It had been around eight years since I was last in Beijing. My main memory was dusty roads, street vendors selling enormous steamed buns and the constant sound of people preparing to hock. I remember feeling overwhelmed and slightly fearful – overwhelmed by the enormous avenues and buildings and fearful of being accidently spat on at any moment.
Well time has passed and the Olympics have come and gone. Beijing is now a modern city and aside from the pollution, one that I think is very liveable. We had the great opportunity to break out of the tourist vibe and stay for ten days in the affluent suburb of Dawanglu while I did some teaching at a lovely studio called Fine Yoga.
These are the just a couple of the many things I enjoyed the most about our time in Beijing
Strolling through the Hutongs (narrow alleys linking traditional style courtyard houses) – I was relieved to find they still existed after hearing news reports in the lead up to the Olympics that they were being torn down. The hutongs are the best place for seeing regular Beijingers going about their daily lives – as the houses are so small most of the action happens on the street – eating dinner, playing checkers or visiting the communal bathrooms in pyjamas. Some hutongs have recently been gentrified and now feature cute cafes, bars and fashion shops, frequented by Beijing hipsters.
Looking at very large modern buildings – Beijing is now home to some seriously cool buildings. We loved the National Centre for Performing Arts (the Egg), the CCTV building (which a Beijinger told me people think looks like a pair of shorts) and the Olympic stadium (the Birds Nest).
Eating Yoghurt – Everywhere throughout Beijing you can find little shops selling ceramic containers of delicious live yoghurt (for around 50 cents). You drink it through a straw out the front of the shop and then give them back the container to reuse. So tasty and so good for the digestion!
Getting my hair professionally cut, washed and blow-dried for AUD$2.50 – need I say more.
Teaching Yoga – it was great to be teaching a Mysore class again. It is always a beautiful thing to see people from different parts of the world enjoying the practice of Ashtanga yoga. The practice links us together, transcending language and cultural differences. The students and staff were so open and warm and like many Beijingers quite gregarious. It was a true delight to be a part of their community even for just a short time.
Xie Xie Beijing. Til next time – Xijian!