Sunday’s Service... Beijing, China: Qianmen Street Realness!

The last time was no joke, getting it together was the only thing to be done! Venturing back into the city was the medicine that I needed, getting myself situated before the cabin fever took over! Not blaming it on the booze for once, I boarded that Line 15 train into Beijing's urban core. Going back to the beginning, I wanted to get things done my way! Beijing, I did what I wanted!

As mentioned before it was no joke the first time when I visited Qianmen Pedestrian Street in Beijing's Dongcheng District. I had some unwanted and rather annoying baggage with me the first time, I was not going to play during that second visit because my days out at the weekend are cherished. Taking the Beijing Subway from Houshayu to Zhushikou caused no problems albeit the two changes I had to make. Retracing those original steps, my feet were firmly back on Beijing's famous Qianmen Street. Fortunately, the pollution had disappeared that weekend but with blue skies in Beijing it meant that the winds were pretty fierce! Back to the street, during my first visit I wasn't under any illusion that a large part of that former historic street had been either renovated or rebuilt, things just looked a tad too modern! Nevertheless, I saw a few older looking shopfronts along Beijing's Qianmen Pedestrian Street. The first time wasn't a mistake, I knew exactly what I wanted to do that Sunday mid-morning! Do not get me twisted! Be careful!

During the second visit I was able to walk at my own pace, being able to do just that allowed me to see things closer. I'm being real, I have to do things my way! Between the old and new stood a huge contrast, with traditional Beijing style windows and other features to the more than obvious new brickwork that could be seen in a rather unsubtle fashion. I am used to the mass renovations that Beijing has committed to its many main attractions, looking past those modern mistakes I was able to appreciate the China Post building and such places that have been captured above in the photo. No, I didn't eat any Beijing Duck that Sunday afternoon, quite frankly those tourist prices didn't impress me much! If the truth be told the street was very easy to navigate, it was insane to see so many walking Chinese tour groups! As if I lowered myself to eat KFC during my first visit, I really need to try some more Beijing food but the whole scene gave me too much of a tourist vibe. Yes, Beijing has a funny way of showcasing itself to me! Oh!

If truth be told, I really loved the sight that's been captured in the photo to the right hand side. The weather had cleared up and the winds had calmed down by the time I had almost reached the top of Qianmen Street. The revamped street car was in view with the main Chinese style arch in the frame, taking centre stage. In the far distance of the view stood the Archery Tower of Qianmen, apologises to Beijing's history but I didn't have a single clue what the tower was called or its relevance was to the city! I need to do my homework! So, the Qianmen Gate served as the southern city gate of Beijing during the Qing and Ming Dynasties, boasting over six hundred years of history for this Chinese capital city. Continuing to take things at my own pace, I took as many or as little photos because it was all about me, myself and I! Choosing a Sunday, I know that Sunday's will be my fundays for sightseeing! 北京, 不是星期六! I had to remind  Beijing that it wasn't a Saturday, time wasn't of the essence because I had a plan! BJ, where was Dashilan?

During the first visit I had chosen to visit on a Saturday dinner time, now that was a mistake of epic proportion due to the crowds that filled the nearby Dashilan Commercial Street. Famous for its welcoming sign, it was another first sights for me to accomplish whilst living in Beijing but the buzz was enough to endure after a few minutes, knowing better the second time I made a route recalculation! I never expected to end up in a quiet Hutong alley considering the noise lay two seconds away from that unassuming Beijing spot. The first visit was a lesson, only take days out with people who don't complain like a spoiled child does! Realising that there was more to see in and around the many sprawling Hutong's in around Qianmen's Dashilan area I did my research to find somewhere interesting for the second visit. All in all, I was extremely happy with my snatched view of the street car and the rest of another picture postcard view within the city of Beijing, China! Get it, get it! Beijing never disappoints me, there's always something going on! 

My research took me to Soloist Coffee Co. Set along a lovely looking alley style path that was comprised of aged and partially restored houses, businesses and some derelict spots that looked perfect for the surroundings. Getting myself a salmon bagel and a posh coffee to match, I took a seat within the rooftop area of the coffeeshop. The view from the rooftop was quaint, no crowds could be seen, it almost felt like I had the best view from above the rooftops. Sipping my coffee during that Sunday afternoon relaxed moment allowed me to overhear a conversation going on at the next table, the ladies sounded like were from Singapore? They surprised me at first as they were speaking clear fluent English, that always gets me because ironically I speak more Chinese when I am out and about in Beijing, things aren't so international in the big bad city after all! We shouldn't judge a book by its cover! Anyhow, I loved the surroundings and the overall feel of the Soloist Coffee Co. It was a winning result, the coffee tasted great! It's true, I do love exploring! 

Realising work beckoned the next day, I boarded my first subway train at Qianmen Station along Line 2, changing twice more to reach Wangjing with Line 15 to take me back home to Houshayu Station! The day second time round had been well worth it compared to the first time. I had my bearings and most importantly I called all the shots, visiting the places I wanted to without any complaints or drama! I am glad that I have done Qianmen, next I am looking at visiting Beijing's showcase Tiananmen Square during the summer months. My coffee and bagel were lovely, the backdrop was also lovely and the conversations going on were ones I could full understand for once! Beijing has been in my life for eighteen months now and for that I feel I have seen a respectable amount of sights for that time but its time to pick up the pace now! Dashilan wasn't what I expected it to have been, but I was able to find something less tacky, rightly so! Life is a language lesson, I'm being schooled! My Chinese has improved because of the immersion in BJ! 

Qianmen Done!

Joseph Harrison 


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