My last sightseeing stop in Beijing had to be the 2008 Olympics venue that put the city back on world map. That iconic arena shaped as bird’s nest and a giant water cube are sheer architectural wonders. Line 8 on the subway network connects to the venues. You have to stay till night when both the venues are lit to witness them in their full glory. The day I visited the stadium it hosted a football match between AC Milan and Inter Milan, seeing the supporters gathered to cheer their respective team buzzed the place with phenomenal live energy. No wonder ManU is evaluating options to get listed on Singapore stock exchange seeing growing fan base in the Asian subcontinent. After all the walking around my feet were aching like anything. What better reason to get a Chinese foot massage? They use a special cupping technique which is soothing in a funny way. I had to leave next morning early by train to Shanghai and didn’t want to spend my last night sleeping in the hostel room. When in Beijing you can party, party hard and party all night long just head to bar street in Sanlitun area. I was on my own and randomly entered this place that was playing international pop music. Set on a table that was shared by many people. A young guy sitting next to me ordered a Hookah (water pipe) and it came with two pipes. He offered the other pipe to me and there we go. Later he told me he was from North of Italy studying in Beijing and has traveled to India couple of times! Goa was his favorite holiday destination and he had a tattoo with India on it. He and the bar owner dragged me to elevated dance platform when the DJ played “I Just Came To Say Hello” by Martin Solveig. Time to hop. Next stop an English sort of pub serving Guiness! Am I really in Beijing? What next, Chinese hip-hop at an underground sort of place with a huge dance floor with dancing poles in the middle. And the clubbers having great time swinging around it, who really need the specialists ;)? Change of mood again and I stop at next place playing retro music at 3.00 AM. When I walked into the place seemed like party had just started. Next time I look at the watch and its already 4:30 AM and I was hungry. You just step out of the club and street food is waiting for you.Day 09: Fast Train Home
798 Art Zone
This is one of the most famous places that has successfully attracted many artists, poets and painters over the years whether Chinese or from other parts of the world. It is also known as Dashanzi Art District and is 18 km away from the first stop. It is one of the biggest and celebrated art area in Beijing. The area has its roots in the abandoned factory buildings. The art area of 798 can trace back to 2003, when an abandoned factory was rented to a freelance painter, who opened his own art gallery. 798 refer to the name of the factory. The spacious site is a welcome for art galleries and ambitious projects. It goes without saying that 798 has become a hub of contemporary art in modern Beijing. It is a well suited area for art galleries. A walk down the area will help you see the preserved appearance of old factories, rusty steel construction or abandoned site. It is like reliving the past of 798 factory in the old city of Beijing. Today this place holds top quality exhibitions, quaint museums, cafes, cinema screening films most days. It is perfect example of upholding traditions in a modern city. The rustic charm that it endorses truly made it one of my favourite places in the city.
Songzhuang Art Community
I then went to Songzhuang art colony which is I have a complete bias for. It is located in Tongzhou District and is the most famous and biggest artist community in Beijing. Painters, sculptors, performing artists, musicians, composers, writers, photographers, name it and you will meet them all in this single colony. It is in true sense home to about thousand artists. It used to be a laid back quite town but has today managed to emerge as the most sought after centre in China’s contemporary art scene. A tranquil place where all dreamers live next to each other! If you are looking for an environment blessed for deep inner contemplation then Songzhuang is what you are looking for. It is the best place to meet the artists, learn some of their struggles and stories of great achievements. You can begin your trip with a visit to the Artists Reception Center on Xiaopu Jie at the village square or to the Songzhuang Art Museum off Xiaopu Jie in northern Songzhuang.