Bits from Beijing

I just got back from a business trip to Beijing. I was representing ChinesePod at the Hanban’s recent “Exhibitions of Resources of Confucius Institutes and World Languages.” Despite having lived in China for over 9 years, it was my first time in northern China in the winter. Here’s what I noticed:

– Chinese 暖气 (central heating) is awesome. I’m used to winters in Shanghai, to only being warm for short periods of time during the winter, to the floors being freezing for months on end… so I was not prepared for my hotel being “boxers and a t-shirt” warm the whole time. And the floors weren’t cold at all. (Now I also see why visitors from the north are so wimpy here in the winter.)

国家会议中心Wow, the former Olympic Village is a desolate ghost town (but the “You and Me” theme song is still playing on a loop there). It’s such a huge space; you’d think that it would be utilized a little better post-Olympics. The exhibition I attended was in the “National Conference Center,” but drivers didn’t even know where that was; when I asked to be taken to the 国家会议中心 (National Conference Center), I was invariably taken to the nearby 国际会议中心 (International Conference Center). I guess even the massive new conference center isn’t getting much use yet.

LED ChristmasThe world’s largest LED screen at “The Place” is impressive… but it’s kind of sad. That mall doesn’t seem to have a ton of traffic still, and the screen already has more than a few dead pixels. (The screen faces downward, by the way, and it’s only on at night.)

"Hawaiian Pizza"When I ordered a “Hawaiian pizza” at a cafe, I got a pizza with spam, dragon fruit, banana, apple, and kiwi fruit on it. Yikes.

(Normal blogging to resume soon… Recent spottiness is due largely to lots of time spent on some “new research.”)


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Haha….I never realized that 暖气 was just a northern thing….it is sure nice though 🙂

  2. Back when I was a college student, I used to say that even bad pizza was still pretty good. Little did I know!

  3. Hey John ! Can’t believe you didn’t have your Beijing pizza here :

    Man, those are even better than some of the pizzas we can find here in Europe !

  4. 暖气 policy especially sucks in Nanjing, if you look at the map it seems as if god was just messing with us making the Yangzi cut sharply south.. just once it is passes Nanjing

  5. Haha.. So what did the pizza taste like anyway? 🙂 there’s another great place for pizza in nanluogu xiang (I think the place is called “traveller bar” or something like that), really nice homestyle pizza.

    So many things about this post is giggle-worthy but you know, it still makes me want to be there rather than here 🙂 China is a fun place to be if you like things a little bit different to the daily grind in western countries. Though I do appreciate that some people like the status-quo.. I just can’t help missing all this “wonderful” craziness 🙂

  6. Haha, inFamous! I keep wanting to buy it, but buying Ps3-games in a country where you get the nice 盗版 xbox-games for 1/40 of what the PS3 games cost.

  7. Zima,

    Yeah, I’ve heard that Beijing has some good pizza places… Too bad I found the worst one instead!

  8. light487,

    It tasted like pizza, but with big chunks of fruit in it! I think the bananas were the worst…

  9. John, should’ve just asked for pineapple and have them throw on sweet and sour pork. That would be tasty treats!

    Hey, they called it — they being the media — just like Greece, the wasteland post-Olympics that is called Olympic Village remains desolate and a complete waste of space/money/resources/HOPE. With the millions of people in that city, they will surely be resourceful enough to find use of it. 5am taichi sessions and 3pm freestyle ultimate, anyone?

    LED screen, yeah, I saw that, too, it was pretty rad. Got a 200RMB haircut in the shopping center and bought a couple button-up shirts from the boutique in the same center for over US MSRP. Worth it? Sure. Experience was everything. And the LED screen may have been a pilot because there is a fully enclosed LED screen in Las Vegas on “Fremont St” 90 ft high and four blocks 1,500 ft in length. The one in Beijing was open on all sides if I recall correctly and most certainly ran a full city block. It’s cost was $17M USD for 12M LED lights powered by LG.

  10. They did manage to use the Bird’s Nest for a major concert (宋祖英 and some very famous guests) earlier this year, so it hasn’t been completely dead. They just need a lot more enormous events like that in the future.

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