Beijing, I can see your underpants

Beijing has the world cornered on ugly buildings. And perhaps none has drawn as much criticism as the CCTV Tower. This silver-gray monstrosity opened in 2008 and has been disappointing people looking up ever since.

Some say the 44-story skyscraper, which serves as the headquarters of China Central Television, resembles a pair of boxers shorts. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who designed the CCTV Tower, told CNN that it is “a building that is constantly mutable and that emanates creativity.”

I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Awestruck in Dali’s Old Town

Dali is so beautiful that it can be downright dangerous.

I was riding a bike through the city’s Old Town, taking in the scenery and historic architecture, but not the giant pothole that lay in front of me. The next thing I saw was concrete.

Fortunately, I landed left knee first, and suffered only a few bruises. I hobbled to a nearby pharmacy and, using broken Chinese and a little point and grimace, described what I needed. I felt embarrassed, but if any Chinese city is going send me head over heels I’m glad it was Dali. Continue reading

Fast times call for life in the slow lane

I like walking along the moat that surrounds the Forbidden City because it gives me a feeling that’s hard to find elsewhere in Beijing: peace.

On a clear day the reflections of the trees and towers lining the palace’s outer wall stretch across the moat, their colors preserved in the water. Old men with wooden fishing poles cast their lines a few feet from each other and smoke cigarettes and make small talk as they wait for a bite. Continue reading