May 09, 2007

May Day Holiday, Part II...
Friday was a lazy day with an excursion that started and ended with a lunchtime all you can eat/drink sushi buffet with Vanessa (a German girl from the hostel) and Alex.
Saturday we headed to the Summer Palace, where the 18th century Emperor's once frolicked through the summer heat. It's an immense complex, with a huge lake in the middle. I imagine that at one time it was quite relaxing, but the place is swarming with tourists now. For dinner that night we went to a Western restaurant called "Steak & Eggs" that had poutine made by a real Montrealer! Of course it isn't as good as the real thing in Canada, but for China it's not bad.
On Sunday we headed out to the Factory 798 Art District in the Northeast of Beijing. It used to be home to a slew of factories, but a lot of them have been converted to modern and post-modern art galleries. Despite this, there are still a few working factories around. I was quite impressed by most of the art, which was very innovative and new. We chatted briefly with one of the gallery owners who said that 5 years ago the only people who bought the art were foreigners -now it's 99% foreigners who buy the art. But he also said that the younger generation are much more interested in it as they're tired of the traditional propaganda art that they learn about in school.
After a wonderful Western breakfast at Lush on Monday, I did some clothes shopping. Despite most of our clothes being made here in China, it's surprisingly hard to find something that I like here. In fact, the area around XiDan was the first time that I saw Chinese brand clothes that I would actually wear. The whole shopping experience was definitely another China moment. I really think that number of sales staff in each of the stores were greater than the actual number of shoppers. "Try this, try that, pants? different colour?" Every time you decide to make a purchase the person who helped you will shout something in Chinese and every other salesperson in the store will shout hurrah! Yay for buying wearable clothes.

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