Love List

Friday, February 25, 2011

Beijing Photodiary Part 1

Day 1
I went to Nanluoguxiang, it's an alley that has many small Hutongs. Some of the spaces have been converted into shop spaces for entrepreneurs to open their own quirky shophouses, selling collectible matchboxes, leather bound notebooks and wallets, vintage clothes, cafes, pubs and even restaurants. Here, you can get a taste of indie and 'young culture' in China, and also find many many things that are usually not found in China or even in the world. And yes, there are still many families living within these old Hutongs.

The first 冰糖葫芦 I ate in China. It's basically raw hawthorn dipped in sugary syrup.
Some variations include putting sticky rice or red bean filling inside the hawthorn, or sticking
various nuts and seeds outside.
Churros. It's supposed to be an old Portugese snack.
Fried potato fritters with chocolate sauce. Extremely supremely good.
One of the many quirky shops in Nanluoguxiang
These various Coca Cola bottles covered both sides of the walls of this small cafe.
Can you spot the bottle Karl Lagerfeld designed?
The sun sets at 5.30pm, and night envelopes the frozen lake.
Bars along the lake light up while people continue skating. 
After dinner, I chanced upon a small shop that sells various postcards and stationery. It's got an entire wall plastered with postcards, many of those bearing Yoshimoto Nara's art of suspicious students, and many postcards with retro designs. Some of the postcards and notes pasted on the walls were written by the customers and it was fun to read what each of them felt at that time. 

Even better, in the basement, many unsent letters seat quietly, arranged according to the date that they were to be sent. These were letters written by people who wished to send out their messages to themselves or to someone important, one year later. You could simply choose from the staggering array of notepaper and envelopes to express your message on, and write. The shop mails out your letter on the exact date you specified one year later.

Letters waiting to be sent

Day 2
I went to visit China's two top universities, 北大 Bei Da and 清华 Tsing Hua.

Can you believe this is Bei Da's campus?

Day 3
Visited 798 Art District (a post on that alone to be published) in the day, and went to Beijing's newest luxury goods district at night. Their shop directory includes standalone stores of the top labels in fashion such as Lanvin, Armani, Balenciaga, Dsquared2 and Theory. They even have Tsumori Chisato and merci beaucoup standalone stores!

And of course, Comme des Garcon's mega 5 storey complex, I.T. Beijing. Photography wasn't allowed, but I took some when the staff weren't looking anyway. The store was decorated in a minimalistic manner, but with amazing displays of clothes in arched doorways and a series of small "nooks" that held the clothes intimately. The most amazing thing was the art sculptures on each floor, with the first floor holding a gigantic abstract wooden elephant that exuded an artisan air and made the store seem more like an art gallery and the clothes, art exhibits.

A giant polka dotted pillar snakes up Comme des Garcons' I.T market
First look - PLAY by Comme des Garcons
Racks full of McQueen designs, including shoes and bags
Day 4 
A visit to Sanlitun Village, made up of many shopping malls complete with a central plaza. This part stocks mostly high street labels, many of which are overseas labels that are not even found in Singapore. 

Jianwai SOHO district - another shopping district with many indie fashion shops
stocking imported Korean apparel as well as local designer labels.
I bought a brand new Zara fur coat for only SGD30 there from
a shop selling authentic Zara from their spillover stocks.

Day 7
A visit to 圆明园, Old Summer Palace, former playground of Dowager Cixi. Now it lies in ruins after being destroyed by British and French soldiers in their invasion into China.

The maze
Original ruins leftover from Qing Dynasty
Day ?
Skated on the big lake at Houhai. It was beautiful to watch the sun set, illuminating the bare trees and dwarf tiled old houses.

Professional speed skaters in action!
People playing ice hockey

Day 14
Visited Olympics Park - including the "Bird Nest" and "Water Cube". They made the interior of the Bird Nest into a temporary ice & snow festival with people skating, and playing snow games.

Day 15
Went out wandering about the streets of Beijing on my own. Half of the time I didn't know where I was, but I still managed to find my way around by asking people along the way and taking the subway home. A good thing about public transport in Beijing is that their trains and buses come really frequently and all their bus stops have a name, and they'll announce the stop's name very much like the subway so I could find my way around.

I visited the National Film Museum and Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) art museum. CAFA is the top art institution in China and Prada recently held their S/S 11 show at CAFA art museum. I arrived at the museum for an exhibition on self portraits of female artists from 1930s - 2000s. It was interesting to see the self perception of female artists over the years, whereby the paintings changed from traditional oil on canvas painting depicting women wearing qipaos to working class women wearing men's denim overalls and embodying the revolution of the 1940s-1950s to modern women portrayed in abstract brushstrokes and neon pop colours.

National Film Museum

Day 16
Second visit to Nanluoguxiang, this time spotting new things which I didn't notice the first time, including a music cafe and an art cafe. I was one of the few people who was wandering about alone along the alley, so I was afraid to go inside those small cosy cafes and seat down. I went to a backpacker's cafe instead...
A sign on the Cerise, the art cafe read: Trade your photos in for ours! 
So tempting.

Chinese New Year's Eve
The sky exploded with colours on Chinese New Year's Eve. There were fireworks literally everywhere, amongst those some of them were mine (:

Hope you've enjoyed these photos!
Please await the posting of Beijing Photodiary Part 2.


  1. Wow! These post is absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing. I need to go back to China. I lived there for a month a couple years ago, staying with a few different host families. I visited the hutongs of Beijing, but I never saw this side of the city, wow. That stationary shop is incredible! It reminds me of the electronic, which I use faithfully.

    xx shabby

  2. Ah this is a very long post! And very nicely put together! The photos you made are really amazing :)
    Beijing is very close to my hometown, like 27mins by train :o, and I love the vibe. Oh and the street snacks ! Once again, lovely post!

  3. @Grace

    Let me know if you're ever back in China, I'll give you the addresses of all those shops you should visit :D

  4. @thestylevoyager

    Hehehe I'm posting some street snacks from wang fu jing in the next post so look out for Beijing Photodiary part 2! And also my introduction of 798 Art District "(:

    Glad you enjoyed my photos! I enjoyed taking them too!


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