Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gaobeidian furniture wonderland

Gaobeidian, essentially a small kampong on the eastern end of Beijing, is better known to expats in Beijing as a furniture superstore. Imagine the narrow alleys filled with many furniture shops and factories. And they don sell IKEA, believe me. some claim to sell antique Ming and Qing dynasty furniture while others sell "refurbished" old furniture (from cannibalised parts) and yet others produce "modern style" Ming and Qing furniture. Many expats come to Gaobeidian to buy or custom-make their furniture. A trip to Gaobeidian is a pilgrimage undertaken by expats usually some months before they are due to return home, to stock up on Chinese-style furniture.
Last weekend, our apartment organised a day trip to this furniture enclave. There's apparently more to Gaobeidian than just furniture. We visited a Beijing "temple fair" (somewhat like our pasar malam) disguised as a "Folk Culture Village". There were dragons dances, drumming by fiesty grannies and stilt-walkers. Like the amg moh fairground attractions like Bearded Ladies and Siamese twins, a Beijing temple fair must-have are "snake ladies" (sorry, forgot to take pics!). At 3 Yuan entrance fee, you can watch a Chinese lady (in pseudo- Aladdin costumes) together with a pile of snakes. This temple fair must be very respectable since they have 3 snake lady shows within 3 meters of each others. Beijingers must have a thing with ladies with snakes....
A more interesting part of the iternary was a visit to a local Beijing family where we were hosted to lunch. We get to learn how to make the ubiquitous Beijing "jiaozi" (dumpings). After a few tries, Robina and I learnt from the aunty to crimp decent-looking jiaozi, just slightlymis-shapened. thankfully we don have to eat our handiwork.

last stop was at a musical instrument museum with lots of zithers like gu qin, gu zhen and yang qin. there were short recitals by musicians playing the ethnic instruments including the ocarina.

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