Beijing at Night
No matter where you are in the world, sightseeing during the day is always completely different from night when the lights are on. This is particularly so with one street in Beijing.
Ghost Street as it is known to both Chinese and expats (or Gui Jie 簋街) is a street in Beijing that is renowned for its great restaurants and thousands of Chinese lanterns hanging from buildings and trees. It’s nice to walk along the street during the day but at night when all the lantern are lit it’s quite beautiful.
So where does the names ‘Ghost Street’ come from…it actually relates to the character for Gui (簋) as it refers to a round-mouthed bamboo container for food. The name is frequently mistaken for a similar sounding word, meaning ‘ghost’, so many refer to the street as ‘Ghost Street’.
Ghost Street is a 24-hour celebration and home to more than 200 restaurants. There are so many different styles of Chinese food that can be tasted; from spicy food to Peking duck. My favourite restaurant is an old courtyard home called Hua’s Restaurant (Hua Jia Yiyuan) which has great food but also the ambience of the restaurant is beautiful.
A little further down the well known street of Dongzhimen Nai Da Jie where Ghost Street is located, you will come to the famous street Chang’an Jie where Tian’anmen Square is situated along with the Forbidden City.
These are also a wonderful sights to see at night. Tian’anmen Square is closed off at night with police patrolling to ensure no-body walks on the square, but prior to its closing, Tian’anmen has the lowering of the flag which occurs every night at sunset (as it does at sunrise – but that was way too early for me to attend). A great sight to see with Chang’an Jie closed off for the soldiers to cross the road and lower the flag.
Olympic Park in Beijing is really pretty to see at night with the National Stadium or Birds Nest, the National Aquatic Centre or Water cube and the multi functioning broadcasting tower all lit up. It is very different (perhaps a little bland) during the day so I preferred visiting in the evening. The stadium is lit up in vibrant yellow and red and the water cube changes colours every few minutes. The water cube was used for swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water-polo during the 2008 Olympic Games and after the games, the centre was turned into a large water recreational centre which is open to the public.
The National Stadium was designed by Swiss architects with artistic input from Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (an amazing person who has spent time imprisoned in China for his outspoken views on the Chinese governments stance on human rights and democracy).
(photo from http://www.theguardian.com)
The stadium hosted the main track and field events for the 2008 Olympics, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies and will be used for the 2022 Winter Olympics. But today the stadium is not used a lot apart from hosting sightseers and it has hosted a few football games but in the main it is vacant.
At the south of Tian’anmen Square is a gate which once guarded the southern entry into the inner city. Although so many of Beijing’s city walls were demolished, Qianmen remains an important geographical marker of the city and can be seen from the rooftop of one of Beijing’s great western restaurants (Capital M) which is owned by an Aussie lady from Melbourne.
And one time of the year that is incredible in Beijing, and a period you have to be out walking the streets, is Chinese New Year. Such an exciting time for Chinese and visitors. Over about a twenty-three day period there are fireworks going off every night and they are just incredible (and so noisy).
And during the day, as I mentioned, Olympic Park is very different!!