Friday, September 5, 2008

Beijing: change, and olympic interlude

Beijing has changed an amazing amount since August 2007. The subway has expanded almost 3-fold, the airport and infastructure is brand new, the air (seems) cleaner, and the prices have gone up! It is more and more looking like a Western metropolis, and nothing like the dusty city I found myself first in nine years ago.

Beijing Metro: 

Arrived at Beijing Train Station at 5AM; the train station is still the same, the busiest part of town. The subway, however, has changed signifigantly; cards are now RF-ID, only 2RMB, and the subway lines have expanded! Be sure to keep your card, as you will need it on the way out. For Olympics I presume, each station has a bag scanner. If NYC could emulate the efficiency of Beijing's Metro. I always find it suprising when people do not run to catch the leaving train, as I am used to Boston's once-in-a-forever subway system. The crowding from before has been reduced; the trains are nicer; even the recordings from nine years back have been changed! It's a marvel to ride.

Outside of Wukesong station, the auto-rickshaws are gone; taxis will have to do. Taxis are now 10RMB flag, then 2RMB/km after initial few km. If you can catch one in the suburbs, they are 5RMB usually to a Metro stop. It's a tight squeeze for two!


The air quality is signifigantly better than even a year before, although these are my subjective observations. It is still hazy, however, but does not give instant asthma anymore. Interesting.


In case anyone is looking to tailor clothing (suit, qipao, etc...), there was an entry I found on the web for Daxin Fabrics, at Gongzhufen. Expanding on this, the place is located about a 5 minute walk down Changan Jie past Ciwei Shopping Center. You'll pass by a KFC, and eventually a Giordano/Baleno store and turn a corner to the left. You can get tailored attire here; buy the fabric, then find the tailor. It was 280RMB for a suit to be tailored, though I may have gotten ripped off. Shipping abroad to the US takes 1-2 months at ~300RMB. I suspect China is no longer good for this anymore, as things have become signifigantly more expensive.

5% of what this place has.


Golden Dragon, in the Jiangguomen area, has an amazing all-you-can-eat buffet, 189RMB, which includes food from pretty much every corner of the world. I can almost guarantee this will be the largest buffet you will ever encounter. Of particlar interest is the sashimi section. 


New airport express line leaves Dongzhimen for 25RMB, train came every 15min in the afternoon, and takes (30?) minutes to arrive, also RF-ID card (keep to exit). Terminal 3 is the international departure terminal! The terminal is stunning in its construction, although of gigantic proportions. Definitely a not-miss.

Thought: For all the advertising for the Paraolympics, not many people are watching...

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