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Beihai Park and the Drum Tower

Beihai Park was first built during the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125), though everyone has added bits since then, and other bits have been destroyed in various upsets over the centuries. It’s centered around a large lake with an island in the middle – there are many parks within parks to see, some temples and a ‘traditional banquet’ to be eaten at a large restaurant (guidebooks advise avoidance).

Suz (visiting from the U.K) and I had a poke around it yesterday – but only covered a small bit of it before moving on to the Drum Tower and lunch.

Beihai Park and Drum Tower

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Royal New Zealand Ballet. In China

A certain Chinese businessman who now lives in Auckland has done remarkably well in whatever business he is in, and is now spectacularly well-off (I’m not being mysterious about who he is – I just can’t remember his name). Last year he flew an orchestra from New Zealand out here to play a series of concerts, and gave away all the tickets (you might remember that orchestra – it was originally going to be the NZSO, and some promotional posters gave that impression, but it was in fact a bunch of musicians from the Auckland Phil and the NZSO, touring as the ‘New Zealand Philharmonia’. James was in it. The NZSO were not impressed at having their name used).

Anyway. That certain Chinese Businessman booked a night with the Royal New Zealand Ballet who were touring here, and again gave away all the tickets, this time through the New Zealand Embassy. They performed Cinderella, and it was fantastic. No entertaining Chinese stories to report, except the sound system couldn’t really cope with the music, which was a little sad.

After the concert we had a drink with the dancers. And my lord, they’re tiny. Frightening.

Dinner at the residence

My first dinner at the Ambassador’s place last night. In attendance were a consul-general, three ministers (all out of towners), 2 ambassadors and an ex-ambassador, now CEO. Am very pleased I wore a tie.

The Ambassador has a very impressive single-malt collection.

A Visit from Management

The current MFAT overlord dropped past for a two-part visit. He arrived for a day on Tuesday and then left for the surely poorly-named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He got back on Saturday and Reid has been busy facilitating press conferences, meetings with various Chinese officials etc.

Saturday night the Ambassador took us all out for dinner and on Sunday we all visited the Great Wall – a visit cut slightly short by the unexpected news the Boss’s flight out to Washington for a meeting with Condi had been… canceled. Much cellphone use later, everyone was re-booked on a slightly earlier flight to a slightly different destination. But apparently he’ll make it.

At the Wall, the Boss displayed his natural politician’s inability to walk past a member of the public who wants to talk to him- and sadly the place is packed with hawkers selling Chairman Mao red books, hats and T-shirts saying ‘I climbed the Great Wall’. He came away heavily laden with souvenirs (though his Press Secretary possibly accumulated more, if at all possible).

About -3 degrees on the Wall today, by the way. Snow in the shady bits.

Winston visits the Wall

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Kingergarten

Zara now goes to a Kindy twice a week.

There are various posh options for pre-school care – a Montessori school thats very close, an Eton School that is even closer – but for the moment we’ve hooked her up with a local kindy at a school about 5 minutes taxi ride away. Yu mei stays the 2 hours Zara does (I think the class goes for three, but our baby doesn’t last the distance). A couple of other kids from our apartment block go as well (another Kiwi, and a French/German blend).

I went along for a look yesterday… the whole thing is managed in Chinese (I said ‘thank you’ a lot, and looked rather blank the rest of the time), but Zara had a blast.

Zara goes to Kindy

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Wuhan – post-post-post-post modern

Folks, if you’re looking for a place to film Mad Max 4, may I suggest the metropolis of Wuhan, in the Hubei province – only 2 hours flight south from Beijing.

Reid was invited down there to attend the 8th China Arts festival, and I accompanied her to carry the baby and fetch her slippers. We were met at the airport by a fantastic local Government bloke who was enormously welcoming and helpful. After lunch at our (flash) hotel, we departed for the first item on our agenda, the Crane Watchtower, a tower that looks ancient, but has in fact been destroyed and rebuilt by 4 or 5 of preceeding dynasties – the current one was built by Mao’s dynasty (though our guide was at pains to not call it that).

The watchtower commands a fantastic view of Wuhan itself, a city that used to be three separate cities seperated by the Yangtze River – further upstream is the notorious Three Gorges Dam. Wuhan is not a pretty place – which may be a result of the grey weather, or maybe the factories in the distance pumping smog, or maybe the lack of interesting architecture, or maybe the lack of anything green. Dunno. But we took the photos, and got swamped by 1000 school kids who were big fans of the Fair-haired Child , and Nikki rang a rather large bell.

That night we were left to our own devices, so we had dinner in the hotel and the baby slept in the bathroom (okay, should probably explain this. Zara doesn’t sleep very well when she can stand up in the portacot and check out what we’re up to, so in nice flash hotels like this one, with nice flash large bathrooms, we set her up in there. Works a treat. Anyway…).

On Sunday, we went for a walk along the river and up ‘Commercial Street’, which looks just like Manners Mall except longer. We were looking for the picturesque ‘Old Wuhan’, but didn’t find it (Reid found it a day later, and said it was indeed picturesque). That afternoon, the lovely Government bloke took us to the other tourist and recreation spot in Wuhan, the East Lake – a large lake in a district of lots of other lakes, covered with powerboats, small electric boats, hardy parasailers, pedal-boats etc.

Reid, the baby and I took an electric boat out for spin and had a walk around, then it was time for us to head back to the hotel – Reid was to attend some Operatic Performance, while I was to attend to the Small Child.

On Monday we walked around what is reputably the most beautiful University in China (Wuhan University) after which I flew back to Beijing with the Child. Reid stayed behind to meet with various high-ranking officials and attend the Festival’s Opening Performance and Banquet (she also saw an art exhibition the next day, but then had to return to Beijing for some actual work).

All in all, an interesting visit. But probably a oncer- unless we visit the Three Gorges Dam, in which case the way there is through Wuhan.

Wuhan

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