Carbe-Durand in China pt 1 of 3 – Beijing
So we did it! We left LA on April 8. We took at 14-hour flight to Hong Kong, connected there and flew into Beijing. Once there, we were hit with the dreaded air pollution. We got to the Orange Hotel in Northeast Beijing at about 1am on Thursday and tried to go to sleep. We played on our first full day there (Friday) at the Post Mountain facility at MOMA (in the heart of the city – yes, the name was taken from the famous museum) and were well-received. We also did an impromptu jam with the first act of the evening, the Tuvan throat singer Telegur from the Ginza Duo. We melded an original composition of his to our “Mountain Song” (an unreleased tune) – the combo was really cool! The next day we had a workshop – apart from these activities and a brief walk around our hotel, we laid pretty low and adjusted to the new time and place. In the following two days off, the air quality completely turned around.
The first day off, we went guitar hunting, just to see what brands and styles were in the stores – we found a few city blocks of music stores all concentrated around Xinjiekou, where we saw some cool stuff, though most of it was the same from store to store, mostly Chinese brands that we’d never heard of. Then we went back to the subway to Xidan as well as the Central Mall, primarily to find good food, which we did! The China Central Mall was pretty amazing – 5 floors of every designer from Salvatore Ferragamo to DKNY to Stella McCartney, as well as the most affluent Chinese families. It was in stark contrast to some of the other parts of Beijing we’d seen up to that time.
One thing that blew us away was the amount of people. All of LA county is about 10 million people. The city of Beijing alone is 21.5 million. The streets are packed, traffic is a little insane, and there are non-stop commercial and real-estate buildings. We definitely wanted to see something that was a little more natural and less packed.
Thus, the second free day we were able to do some sightseeing and walked A LOT! We visited the Summer Palace in the northwest corner of the city. There were some beautiful buildings, some of which went back several dynasties (although the truth is that most of the buildings were destroyed by “Anglo-French forces in 1860”, a historical fact that is emblazoned on almost every sign there, lest one forget who the oppressor might have been). There’s a restored village, a beautiful lake, and the breathtaking Tower of Buddhist Incense amongst many other classic buildings. It was awe-inspiring.
Tomorrow we post . . . Dongguan!