Finally Some Relaxation and Sightseeing in Beijing!!!

I’m typing this at 30,000 feet on the way to Beijing. It’s a beautiful sunny day, with a high of 24 degrees f, last’s night’s low was -22 f! It actually got down to -30 f one night!

Before we get on to Beijing, a few things that got lost in the cyber-world, that I wanted to include in the last post about Xiang Sha Wan.

Last night was the closing ceremony, with approximately 300 photographers in attendance.

It was quite unreal. A huge banquet, with several Chinese photographers and the 11 American photographers as guests of honor.

The ceremony started out with several speeches. The speeches always signal the audience to applaud by ending with a more exited and loud delivery.

Then the toasting begins…toasting with wine, but mainly with the Mongolian grain alcohol, which is poured into very small glasses, about half an ounce, but when the table does a formal toast, each person is given a bowl with 5 or so ounces of this potent drink.

The toasting continues throughout the banquet, and during the performances by the Mongolian dance troupe and musicians. These amazing performers are all dressed in beautiful costumes, and are all talented dancers and singers. It was quite a spectacle.

In addition to the professional dancers, both ceremonies that we attended also featured performances by the Chinese women photographers. At the opening ceremony, these women performed a choreographed routine involving 2 dozen or so tripods!

Halfway through the banquet, two goats are brought out. These are not live goats, but rather goats which have been roasted on a spit. The heads are removed, and brought to the hosts of the banquet, who then pet them in turn for good luck.

Then, the goats are carved and served to everyone in attendance. Yum!

After more performances, and more toasting, of course, the banquet ends very suddenly, and everyone leaves immediately.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention… The door prizes! Approximately two dozen carbon fiber tripods, two Leica cameras and some Leica lenses, 10 or so photography backpacks, along with many other prizes, were had, but sadly, not by me or Vera. Fortunately, though, three people in our group won prizes! Two tripods, and get this… A two night stay at the first hotel we stayed at. Hopefully, Maureen Burkhart will return when the weather is warmer than the low of -30 f that we experienced on our second night there. As I recall, our room didn’t get above 52 degrees that night.

One very interesting cultural note. These people are incredibly polite, always urging us to go through the doorway first, offering food and drink.

Arriving in Beijing…

Flying into Beijing from Baotou was a pleasure. I’m pretty sure that everyone on board were photographers who had attended the exhibition and other programs at Xiang Sha Wan.

Again, everyone here is so friendly, smiling, shaking hands, exchanging cards.

Which reminds me, as we were photographing in the streets of Ordos, I noticed that people would stare (which, according to Brooks Jensen, is culturally acceptable here), with serious faces, until we said “ni hoa” (hello in Mandarin), which instantly brought a broad smile and a handshake!

The flight into Beijing was smooth and sunny, with beautiful mountain ranges and rivers along the way. I was looking for the Great Wall, but could’t spot it.

Getting close to the city, we could see huge areas of high rise apartment buildings, just sprouting out of the flat surroundings like so many Lego constructions.

Beijing airport is absolutely huge. After touching down, it seemed to take 25 minutes to taxi to our gate. There are three gigantic terminals, and the efficiency here is amazing. Our luggage was on the belt in minutes!

Here’s a shot of Photographer Christopher Rauschenberg in one of the corridors.

And a shot of the inside of the terminal.

I didn’t get a shot of it, but there are tiny rooms with showers here which can be rented by the hour for naps and freshening up between flights! Walt Stricklin rented one for four hours on the way to Baotou.

Starbucks! Walt, Vera and I just had to pull over to get some non-instant coffee! I miss my espresso machine…

We found a mini van cab almost instantly, and were amazed at some of the architecture we saw on the way to the hotel. This building was incredible! Absolutely HUGE, a nod to MC Escher…

Here are few views of our hotel……

And the lavish bathroom, complete with round tubs!

Our hotel room came complete with a fire mask in a can!

Once we settled in to our room and got some well need rest, we ventured out to the streets of Beijing. Here are a few interesting signs we came across, perhaps we should have brought the gas mask in a can with us?

Here is Vera and her next vehicle. Just her size!

A cool hard case with built in lights on the back of a bicycle.

I’ve seen this guy around for a couple of days, wanted to shoot it, finally found it parked outside Forbidden City.

A coal salesman getting ready to pull out into traffic.

These things are everywhere… Small motorcycles, enclosed in aluminum shells, used as taxis.
I can’t help but think how interesting it would be to drive one of these from LA to Boston…

A lot of effort to pick up such a small pile of rubbish.

Here are two pictures of phone booths on the streets of Beijing. I love these things!

While on our travels I needed to buy another SD card for my camera, so went into “Parts of Camera” store…

The girl behind the counter was very sweet, but very determined to sell me the card I wanted, even though I tried to leave without it five times! Each time, she would lower the cost substantially. The 16 GB card was originally 3250 RMB, and I finally paid 600 for it! Bargaining here is a way of life, and I’ve never been a good bargainer, but I was proud of myself…even though she actually did it all, I just turned away a few times. Hmmm, maybe that technique will work next time I buy a car!

Tomorrow I will be posting images from The Forbidden City….stay tuned…..

~ by Harold Ross on January 7, 2011.

One Response to “Finally Some Relaxation and Sightseeing in Beijing!!!”

  1. Hi Harold,

    Great pics and story! The CCTV building (Escher-esque) is just down the block from TA Instruments China office. You could stop in and see some of your art on the walls there!

    Enjoy your trip,


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