar and the whole neighborhood (all 300 people) was there. My friend Raina took me, because back then I was new to DTLA and still needed local guidance.
Over the last many years I’ve had so many wonderful times in the back four-top on the patio (my favorite table). I met one of the few people in DTLA that I’ve dated there (he later decided he was straight and moved to New York). I’ve had meetings and drinks at Pete’s with all sorts of DTLA glitteratti like Hal Bastian, Justin Weiss and Azzi Kashani.
I have to admit, I never got around to trying the whole menu. I stuck to the Hellman burger or the breakfast menu for pretty much every meal. I do remember some awesome braised short ribs and of course the mac n cheese is pretty perfect. If I liked blue cheese I’m sure I would have salivated over the fries that are slathered in it (I know all the rest of my friends did).
The service was always spotty at best, and seemed to change every couple months. I know there have been several head chefs and countless managers, but it’s always been there, with the promise of slightly overpriced but delicious food and good times.
Rumor on the street is that Pete’s Cafe will cease to exist on Wednesday. At least in its curent form. A friend of a friend who works there has already received their walking papers with a bunch of other Pete’s employees. Now, I do have insider info that we’re not loosing the corner eatery at 4th and Main. It’s just going to evolve. Who knows, next week it could look exactly the same. On the other hand, we could see some menu shifting, management shuffling or maybe even a complete rebranding if a new entity takes it over.
Mmmmmmm Portland micro-brews. Thanks Rogue Brewpubs!
Start out at Church and State. If you’ve lived down here a while, it used to suck, but now it rocks, if not, just go enjoy, you’ll be fine. Start with the oysters, they have the only ones in our tiny neighborhood that could rival Water Grill and they’re way less pretentious (read affordable). It’s a decadent way to start the date. Champagne if you can afford it. Let them educate you on what your eating and ask them to make suggestions. Don’t let yourself be up-sold on the most expensive thing on the menu, but usually fresh means good.
Then you’re off a few blocks away to the Downtown Los Angeles Gun Club. Yes you heard me. Guns. It’s fuckn hot. Pick out some targets, grab some guns, buys some bullets and kill some bad guys. Be sure to sign and date your best targets for each other.
Now you need something special for the closer. I assume that you’re both smart, good looking, well traveled people and therefor both Downtowners, so it can’t be the usual rooftop cocktail. I suggest Villians. It’s new and sexy and near where you’ve been kickn it all night. Lounge upstairs for some privacy and great people watching. Get drunk. Go home. Have fun!
Sunday street sweeping in #dtla
Thanks for the gifts @johnniewalker
Master of Whisky Ed Adams explains the birth of a brand @johnniewalker #dtla
Johnnie Walker tasting @loftseven #dtla
Tahoe. Après ski!! Drink drink!!!