Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Beijing again. 798 Art Zone and antiques

Jim here, filling in for Irish.

Last Thursday was a holiday, Mid-Autumn Festival.  Leading up to it we ate all kinds of different moon cakes.  Surprisingly it turns out Paris Baguette, the Korean bakery chain that we know so well had some of the best moon cakes. We just had Thursday off though, not a three or four day weekend. Not ideal but we learned that most people in China have to make up the holiday, they had Thursday off but had to go in to work on Sunday, so things could have been worse.

My original plan for the day was to stay home and feel guilty about grading until I felt bad enough that I actually took care of some of it. Then Irish made better plans for a day trip back to Beijing. The Youseys, a family we knew in Korea would be there so we were going up to meet them.

That morning we got to the train station incredibly fast, no traffic as no one was out driving on the holiday.  Irish had booked train tickets ahead of time so there was no standing in line. We got right up to our platform, got Starbucks breakfast, and then almost missed our train as we lost track of time while we ate.

The plan for the day was to go to the 798 Art District and then shopping at an antiques market. 798 is in northwest Beijing. It had been an industrial area with factories built in the 1950s and started being converted into art studios and galleries around 14 years ago.  Now it is gentrifying, lots of nice restaurants, nice looking offices for Audi and architects. It is still a lot of fun to walk through.  I had been there on my own two years ago and really liked it. Most of the galleries are free, there are sculptures all over the place, strange and unexpected things to look at.

We met the Youseys at their hotel and then took two taxis up to the art district since it is not on any of the subway lines.

A bright sunny day. 

kids were happy to see each other again. 

Naked lady with a gun. August was confused by this one.
Our literate children fortunately did not seem to notice this sign. It raises questions about who is doing what that I wasn't ready to answer. (I was told it is just a sign for juice at a convenience store?)

In a lot of areas you can still see the industrial origins of the place

Grace and Ruby blending in

Eating lunch. Maybe getting our picture taken, or maybe he was just taking pictures of the restaurant? 

one of many galleries

In the afternoon we left to go to the Panjiayuan antiques market. I was not terribly excited to go shopping but I tried to be a team player. Turns out I was wrong, the market was fun. A lot of reviews complain about there being cheap knock offs, or about foreigners like us getting ripped off, but it seems like they miss the point. There was a lot of interesting stuff mixed in with a lot of junk. The vendors were friendly enough. In most places we travel I don't love negotiating for prices, but since I can handle numbers in Chinese it makes me feel like I really know what I am talking about. We picked up a few things to decorate the house at a 1/5 or 1/6 of the original asking price. I'm sure with some of them we could have gone even lower but we liked the things we bought, we were comfortable with the price we got, everyone was happy.

Probably not valuable antiquities

more stuff that is likely not very old

Ruby trying some negotiating

We had tickets for a 5:00 train back to Tianjin so we got back to the train station that is starting to feel very familiar. We got some McDonalds for dinner and called it a day. Lucky me, I'm glad Irish forces me to do things.

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