National Art Museum of China + Nanluogu Xiang + Houhai Lake

Apparently the National Art Museum of China is one of the largest museums in China, but it didn't feel excessive. The exhibitions appeared contemporary in theme but traditional in style, although it's tough to say for sure since there was almost no English anywhere in the museum.

I didn't stay for long, but I'd be interested in going back if I could find a Chinese translator to accompany me. Realistically that won't happen, because Chinese people don't really have what we call free time. They seem to work always, every day, forever, unless they're men, in which case they'll stop working when their hair goes grey, at which point they'll just hang out in the hutongs all day, drinking and smoking and gambling with Chinese board games and cards, while the children too young to work squat alongside the men, watching and presumably waiting.

Afterward, I visited Nanluogu Xiang, one of the more famous (and commercial) hutongs in Beijing. I first visited Nanluogu Xiang a few months ago, but it was early in the morning when the shops were closed and the streets nearly empty. But this time, being the middle of the day during a national holiday, the streets were packed with thousands of people, buying and selling and eating and drinking. It's great people-watching, and once you've grown tired of the shops and shopping, you're nearby the more authentic hutongs, where the people-watching is even better.

At night I visited Houhai Lake. The lake is surrounded by dozens of bars and restaurants. It's probably worth visiting during the day, and I'm sure the lake is beautiful, but I was unimpressed with the nighttime visit. The bars are tacky, the prices inflated, and the footpaths around the lake are full of peddlers, swindlers and con artists. Everybody has their hand halfway down your pocket, and it's nearly impossible to enjoy yourself or relax.