Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

2008/03/10 Haidian district, Beijing

The Haidian district is the part of Beijing where the city’s major universities, and many high-tech businesses, are located. I wanted to see the neighbourhood, so Eric took me out for a walk. Near the hotel was a noodle shop, so we first had lunch.

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Beef noodle soup is common fare for Beijing. I was a little unsure about risks of eating uncooked vegetables, but Eric recommended the pickled cucumbers.

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Out on the main street, we saw the partitioned streets common in Beijing: outer lanes for bicycles and taxis loading/unloading, and inner lanes for the main flow of traffic.

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We passed a vendor selling pineapple on a stick, and Eric decided he wanted one.

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We passed by Beijing Haidian Hospital. At that time, we didn’t know that it was the appointed medical facility for Olympics athletes.

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The Haidian Theater is prominent at a main intersection, and a landmark that we passed on multiple taxi trips.

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Crossing the street on a pedestrian overpass, the air pollution was visible on that Monday.

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In the street below, there was a lot of construction. I presume that this might have been for the new subway interchange.

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Looking the other direction from the pedestrian overpass, we were unsurprised to see yet another Beijing traffic jam.

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The plaza was terraced, so we climbed some steps to an upper level. From the there, the modernity of Beijing was illustrated one of many glass buildings.

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Looking down from the upper level, the pedestrian overpass was high above the street traffic between the malls.

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From the overlook, the expansiveness of wide-open spaces left an impression. Beijing is the capital city of China, so architecture is scaled large.

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Turning around to return the way we came, I let Eric go ahead so that the scale of distances could be appreciated.

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Back down on the ground level, we walked around and found this nice-looking building. It’s a restaurant architected in a more traditional Chinese style.

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The entry of the Haidian Carrefour springs up from the plaza. The escalators weren’t working when we arrived, so we took the stairs down two levels.

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As we entered the store, it’s clear that the Chinese have learned about the hypermarche from the French.

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Past the electronics section was a large selection of refrigerators. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the number of Chinese brands.

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The next aisle was a display of washing machines.

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Beijing is on the edge of a desert, so a large selection of humidifiers is appropriate.

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The bicycles were mostly at a functional, rather than prestige level. I saw a variety of styles of folding bicycles.

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On the other side of the store was displays of linens and comforters.

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Eric decided to pick up a buckwheat pillow while he was there. The pillow is twice the size of the one I’ve owned since my days in Vancouver.

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Shoes on sale are stacked up in a display.

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Beside the better shoes is a size chart.

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In a less advanced consumer market, the retailer can add value through customer service. The warranty on shoes offered by Carrefour was explicitly posted.

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If the store wasn’t already large enough, it’s on two floors. We rode the escalator up, with our shopping cart.

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Northern China eats more wheat than rice. The selection in the bakery department rivals any western supermarket.

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Watermelons were already in season in March.

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Dragonfruit certainly has a colourful exterior. I’ve never been a big fan of the interior.

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In ready-made foods was a large display of trotters. They’re not something that I would normally eat.

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Behind glass was a variety of baked goods and buns unfamiliar to me.

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In North America, we’re not accustomed to having a wide selection of seaweeds.

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The seafood department offers live fish in running water.

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Ground meats are available in self-service quantities.

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There’s lots of choice in the candy displays.

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In the freezer cases, we saw different types of sausages.

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Liquor is readily available in the supermarket.

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The checkout lanes are as we know in developed countries.

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Since Haidian is known as a high-tech centre, Eric took me by the electronics buildings for a quick look.

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The Haidian Street sign leaves no question where you are.

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In one of the towers, vendors compete for customers passing by their stalls.

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Eric said to keep moving, and we got on the escalator up.

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Lenovo is a Chinese company which has taken over the Thinkpad brand.

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Laptops are wrapped in plastic to keep sticky fingers away.

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We exited the tower by another door. Eric said that the next tower was similar in layout.

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On the way back to the hotel, we saw a lower-tech version of customer service: computer technicians pedaling to their customers, with all of the necessary equipment on the cart behind.

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This short afternoon walk in the Haidian district reinforced my impressions of Beijing as a big city. The wide sidewalks and streets reflect the order that should be expected in a capital city. For a human being on foot, though, the city has an intimidating size.

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