The building in the background is the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, part of the imperial structures that served as the capital of Dai Viet from the 11th to the 18th century. The building, very much in a Chinese style, is in the center of Hanoi. The boys in their bright tee shirts with a yellow star against a red background – the Vietnamese national flag – were part of a coed group of 20ish kids, I presume a university class on an outing. All of the boys were wearing the red tees. I rather liked the contrast: young people wearing the symbol of modern, socialist Vietnam against a traditional background representing the country’s imperial past.
The workmen on the right walking and talking through the wedding photo shoot made for an amusing scene. Why the photographer has the happy couple standing so far apart is a question I cannot answer. The old government buildings that are the backdrop for the shoot are lovely.
Gulou East Avenue runs east from the old Drum Tower (Gulou) and Clock Tower (Zhonglou) towards Dongzhimen. It is a main street, but still a two lane two way thoroughfare in a city of massive wide boulevards. Not surprisingly, it is slow going for vehicle traffic most of the time. Because this is one of the few areas of the city that still looks even remotely like “old” Beijing, it is a big draw for tourists, especially of the domestic variety. I suspect this has made local officials reluctant to widen the street. The fact that the PLA owns much of the land on the north side of the street has, no doubt, contributed to the difficulties of doing anything to widen the street. I am certainly not unhappy about this. Gulou East Avenue remains a two lane road and the neighborhood has been spared the wrecker’s ball in the name of “progress”.
Most of the buildings along the street are relatively new but designed to look old. They are supposed to give the street the flavor of the old city, though I have been told that many of the designs are not authentic old Beijing styles. Be that as it may, I love this part of Beijing. The street is tree-lined and shady and, most importantly, it is on a human scale. Unlike much of Beijing with its massive architectural monuments to modernity that China’s urban planners are so enamored of. People can sit on stoops and while away the time with gossip. And that is definitely authentic old Beijing!
A rainy Sunday in Guangzhou turns a huge downtown IKEA into a mob scene of shoppers. A friend and I ventured into IKEA looking for a place to have a coffee. We got lucky and found a couple of seats in the cafeteria and sat for 45 minutes sipping IKEA’s coffee, about 80 cents for a cup with unlimited refills. A more than passable cup of coffee as well, especially compared to the offerings at Starbucks across the street, where a small cup of the swill Starbucks passes off as a premium brew goes for around $3.00. The photo was taken on the ground floor near the entrance to the store. I held the phone up as high as I could and this image is what I got. After three years away from China, a few days in Guangzhou, and especially a Sunday with rain outside, were definitely a reminder of just how crowded big Chinese cities are.