Wednesday, August 08, 2007

China: One year countdown to the Beijing Olympics begins

On 8:08 p.m. of 08/08/08 (August 8, 2008), the 2008 Beijing Olympics will begin. It’s one big party in Beijing today as China and the world counts 365 days to the opening of the Games of the XXIXth Olympiad. I was planning to join the party in Tian’anmen Square but ended up watching the ceremonies on TV instead.

I was in the center of Beijing today for a change in routine. It took me quite a while to get there from my hotel which is along the North 4th Ring East Road near the construction area of the National Olympic Center (I should check that out one of these days). The hotel is about a kilometer from the nearest subway station.

First stop was the Philippine Embassy to meet up with my brod who is consul general in Beijing. We had lunch at Friday’s (after having Chinese food three times a day everyday for the past week, one craves for a change).

After lunch, I took a subway to Tian’anmen Square.
I had wanted to check out the countdown clock again but the whole square was cordoned off in preparation for the program in the evening. Oh well! There goes my revisit to Chairman Mao’s mausoleum.

Crowds were already waiting along the sides of Tian’anmen. There were even people passing the time in the pedestrian underpasses since it was so humid outside. I walked towards Qianmen and from there, took the subway to Liulichang Cultural Street.

Known for its cultural stores housed in restored old shop houses, Liulichang is a must-visit if you like the feel of old streets or like collecting antiques or art. You can find a lot of antique stores, calligraphy and art galleries, bookstores, tea houses and small shops selling miscellaneous cultural stuff (but no commercial souvenirs like those in Sichahai). Just like always, bargain hard. I got myself some really nice ceramic figurines for one-third the original price (I feel I could have gotten them even lower).

Exhausted by the humidity, I decided to make my way back to the hotel. Beijing is just so big, I’m getting so much exercise from the long walks. One more day of lectures before we fly to Guilin for the weekend. I heard it’s really nice.

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