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.
The three women are discussing the satisfaction of having some of Fong’s egg tarts versus the damage this will do to their diets. It was a conversation I could definitely identify with.
My one full day in Hong Kong consisted of cloudy weather with just bits of sun peaking through in the morning. Not a day for images of magnificent Hong Kong vistas, but there was still no shortage of photo-worthy material out there. The elderly couple here is opening their tiny locksmith business in Sheung Wan for the day. Not being too many years away from where they are now, I found myself wondering how they get by on what they earn from their little business. And whether they choose to keep working every day or have no choice but to do so.
This gold shop in a Chiang Mai market catering primarily to local residents is almost certainly owned by a Chinese Thai. Ethnically Chinese Thai families, many of whom have been in Thailand for generations, in some cases for hundreds of years, dominate the small businesses in local markets. While these Chinese Thais are thoroughly assimilated into Thai society, they remain part of the Chinese trading networks that exist throughout Southeast Asia. The Chinese style decoration on the shop’s door and the neon-lit Chinese characters above the woman’s head make it clear that the shop caters to, among others, the many Chinese who visit Chiang Mai every year.
The Chinese women are shopping for cosmetics at the night bazaar in Chiang Mai while their boyfriends look on. In the second image, the vendor in the green tee shirt on the right has punched in a price on his calculator and is ready to begin the haggling festivities. This will take place in English and be rather amusing, as nobody involved speaks much English.