Beijing for Business

China Beijing 2013 58Most of the time a businesstrip doesn’t leave a lot of time for sightseeing. I spent a week at a conference in Beijing, China in September 2013. Despite a very full schedule I managed to squeeze in some time for wandering around the Northern part of town. With the conference at the 2008 Olympic Park site, most of the wandering took place there. So what does an Olympic Park look like five years after the Olympics?

The Olympic Park is located at about 10 kilometers north of Tian An Men Square and the Forbidden City. You can get here by the efficient, very cheap and modern Beijing underground system, although from city center you have to change a few times, making it a relatively long journey. A trip only costs 2 Yuan (20 cents). The more expensive – but still cheap – taxis offer good value for money too, although not any faster during rush hours. Beijing is a very large city, with tourist sites very far apart, making walking between sites virtually impossible.

My flight to Beijing included one leg on the Airbus A380, a 7-hour flight from Dubai to Beijing.

My flight to Beijing included one leg on the Airbus A380, a 7-hour flight from Dubai to Beijing.

Make sure you mind the closing doors (never mind the gaps) on the Beijing underground.

Make sure you mind the closing doors (never mind the gaps) on the Beijing underground.

My hotel bordered the Chinese National Antropolical Museum. I did not visit the large museum, but had this view on the outdoor part of the museum from the hotel breakfast room.

My hotel bordered the Chinese National Antropolical Museum. I did not visit the large museum, but had this view on the outdoor part of the museum from the hotel breakfast room.

At about 15 minutes from the hotel you enter the grounds of the Olympic Park. This area is still bustling with people during the evenings. The Olympic security gates still operate.

One of the Olympic Park entrances by night. This area is still bustling with people during the evenings. The Olympic security gates are still fully operational.

The Olympic tower now hosts several popular (expensive) restaurants, which probably offer a great view over this part of the city. In typical Chinese bling-bling style, it constantly changes color.

The Olympic tower now hosts several popular (expensive) restaurants, which probably offer a great view over this part of the city. In typical Chinese bling-bling style, it constantly changes color.

One of the most remarkable buildings in the Olympic Park by night is the swimming stadium. It is still operating as a public pool.

One of the most remarkable buildings in the Olympic Park by night is the swimming stadium. It  still operates as a public pool.

During the day the park is less crowded. It bears many well-maintained memories of the games of 2008.

During the day the park is less crowded. It bears many well-maintained memories of the games of 2008. I wonder what that sign says…

The National Stadium is also known as the Bird's Nest. Opposite the swimming pool, it is the most famous landmark of the Chinese Olympics.

The National Stadium is also known as the Bird’s Nest. Opposite the swimming pool, it is the most famous landmark of the Chinese Olympics.

The Olympic Flame has been off for five years, but this site is still the heart of Chinese sports, with events almost daily.

The Olympic Flame has been off for five years, but this site is still the heart of Chinese sports, with events almost daily.

A long concrete wall bears the names of all international 2008 Olympic and Paralympic medal winners. Always nice to see some familiar names of the winners of your own country.

A long concrete wall bears the names of all international 2008 Olympic and Paralympic medal winners. Always nice to see some familiar names of the winners of your own country.

The local IBM headquarters towers high above the Olympic swimming pool. The park is surrounded by modern office areas, sometimes with bizarre architecture like this.

The local IBM headquarters towers high above the Olympic swimming pool. The park is surrounded by modern office areas, sometimes featuring bizarre architecture like this.

View over the basketball field to the Olympic Flame. The neighborhood on the horizon is the venue of the 11th Asian Games back in 1990. It now houses many affordable hotels that were used for the 2008 Olympics.

View over a basketball field towards the Olympic Flame. The neighborhood in the background is the venue of the 11th Asian Games, held in 1990. It now houses many affordable hotels that were used for the 2008 Olympics.

The modern China National Convention Center is part of the Olympic area and hosts many large international conferences. This was my working space for this week.

The modern China National Convention Center is part of the Olympic area and hosts many large international conferences. This was my workplace for this week.

On the northern edge of the long Olympic park a new bunch-of-flowers-shaped skyscraper. No idea what this building is, but it is super tall!

On the northern edge of the long Olympic park a new bunch-of-flowers-shaped skyscraper. No idea what this building is, but it is super tall!

This tent housed a typical Chinese buffet restaurant, with many stalls representing different Asian regions and food types. I am not sure if this is permanent or temporary, but it was a great place to get some quick and cheap lunch or dinner.

This tent housed a typical Chinese buffet restaurant, with many stalls representing different Asian regions and food types. I am not sure if this is permanent or temporary, but it was a great place to get some quick and cheap lunch or dinner.

Anyone fancy grilled centipede?

Anyone fancy grilled centipede?

Or fried seahorse, scorpion or worm?

Or fried seahorse, scorpion or worms?

Or... ehm... skewed frog or salamander?

Or… ehm… skewed frog or salamander?

No, I prefered the gala dinners at my conference. Here is a toast to the second man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin!

No, I prefered the gala dinners at my conference. Here is a toast to the second man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin!

My last breakfast in China, at the airport on the way back home. Nice mix between Chinese and Western.

My last breakfast in China, at the airport on the way back home. Nice mix between Chinese and Western food.

What looks like a foggy morning is actually a smoggy morning. Smog levels during the last half of my week were alarmingly high!

What looks like a foggy morning is actually a smoggy morning at Beijing Capital Airport. Smog levels during the last half of my stay were alarmingly high. Not uncommon in Beijing.

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