Tuesday, October 30, 2007

...In which the lazy blogger uses photos to catch up

So I haven't posted since leaving Qianmen for the Sport and Environment conference, mostly because we didn't have internet for most of that time, but also because I haven't really known what to write about. I kind of took the blog on a weird, pedantic jog in my last post, and I haven't been sure of where to go from there... so I'm just gonna post a few pictures. It's better for everyone this way.
The conference was a bit of a downer. Andrea covered it pretty well, so I'll just add that the site itself will look way cool when finished, but BOCOG and the IOC have missed a huge opportunity by proving every skeptic who says that "sustainability" is just a new buzzzword for the same, tired PR totally correct.
Then, there were the bugs in the hotel. And judging by the large smears on the walls, we weren't the first to spend a few long nights at the Century Longdu Apartments sending large, fast-moving bugs to the big, poorly maintained high-rise in the sky.But our weekend by the O-Green was not all bad. We happened to wander into the "South Silk Road" restaurant because everything else in the vicinity of the Conference Center seemed overpriced and westerner-oriented, and we hadn't tried Yunnan food yet. We were not surprised to find that the cuisine of the southwestern province is delicious, exotic and a refreshing contrast to the typical northern dishes, but we were shocked to discover that the place was dirt cheap, considering the high quality of ingredients and upscale decor. Here you can see the Fire Beef which was spicy and impossibly tender, and Pork with Mild Peppers and Sour Papaya, which was sweet, slightly spicy and sour with lime and cilantro flavors. Another highlight were the steamed buns which were made with sweet potato and cornmeal, and stuffed with sweet, smoky shredded barbecue ham. Probably the best restaurant we've been to yet, at the price.Since getting back to Templeside, we went down to Chongwen by subway to check out more hutongs... I've been wanting a picture of this warning on the subway for some time.
Large parts of the protected areas in Chongwen look like war zones, particularly where the streets have been widened. Houses are simply gashed open to make way for the street, leaving half standing structures along these newly-paved roads, giving the place a kind of small-scale Dresden 1946 look. This army tent with a small plot of corn behind it really added to the whole post-apocalyptic feel.
These cats were a much-appreciated photographic distraction from the acres of rubble.
This is a picture from a billboard which currently blocks access to the Qianmen site. It shows what the place will look like once they get rid of all those pesky old buildings.
One of the coolest things about the hutongs which haven't been depopulated are the fruit markets. Fruit is super cheap, and of amazingly high quality. It doesn't all look good from the outside, which fools the American who is used to uniform displays of spotless produce, but the vendor will bust open the spotted, greenish tangerine you just turned your nose up at and make you eat a section, proving that it is lacking nothing in taste and juicyness. The grapefruit here are my favorite... the one in this picture is actually on the small side, as the really big ones can easily be the size of a human head. They are harder and crunchier than I'm used to, but taste delicious, and are a meal unto themselves.

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