Saturday, July 11, 2009

My poor old neighborhood

It has always been my opinion that Beijing has too many subway stops. Oh, the trains are nice and modern (some even air-conditioned, though that's not necessarily a good thing when the old air never gets recycled out and fresh air never comes in during the summer months), but they stop way too often, and unnecessarily.

The 5-line, for instance: anyone want to tell me why there's a stop at Beixinqiao when one can walk 10 minutes to the Dongzhimen subway or take any of about 16 buses there? At least five or six lines can (should) be removed from that subway line. And who can tell me why the Tiananmen West stop exists on Line 1? Has anyone ever 1) used that station or 2) seen anyone board the train from that station? (Okay, I exaggerate... has anyone ever seen two people board from there?) The only contribution Tiananmen West has made to this city is making people confused, and I suppose trains could always stand to see fewer tourists crammed inside, but still...

Anyway, they're building new subway lines as we speak, many of them even less necessary. Take the 4-line, for instance, which is supposed to run northwest-southeast, zigzagging through my old neighborhood at Xihuangchenggen (西黄城根). This street, loosely translated as "West Root of Imperial City," is at once modern and timeworn, with just the right mix of hutongs, restaurants (Xinjiang, Sichuan, chuar (kabob) bars, old Beijing, you name it...), small shops, convenience stores and 1950s-built courtyards. There are also three bus stations and plenty of cabs. In other words, if there's one neighborhood in Beijing that surely does not need a subway running underneath, this is it.

But look what they're doing:

Lingjing Hutong, the street perpendicular to the southern tip of Xihuangchenggen South St.

Xihuangchenggen South St.

The second picture doesn't appear to show much besides congestion, but look towards the back... yup, that's a blue construction fence.

Here's what this street looked like earlier this year:

Two of my favorite restaurants there -- a Xinjiang place with a nice owner and a chuar bar where my friends and I had this outing -- have boarded up and left. Ugh. That's all I can say.

It used to be a brisk 15- to 20-minute walk from my old residence at Xihuangchenggen to the Xidan subway stop. Now, okay, it'll be a 10-minute walk to the Lingjing Hutong station, but half as beautiful. Here are two street-level views and another fifth-story view, all from last summer.

And finally, in honor of above-linked chuar bar -- which Kevin, Casey and I discovered one night last fall for a late dice outing -- a picture from Valentine's Day eve, where Joe's pictured offering me a very, very spicy (the Chinese phrase is 变态辣, or "pervertedly spicy") chicken wing:

1 comment:

AmyG said...

oh no! the chuar bar closed?? sadness

same deal over by the south side of nlgx, lots of places have been forced to leave and families living below the first hutong were carted out to high rises by the 5th ring road, their houses destroyed.

all in the name of progress..