Monday, 6 August 2012

Lama Temple and Olympic Park...

The Lama Temple to the north of the city centre was top of the agenda this morning and it didn't disappoint. One of the things we both have in common is a dislike for museums and historical stuff but the temples here are so magnificent and so spectacular that even we have to look at them. But not for long. Just long enough to think 'cor, look at that' take a few photos and then move on, plus take a few pictures of people doing temple things like praying and making offerings.. A temple is a temple and a bit of old architecture, however colourful and ornate it is, and is just that.

But the Olympic Park is different again. What and amazing creation in the middle of nowhere. An assembly of silver shapes and  structures built for the 2008 games. Remember the Bird's Nest – the main track and field stadium? It was always cool on TV but when you get close to it, it is just mesmerising. It is massive, all steel girders intertwined, and it really does resemble a birds nest. And the aquatic centre looks just like an alien  egg pod, getting ready to hatch.

The whole Chinese thing really comes across on this site. Ok, it was designed by Swiss Architects working with Chinese artists, but it is Chinese through and through,  total self belief  and confidence in themselves and their abilities, a sort of detachment and lack of need for any other nation. It's very powerful but also quite scary, although everybody here without exception, has welcomed us and been very accepting of western visitors.

We didn't go in either – not sure if you can anyway – but we gawped at both, plus the associated additional buildings from the walkway that links them all together. That has become a sort of communal park where families gather, people skate, eat, take pictures and whatever takes their fancy. We got dragged into one official photo to pose with some girls – maybe they thought we'd bring them good luck or something, or then maybe they just thought we were passing sights to behold. But either way, we are now preserved in the official photo records of one resident professional photographer that hangs out there.

It was very strange to at the Olympic Park while the current Olympics is still underway in our home city. That seems to amuse people here too and they can't quite believe that we have come all the way from London to Beijing for no reason other than we just wanted to.

Stopped off at Chaoyan Park on the way back. This was the site of The Olympic Beach Volleyball, but now it is a communal leisure park. All very cool, with people doing whatever they fancy – Tai Chi, weirdo jogging and waving their arms about, sitting on park benches and chatting or just wandering.