Unlike the plan to explore the city on a sunny side, I was unfortunate to arrive in midst of a historic pollution high [Time, Al Jazeera, Vice, SCMP], which accompanied me until one day before departure, and even the blue sky of the last day seemed to mock me, while inviting to return back one day.
The few plans I had, the few plans they stayed; Yet, in spite of the bad weather and pollution, I used some time to talk with locals, roam the internet on both sides of the Great Firewall, and even visited a few places worth mentioning, before I got sick and had to spend the remaining time of my stay in the hostel awaiting the train to Wudang Shan.
A great way of exploring Beijing, while contributing to the improvement of the air quality at the same time, is to book one of the bike tours offered by the Chihaner, or to rent your own bike for some 200RMB a day, once you feel confident enough in the traffic chaos around you and take a ride around Liulichang!
A good place to start the Beijing adventure is The Hutong – a cultural center, mostly for expats and people living in the city for longer periods of time, but also strayed tourist, who try to experience the city in a more intimate way, like myself, are spotted once in a while, as I was told. I booked one of the many cooking classes they offer, and had a great afternoon learning about the chinese kitchen magic in one of Beijings traditional hutongs.
Friends of Art would not like to miss the 798 Art Zone and Caochangdi - home to Ai Weiwei, among other China’s contemporary artists. However, there is need to prepare yourself first, because without information centers around, and without knowing what you’re really looking for, the place might end up hiding the best things from you. Incubators like RAWR!, or coworking spaces like YuanFen Flow are next to diverse little art studios hidden in backyards, or bigger exhibitions, like the ones at the Asia Art Center. And, if you’re planing to go to Sanlitun afterwards, stop at Project O’Henry for some delicious Slow Food and a friendly chat.
A visit to Beijing could also turn into a geeky hackerspace adventure. There is the Beijing Maker Space, the FlamingoEDA and the local Linux User Group, where you can meet with a like-minded and guaranteed english speaking crowd, and have fun exchanging ideas.
Last not least, a must do, and something that was on my list from the day of arrival, but had to be postponed, because of the earlier mentioned air pollution, is a visit to some of the parks for a morning exercise and a game of go. Hopefully with blue sky above on our next visit in the spring or summer.
After some ten days in the “Northern Capital”, as the city is called in the Chinese language, to distinguish it from the city of Nanjing in the south, which also functioned as capital once in its history, a train will take me directly to my destination – Wudang Shan, Hubei Province.
The plan is to live and train in one of the internal martial arts academies for which the region is famous. The story goes back to Zhang Sanfeng, a legendary taoist priest, which is credited as being the creator of the concept of neijia.
One of the better known styles in the west based on this concept is Taijiquan, but there are also other, lesser known ones, like Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, or Bajíquán, that make up a whole family of complementary styles. Yet the region is not only famous for teaching those systems. It is a place of spirituality, where taoist priests still cultivate their Qi high in mountain caves and monasteries. It is a land famous for its diversity of herbs used in the Traditional Chinese Medicine and for its beautiful, magical landscapes, steadily gaining popularity among local and international tourists.
As for me, I will try to learn and enjoy the place as much as I am capable of, and use the last four days in Germany to prepare my mind for this journey. Wish me something nice. I will keep you up to date.
The time passes fast and without reminders we are likely to forget the unexpected victory achieved by the global community of dedicated freedom activists one year ago: the defeat of SOPA/PIPA, and in Europe shortly after ACTA.
As we celebrate today, we should reflect on this victory, remembering that the war is not over, and that after the battle is the time to prepare for the next one. Get organized!
This said, have a Happy Internet Freedom Day!
- Defend your Freedoms Online: It’s Political, Stupid!
- Netzaktivisten! Ist das alles, was wir drauf haben?
- We are all lawmakers!
- Romantic Hackers
…and Steal this film: http://www.stealthisfilm.com/Part2/