Monday, 24 January 2011

Beijing is HOT . . .

even at a constant -10 degrees celsius. By "hot" I mean that it is sizzling and exciting, some of that hype about China in all fairness, is well-deserved, it was to me, what I expected and more.

The Prada SS '11 show in Beijing was my reason to visit the Chinese capital, a perfect little excuse provided by my friend Sebastian Suhl of Prada who invited me and also Arnold Chan, my mentor the lighting guru. A long overdue visit as well to old friends. The Prada extravaganza was on Saturday and was to comprise of show, dinner and a concert, more on that later. Before Prada, I already had my hitlist of to do's given to me by Stephanie Betant and old friend who is living there and LUXE Beijing guide (perfect for a short city trip, I managed to Sharpie dot many places on the guide).

First lesson re Beijing is that everyone seems mean and rough but actually they are not, they are nice and have a bit of a sense of humour. It sounds like they are complainign but they are not and once you get used to the tone, the beauty of the Mandarin language is revealed.

My first place to visit was the Forbidden City.

frozen moat

This is where the emperors, empresses, concubines and eunuchs spent their days. It is grand. Full stop. The vision the emperors had back then was spectacular, almost crazy. The attention to detail, the grandess, the stories and the rituals. My talking GPS guide was extremely useful.

This is the house where the last emperor Pu Yi studied. These are the inner courts, the inner life of the palace, you can almost imagine everyone in their outfits a la Xang Yimou's Hero dancing in silk with swords. Surreal.

where Emperor Pu Yi went to school
hill of accumulated grace

I visited where the Empress used to hang out and gossip with the court ladies. There was one Empress who was extremely clever and she managed to get her son to succeed to become emperor and effectively was the force behind a certain era. It was in Hall of Balance and Equality that she used to hold her court.

Empress style

There is a hall where the emperor and his empress would be locked in over 3 nights on the night of their wedding.

The most spectacular of the them all is the Hall of Supreme Harmony. . . this is the grandest of them all and where the Emperor would hold court and discuss affairs of the state, later on it was the ceremonial hall used for weddings and coroniations. This was also where emperor Pu Yi was coronated when he was merely three years old. Apparently the grandeur of it all terrified him and he burst into tears. He father soothed him by saying, do not worry, it will be over soon. Well, there might have been somethign prophetic about that as Pu Yi was the Last Emperor.
Hall of Supreme Harmony

Let's face it though, the Palace and the Forbidden City symbolises a China of myths and legends and in the way that it was been preserved especially as a World Heritage site should be informing the new generation fo China of the power that China once was and is perhaps a little glimpse as to what it could be. Amazing preservation of history and curiousity of it considering they were so good at eradicating it all.

Upon exiting the Palace you get the Gate of Tiananmen, and then a spectacular setting with Mao in his full glory still with guards surrounding his image and just across the street was Tiananmen Square. In its full glory.

Goosebump material.

I found myself after my 4 hour walk for food, I ended up at a Peking Duck institution having steamed duck as Peking Duck was on the menu for the evening. I also managed to find Capital M, part of a chain of restaurants that exists also in Shanghai and in Hong Kong, lovely view, rather nice space and yummy Ginger Toddy.

I had to get the subway back to the hotel as traffic in Beijin is just silly. I was not prepared for the rush of people. How many people live in the city becomes clear when you get into the train. Terribly efficient though.

Dinner was at Duck de Chine . . . Peking Duck in a lowly lit sexy space in a courtyard. Trust my friend Stephanie to pick the "it" spot that also has great food.

We then fought the cold to the Apothecary where I bumped into my friend Carol who I was suppose dot meet up wiht anyway. So for as big and sprawling a metropolis as Beijing is, it's rather small. Love it. This was my classical red hot itinerary, the next day would be another side of Beijing.

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