Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A rainy day in Beijing.



I
woke up this morning to gray, overcast skies. A whole day of rain was forecasted. Luckily, I had not planned to do any sightseeing today. Instead t was going to be a day dedicated to shopping....to the Silk Market in the afternoon and in the morning, to a newly built shopping plaza nearby Tiananemen Square that I had seen on our taxi ride back from Olympic Park.

Tiananmen Square was only about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. With umbrella in hand, I set out after breakfast.

The shopping plaza is located off of Qian Men Xi Dajie which happens to be the street that the south side of Tiananmen Square is also located on.

Along my walk towards the shopping plaza, I headed west on Qian Men Xi Dajie. A short walk later and I was in front of the old Beijing Railway Station.

Right across Qian Men Xi Dajie from the old Beijing Railway Station lie the Bell and Drum Towers that would have secured the part of the wall that protected this part of the city.





















About the 10 minute walk from the train station and I arrived at the shopping plaze. Still under construction, the plaza is designed to look like an old Chinese city.....maybe Beijing a hundred years ago??










The occupants will all be *high end* establishments. In this city of 16 million consumers and given its central location near key tourist hotspots, I expect this place to be very, very popular!!








Tram tracks run down the center of the center of the shopping plaza and the old timey trains that were sitting outside the plaza entrance would give one the idea that they will use trains that look and feel like they came from the same era as the buildings.







Several of the buildings were occupied but most were empty. Even so, there were a few folks, like me, just walking about and window shopping.


At some point, I saw people veering off to a side street and so I followed. Lo and behold, it was back to *regular* Beijing. Stores and streets crammed with people. Even a dreary, rainy does not deter people from going and hitting the shops!

I must admit it's odd how quicky I had gotten used to the crowds in Beijing. Walking in the soon-to-be high end shopping plaza felt a bit disconcerting....like I was in a ghost town. In contrast, I now felt comfort being consumed by a masses of noisy Chinese people. Wierd, isn't it?



 I wandered in and out of the shops, doing a bit of souvenir shopping. Of course, I paid a visit a couple of the candy shops and picked up a few items :-) In the short time I've been in this city, I've discovered that the Beijingnese have a sweet tooth. Candy and sweet stuff are available e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

Rain definitely does not deter the locals from leaving their homes....the streets and stores were packed.







It was a long street so up one side and down the other and I was done. Back to the soon-to-be fancy, schmancy shopping plaza. Just as I was getting ready to get back on Qian Men Xi Dajie, another side street caught my eye. Again, I veered off. This time, I was in for bit of a shock. I think what I had stumbled was the original neighborhood that was partially razed to build the shopping plaza.











The street was all torn up....manhole covers jutting up to trip you up if you weren't paying attention to where you were walking. Wires, cables and pipes were strewn about. The stores were a little dilapidated and shoppers were far and few between.

Most of the stores sold housewares which I was not interested so I didn't spend much time on this street. Smaller side streets reminded me of the hutong Jenny took us to on our first day in Beijing - lots of homes being torn down though I wonder with the shopping plaza just a stone's throw away, whether or not they were being demolished to be rebuilt or simply demolished.

By now, I was getting more and more wet....time to someplace dry so I decided to go to the Silk Market which is housed in a 6 story building. So I headed back towards Tiananmen Square to catch the subway. Part of walk was on a tree lined sidewalk....pretty even on this drab day.



At the Silk Market, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and then promptly got lost in the maze of vendors.....1700 of them spread over 6 floors!! You can buy just about every knockoff item here - from Burberry coats to Timberland boots to Prada bags. Sales people are constantly trying to lure you into their stall with the promise of the lowest price in town. It's absolutely exhausting and dizzying to be in this place!! Through it all, I did manage to buy some souvenirs and a knock off Omega watch for 80 RMB which is about $13! I just hope it lasts through Mongolia!

After the Silk Market, I decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow would be another day of touring the city so it was going to be a quiet night in front of the TV.