The Beijing Bird Head Massacre

Posted: April 23, 2011 in Photography
Tags: , , , ,

The next day, we were back on the subway and headed to all things Olympic. I didn’t watch a single event at the time, but I was still interested in a passive, oh-this-is-where-it-happened capacity.

The view right outside the subway station. Everything was so clean and new and clean.

Quite opposed to the previous day, it was perfect blue skies and sun the entire time we were there. Thankfully, just as someone had been waiting at the slightest hint of precipitation to sell us umbrellas and raincoats the day before, there was a vendor at every corner with a fresh supply of bottled water on ice.

The Ling Long Pagoda: a 128m broadcasting tower on the Olympic Green. (The pod second from the bottom is the BBC!)

Every second person we ran into was a walking gift shop. To their credit though, vendors in China were nowhere near as pushy or mercenary as those in Thailand/Cambodia, and if we weren’t interested, they didn’t follow us for the next three blocks in the hopes of convincing us otherwise.

Beijing National Stadium, a.k.a. The Bird’s Nest! This, for me, is the most recognisable symbol of the 2008 Summer Olympics, but that might be because so many of my friends visited China around that time and I was looking at it on Facebook for the next three months.

I love how we’re so clearly squinting against the sun. It didn’t help that this entire area was made of glaring white cement.

Another view of the pagoda, this time with the Olympic rings visible at the top. I know we took jumping pics here so I can only assume they’re on 2G’s camera…?

What are the odds?! (…of L and M following each other sequentially in the alphabet.)

Clearly these fine structures were built to last long after the Olympics were over.

Inside the stadium. Omg couples with matching outfits Korea throwback!

Overview of the Olympic Green as seen from the Bird’s Nest. It cost 50元 to get in (about £5/¥600), though I was a little bewildered by the people hawking (fake?) discount tickets right next to the security guards. Just to be safe, we took the lawful route.

Inside: the site of the opening ceremony! That was literally the only part of the Olympics I caught…

love this picture: we couldn’t look more photoshopped in if we were trying, haha. (I swear it’s not a fake backdrop: I had to use flash because there was no light in the stands.)

Amusing myself while waiting for Lindsay in the bathroom. Incidentally, those in the stadium are quite possibly the cleanest public toilets in China.

Front row seats! The venue can hold around 90,000 and – apparently – has a four-star hotel with 80 rooms under one of its sides?

That Jackie Chan song was playing on an infinite loop the entire time we were inside the stadium. (But actually.) My personal soundtrack was this; possibly because that scene in Jason and the Argonauts is the closest I’ve ever come to actually watchingthe Olympics.

Um, totally worth the 6,000 homes destroyed to make way for its construction.

And back outside. I’m a much bigger fan of this design than the stupid doughnut they’re building in London.

One last look. And right behind us:

…the National Aquatics Centre, a.k.a. the Water Cube. This picture has been tactfully cropped so as to remove the stream of naked children whose parents saw fit to bathe them in the moat surrounding the building.

Fun fact #1: though I can’t vouch for its veracity, I read that in Chinese mythology, the sun is represented by a circle and the moon by a square. This is reflected in the shapes of the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, and reinforced when the venues are lit at night (red for the Nest, blue for the Cube.)

Fun Fact #2: the Water Cube? Not a cube. I guess “Water Cuboid” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

It was pretty unspectacular inside, and since Linds was getting crazy hungry, we decided to find someplace to eat on one of the upper floors.

This soon led us to a Bruce Lee-inspired fast food restaurant and the single most horrifying moment of the entire trip which – to this day – traumatises me beyond measure. It began, innocently enough, when we sat down to eat our (already disgusting) meals. It was only as I started to stir the complimentary soup, however…

…that I began to notice there were entire heads floating in the entrails. As if this weren’t distressing enough though, Lindsay had to go and point out the gaping hole didn’t so much resemble a fish’s mouth as a cavity where a beak might once have been, at which point I wanted to throw up all over the table.

Dying. I was actually dying.

Fleeing the Beijing Bird Head Massacre, we first bought ice lollies to cleanse our palates then moved on to the pools themselves. Wikipedia informs me that – at 1m deeper than most Olympic pools – the Water Cube’s is believed to be the fastest in the world. Between that and the introduction of the newer, faster Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit, there were actually 25 world records broken during the Beijing Olympics. You can see the new-improved Speedo here, though I defy you to look at this picture and actually concentrate on the swimsuit.

Just before we left the Olympic Village, we asked the workers at the Cube’s information desk for directions to our next destination. Cue the 3rd (and perhaps most memorable) lost in translation moment thus far, when they ran off to find their token English speaker only to come back with someone who spoke so inaudibly high and quiet that I can only assume he was communicating with the pod of dolphins who live beneath the Cube.

…which is only moderately worse than what happened an hour later, when Lindsay asked directions to Eyeglass City from a man who responded in perfect English only for her to in turn reply, “No no no no: NO. BUSES. Eyeglass. [making spectacle motion with her hands] Eye. Glass. City.”

I’m pretty sure everyone we met in China hated us.

This place was crazy. It was like an entire, four-storey mall dedicated to nothing but glasses. Start to finish frames, eye test, lenses in 30 minutes! How could a girl resist? …especially when she got the whole thing for like three hundred yuan (less than £30/¥4,000)! (To put it in perspective, my last pair of glasses would have cost the equivalent of six thousand, three hundred.)

This was quite possibly the most hilariously handicapable eye test I’d ever witnessed:
“One: clear! Two: ehhhh. Three: clear!”

Far more impressive, however, was the continuing evolution of Lindsay’s newfound, cutthroat haggling skillz. “500? Oh, but those people over there said they’d do it for 300. Oh, you can? Great.”

After a full day of Olympic explorations, decapitated animals and eyeglass bartering, we finally sat down for a coffee; snd – barring the 15-minute conversation with our waiter regarding whether or not the free coffee that came with my cake was actually free – this was a much-welcome oasis of calm.

Diana Prince Tuhsooji.


Downtown Beijing, on our way to dinner. This overpass was covered in numbers, though I have no idea what they meant. Pizza delivery? Dial-a-whore? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Mmm, roasted crisp baby pigeon. I’ll take two!

My second favourite kind.

I ended up having this delicious pumpkin tofu thing, figuring if I erred on the side of vegetarian there would be fewer cranial surprises in my future. As a rule, I stuck to this for the rest of the journey.

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