29 July 2018

Xicheng District: Parks, Side Streets & Operas...

Looking for some renewal from the crazy, I chose Beijing's Xicheng District for some Sunday solace. MoBikes held the key, peddling for victory away from the days first mishap, it was all good from that first bike QR scan. Teamed with another park, street realness and a smattering of the Peking Opera! I did Sunday right, drama waited for me in the shadows Boo, bye! BYE!

Beijing's Temple of Heaven played mad tricks on me! Not taking too much cash out with me that Sunday morning I hedged my bets that I would be able to see that Beijing site with my WeChat Pay wallet, that wasn't so and I had less than thirty in cash! Getting the cheaper ticket I stood dumb at the second turnstile, I wasn't going to get that view of the main pagoda! I saw that mishaps a minor hurdle, I consulted my Baidu map with the intent to return to that part of Beijing once my work schedule resumed and my head had cleared after my British holiday. Tao Ran Ting Park seemed like a peaceful and unassuming place, it didn't take a minute to bike it, time was on my side so there was no stress! Passing some dodgy animatronic dinosaur exhibit, I made it to a nice piece of water, it was somewhere to sit and think about nothing at all. Oh Beijing, I luxuriated in that moment, the peace and quiet suited that situation! 

The pace of my teacher training course had nearly cut me down, making no apologies I made the most of the serene surroundings of Beijing's Tao Ran Ting Park because the city needed me that day! More like I needed the city that day? I don't know but whatever because I felt the calm float around me like a good vibe in the air. The Temple of Heaven tried to make look like a doughnut, I'd get back there soon enough so no stress needed to be created that lazy Beijing City Sunday. The normality of the park impressed me much, I haven't been to the famous ones like Jinsgshan or Bei Hai so that lesser know green oasis blocked the tourists out and the concrete nature of China's gargantuan capital.  My weekends would be making a full-time comeback, that Sunday about-town was a thing to get used to, that feeling felt blessed for certain! Trust the underdog, I ditched the big time and its ticket madness for something less assuming, not to mention less tourists! 我不是游客!

Feeling a touristy Hutong like a hole in my head, I trusted my Chinese map to find a street that potentially didn't have a name? If truth be told I really wasn't paying attention! I was hungry, fed up of takeaways and cooking for myself even I wanted something simple that Sunday afternoon! An unassuming Shanxi Noodles restaurant looked like the one, it wasn't flashy or appealing to the tourist market so that won me over in a second. Going for a noodle bowl and a beer to wash it down, it was nice to sit back and listen to those hurried Mandarin Chinese conversations. Ordering in a Chinese fashion the owner surprised me by talking about to me in English, now that surprised me because for the capital many people don't speak the international language of English that much, or not at all! For once it was a sober Sunday, now that was a turn up for the books! Yes, those very noodles made my Sunday diamond!

The unrefined nature of that Beijing Hutong corner impressed me much, so much is being changed and it was nice to see something more authentic than towering glass and steel structures, there is a time and a place for that! Gearing up for the Peking Opera I still had some time to kill after my noodles. Finding the rental bike that I had left behind I rescanned it, taking to the streets I had a little mooch between the neighbouring Hutong's, modernised to a certain level it was another normal Beijing sight. For certain I never saw such things in Wuhan, the contrast has worked itself out and if truth be told in that moment the pangs for Central Hubei City disappeared because my life had been upgraded, I am not making any excuses or apologises for being Beijing ready! That post-lunch freedom aside I made my way closer to the Liyuan Theatre for my Peking Opera show, all that biking got me well acquainted with those twisting and turning streets! My love for Beijing had returned!

Taking my seats at Liyuan Theatre within Beijing's Jianguo Hotel, I was ready for my first Peking Opera show. The painted faces and elaborate dresses had attracted me to this Beijing institution, not to mention the high pitched singing voices! Those tourists needed to take their damn seats, taking photos before the show didn't impress me much, of course I sat quietly before moving seats because I wasn't having my view ruined by some person holding their phone in my video whilst they filmed away! Relaxing into the show I enjoyed the first section, the gullible boatman didn't get fooled for long by the beautifully painted empress like actress. The second act captured a heartfelt song, captured to the left the stunningly dressed and painted lady sang of her distresses and how life had dealt her a bad card, but she sure looked good while doing just that! It was like a drag show with painted faces but in Chinese and traditional!

The final segment named 'Farewell My Concubine' saw the leading lady stab herself to death because she couldn't deal with the Emperor's drama, she saw the only option to be at peace was to end her life. All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the Opera, it was well put together and gave me everything that I wanted from it. The subtitles kept me up to date with what was going on, the audience behaved themselves, including me because I moved seats to then be moved to another empty table but had great views so all was good in the end. The whole day was lovely, it was great to get out and have a day out during the summer madness that I had been experiencing. The park was nice, those noodles tasted good and the opera impressed me much indeed! The month of July has been crazy and quite frankly I want it over already, it needs to be dead and gone already! Oh and those shadows, lets just say I won't getting another one of those taxis anytime soon! Well, not for a while anyway Bei!

Farewell My Taxi Driver?

Joseph Harrison 

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