Beijing July-August 2016

Saturday-Sunday 30th July (travel)

Heathrow-Beijing via Air China (9 pm  – 2 pm flight). Not much sleep, but otherwise all very smooth.  Taxi to hotel, and a chance to get a shower before heading out.

Sunday afternoon – Olympic Park

Accommodation and meeting venue is at the Olympic Park. I am here primarily because was asked to give a talk at the AOGS conference, and also cause there is an interesting side meeting on at Tsinghua University – tomorrow.  So went for a walk to find the venue and take a look around.

Random observations: Buildings around here are built impressive; the conference venue appears to dwarf the conference. Almost everything seems to be on a Grand Scale. Folks seem the opposite – relaxed and friendly. Somewhat interestingly, I did not see another westerner – not a single one – during a couple of hours of wandering around. Almost no-one uses a pushchair. A lot of sleeping children were being carried by an adult. You can taste the smog. Am a bit unsure about whether to try going for a run.

But there are some who do exercise around here: was rather taken by this set of next generation speed skaters.


And fb, anything google related, plus lots of other sites dont work. Ah well.

Monday – The Forbidden City

Popped into the very efficient underground after the interesting bits of the program had finished for today. Three changes later, and a brief walk, the gate into the Forbidden City – complete with Mao:

Once inside the Forbidden City there were lions and marble bridges:

And storks and dragon-tortoises and frequently fondled pots:

And more gates and nice roofs and temples and halls. And its about balance and harmony, and its nearly all very big:

And okay, maybe I should have taken a guide. But I didn’t have so much time. So almost all the cultural references – and clearly *all* the nuances went straight over my head. The West Palaces were a bit better in that they had lots and lots of really rather lovely and very old bronze pieces. And were on a much more human scale. Although apparently  300+ (300!) concubines lived there, which seems a bit super-human too really:

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TBH, even the gardens at the end had some stuff that seemed endearingly odd. Like whats this rock-temple-garden-climbing-cliff-thing?

I’d also promised C that I’d try to look at her collection at the National Art Museum of China.  So once out of the FC, I walked over there next. But I was too slow: it twas shut. Ah well. I also managed to also cover five tube lines, a squat toilet, and some delightful noodles; it wasn’t really such a bad few hours : -).

Tuesday – workshop

Several unfortunate internet outages + phone problems conspired to make arrangements for the Tsinghua University workshop arrangements a bit awkward. But we got there in the end.  Lunch with the organisers first – wow – their uni faculty canteen is nice. And then an unexpected last minute request for a talk. I’d apparently been put on the workshop poster – but perhaps someone forgot to mention that to me.  All fine anyway. And then a very nice post-workshop dinner including Beijing Duck, and a load of other less identifiable but mostly delicious dishes, with some extremely nice PhDs and Profs. Then a walk by a lake, and on back to the hotel to catch up on emails.

Wednesday – Networking at Prince Kungs Palace and beyond..

A long productive afternoon and evening talking to the other Workshop’ers. Partly on Matthias’s, and partly Yanglong’s, decision we met at the Beihei Bei tube station at 2 pm – or rather 2:10, since I went in the wrong direction first (they kindly waited for me).

Its currently hot. Beijing’ers seem very good at keeping cool:

Waiting outside Prince Kung’s Palace – a hot day.

Prince Kung, or Prince Gong’s, palace was apparently taken over from an (over)rich official by the Emperor about 200 years ago. According to Y’s translations, a relative of the Emperor then moved in. Possibly this one:

Nice beard : – |>>

I think this one was also foreign envoy until his death.

Again, like the Forbidden City, many of the smaller buildings had been turned  in small museums.

We spent some time wandering round the old halls and temples, and eventually went under the Moon Inviting Platform to touch the sign of happiness (thereby happily ensuring happiness) and then climbed up to the top of the platform.

After that, a hot walk round a remaining area of Hutongs – traditional inward facing houses. And then onto Houhai and Qianhai (front and rear lakes). Where we took a yellow duck boat – which indeed was literally a large electric yellow duck, with a steering wheel + front and reverse drive. Piloted by Gabe we meandered our way from Houhai to Qianhai, via the bridge. Steering was a little iffy.

Stopped for dinner in the tourist area – Matthias and I were both keen to try Donkey – Yanglong was keener on Cow. Quite spicy, but not bad atall. And thankfully my chopstick use had finally reached the almost-competent level – aided perhaps by my starting to eat breakfast with them too. Chopsticks do have advantages compared with steel cutlery. They feel nicer, and, in a group dinner with lots to share, they tend to slow down folks eating – which is also nice.

After dinner we had a look at the bar area. Yanglong checked internet recommendations – and took us to a bar featuring 1990s Chinese Rock:


Stopped to have a look at Houhai, and get a fan on the way back to the underground:

I got lost after getting out at a different – supposedly slightly closer – tube station on the way back. Turned out it was because parts of the Olympic Park are closed off at night – then it becomes difficult to find a route back to the hotel. Slightly embarrassingly ended up having to take a taxi less than 1 km – coz I just couldn’t figure out how to get across the massive (fenced) roads.

Thursday – Conference Session Dinner

The well run conference session ended at 6 pm.  18 of us were eventually organised into taxi’s – and taken to what had been the Olympic Village. Dinner followed the (usual?) pattern, where the Chinese Profs debate who is the most senior. No – but surely its you! I assume, rather than Its me, its me! Then we organise ourselves with the most senior Prof at the head (of a round table?) in the normal private room. I think the head then chooses the dishes. Possibly one for each person present + one for luck(?), which are then put on a inner rotating part of the table to share.

We definitely had Egg dishes, Goat, Sheep, Cow, Donkey?, Tendon, Fish heads, Duck, Other Bird (?), very good vegetable plate including Lotus, and soup. With the usual Tsingtao Beer and some Baijiu (local spirit) which Gabe had requested.

Our groups also did this nice thing, where once they have eaten enough, some (the less senior, I think) will get up, walk around the table, and toast each other and chat either one-to-one or in small groups.

At the end (9/10 pm?) I walked back towards the hotel with Jonathon, Suqin and some others. They took the 15 tube home and I had a final pleasant walk back to the Hotel around the Olympic Park.

Friday – travel

A bit of work, pack up, then tube + train to the Airport at 11:30 am (Beijing time). Home at 1 am UK time (= Beijing + 7 hours: Beijing 8 am Saturday). Tried not sleeping to help with time adjustment. Seems to be okay so far.

And I’d like to go back again sometime!




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