Like I mentioned in another post, Beijing doesn't seem to have changed that much. It has a little, but not like when I came back in 2005 after I had left in 1999. I mean, that change was huge! But, for example, there are more upscale areas with hip stores. Or, more accurately, more old areas have given way to gentrification. One of these places is called 1949, and that's where one of my old friends not has a business called Pop-Up Beijing, where he sells antiques, artsy items, and where he also hosts movie nights and parties, including an after party for a queer film festival that was ending the night I arrived! Wow, a queer film festival? In Beijing? Awesome! Oh, that and a white bunny candy (picture below), doubly awesome, lol.
The river near my hotel had changed a bit too, with more modern buildings around and a more manicured look... There were even people fishing there!
A very cool thing, of which I saw only one by a subway station, was an automatic library! I have no idea how that worked, 'cause I saw it only on my first day when I got off the airport train to catch a cab to my hotel. Oh, and by the way, locals are so used to hearing foreigners speak Mandarin they don't even bat an eyelid anymore when I speak it!
The views from my hotel introduced my to another new thing (well, new to me): pollution. My first few days were actually very nice and clear, with the wind blowing pollution away. That allowed me to enjoy some beautiful sunrises and sunsets, for example. But my last day? Yuck! There was a thick layer of smog and the pollution levels had gone way above 200! I mean, I think we had one really bad pollution day once during the almost five years I lived there. Now they're having these on an almost weekly basis!
As bad as pollution is a terrible change, there was another good one – Adam's, the first gay bar to openly show a rainbow flag by the entrance! Beijing has had gay bars and nightclubs for very many years. At the very least since 1997. But none had ever dared publicly announce what kind of place they were. So I felt the obligation to go and have a drink to support these guys courageous and proud guys!
That gay bar was in Sanlitun, a very popular bar and shop area with a huge concentration of foreigners. And Sanlitun has changed somewhat too, with more shiny and lit-up buildings, like the Intercontinental, adding to the already hip atmosphere offered by the malls nearby.
And the subway! Whoa! I think there were like 2-3 lines 7 years ago. Now there are like 15 or 16! That's unbelievable! And the location of the stations is amazing! I could use the subway to get everywhere easily! Kudos Beijing!
Finally, there are some immense and amazing new buildings, like Zaha Hadid's Galaxy SOHO. So futuristic! The pod-like shape of the buildings, the curves, the lighting... Really incredible. For some reason they turned off the lights just as I was finishing my tour, so I took these pics just in time! LOL. Really incredible place.