Destination: Beijing

Interview with Henry Rollins: Punk Rock World Traveler

Jim Benning asks the musician about his new book of photographs and how travel has humbled him

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Ai Weiwei’s Beijing

The Chinese artist has broken his post-detention silence in a piece for Newsweek. He writes of Beijing:

I feel sorry to say I have no favorite place in Beijing. I have no intention of going anywhere in the city. The places are so simple. You don’t want to look at a person walking past because you know exactly what’s on his mind. No curiosity. And no one will even argue with you.

None of my art represents Beijing. The Bird’s Nest—I never think about it. After the Olympics, the common folks don’t talk about it because the Olympics did not bring joy to the people.

There are positives to Beijing. People still give birth to babies. There are a few nice parks. Last week I walked in one, and a few people came up to me and gave me a thumbs up or patted me on the shoulder. Why do they have to do that in such a secretive way? No one is willing to speak out. What are they waiting for? They always tell me, “Weiwei, leave the nation, please.” Or “Live longer and watch them die.” Either leave, or be patient and watch how they die. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.

World Travel Watch: Second Bomb Threat at the Eiffel Tower, Rabies in Bali and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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A ‘White Guy in a Tie’ in Beijing

The Atlantic has a dispatch from a Beijing expat with an unusual sideline: fake American businessman-for-hire. From the post:

Six of us met at the Beijing airport, where Jake briefed us on the details. We were supposedly representing a California-based company that was building a facility in Dongying. Our responsibilities would include making daily trips to the construction site, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and hobnobbing. During the ceremony, one of us would have to give a speech as the company’s director. That duty fell to my friend Ernie, who, in his late 30s, was the oldest of our group. His business cards had already been made.

A Linglei’s Life in China

The Millions has a compelling essay about a Chinese-American novelist’s life as a linglei —a “different species”—in Beijing and Shanghai. Deanna Fei writes:

I’d moved to Beijing for a year of postgraduate study with some notions of mastering my mother tongue and reclaiming my heritage. I hadn’t expected to feel at home, but I hadn’t anticipated feeling quite so alien. Like most Asian Americans, I’d always been asked the question, “Where are you from?” with the expected answer being China, or someplace equally foreign. Now, this question was asked even more relentlessly of me by Chinese people in China, but the answer never satisfied them. But you don’t look American, they might say—or, You don’t sound Chinese. They’d assure me that I wasn’t really American, even as their suspicious expressions made clear that I certainly wasn’t really Chinese.

Photo You Must See: Imitation Mao in Beijing

Photo You Must See: Imitation Mao in Beijing REUTERS/David Gray

A Chairman Mao impersonator poses for photos in Beijing's Tiananmen Square

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From Beijing to Vancouver: A Very Different Olympics

From Beijing to Vancouver: A Very Different Olympics REUTERS/Shaun Best
Fans cheer on the Canadian hockey team at the Vancouver Olympics. (REUTERS/Shaun Best)

It’s been nearly two years since I blogged from the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, and—as I thought I might—I now find myself on the Olympic travel trail again, in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games. I’ll be honest: The two host cities couldn’t feel more different.

I stepped off the train from the airport and surfaced in downtown Vancouver this weekend, expecting, perhaps, to feel some uniquely Olympic vibe in the air, familiar to me from my brief time in Beijing. But the scene on Vancouver’s streets has almost nothing in common with the one I encountered two years ago. My memories of Beijing are all broad boulevards, empty except for uniformed Chinese volunteers offering directions to clusters of wandering foreigners, and subdued subway cars full of commuters. Vancouver, in contrast, is a non-stop maple-leaf-painted street party—flag-draped young people careen through the streets, impromptu break dancing circles pop up on corners, and buskers work the crowds. The brightly-dressed foreigners that I remember from Beijing are here, too, but they’re wildly outnumbered by the revelers in red and white.

I suppose there are plenty of economic reasons for the contrast. The 2008 Games probably weren’t as accessible to the average Chinese citizen as these Games are to most Vancouverites, while the expense and difficulty of visiting China could explain why the many young Olympics visitors here were absent in Beijing. (The local high school students I rode the bus home with last night, for instance, weren’t likely to make a transcontinental Olympic trek.) But economics aside, I still feel like there’s a fundamental difference at work: Beijing’s Games, to me, were clearly aimed outward, at the world, while Vancouver’s, so far, feel more like an essentially Canadian party to which everyone else has also been invited.

How I Got My Chinese Driver’s License

In an excerpt from his new book, "Country Driving," Peter Hessler -- aka Ho Wei -- recalls his Beijing driving exam

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Interview With Peter Hessler: Behind the Wheel in China

Interview With Peter Hessler: Behind the Wheel in China Photo by Darryl Kennedy

Frank Bures asks the New Yorker writer about his new book, "Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory"

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Photo You Must See: Dancing the Fire Dragon Dance in China

Photo You Must See: Dancing the Fire Dragon Dance in China REUTERS/Christina Hu

Chinese men perform a fire dragon dance in Beijing in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

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Must I Get ‘Off the Beaten Path’ When I Travel?

Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel and the world

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World Travel Watch: Smog in Hong Kong, Heavy UK Snowfall and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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The Best Travel Videos of 2009

The Best Travel Videos of 2009 iStockPhoto

We watched a lot of travel videos this year to come up with these: the 12 most hilarious, moving and memorable

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Photo You Must See: Snow-Frosted Forbidden City

Photo You Must See: Snow-Frosted Forbidden City REUTERS/Jason Lee

A snowy scene in Beijing’s Forbidden City, photographed several days ago.


Photo You Must See: A Forbidden View in Beijing

Photo You Must See: A Forbidden View in Beijing REUTERS/David Gray
REUTERS/David Gray

Tourists look south over the Forbidden City from Beijing’s Jingshan Park.