All of Beijing Look Up

Nicholas Quirke was feeling the cosmos was giving him some sort of blessing being in Beijing by the end of the day on 19 March 2020. It was another beautiful sunny day and once again he was taking too the streets of the city on a bike. After an uncharacteristically lazy morning, having discovered he was two pounds lighter than last time he had weighed himself,; during which he watched TV, collected some parcels and prepared some tofu for the next day, he got himself ready to go to meet a new friend at a tea house in the elite APM Shopping Mall. The ride in the sunshine and the fresh spring air took him past Zhongnanhai (Central and Southern Seas) the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China, Tiananmen Square and Tiananmen Gate to the Forbidden City, which aside from the traffic was busier than when he had last seen it, but still quiet, to Wangfuging area which had also been desolate on his first stop in Beijing. He noted that from China, to South Korea, to Japan life, shopping and social seemed to revolve around malls in Asia, with restaurants, bars, shops, and Cinemas filling these huge centres. He met Justin in a Teasure tea house and drank a very satisfying Puer ripe tea. It was an enjoyable conversation, Nicholas always liked to hear peoples stories and his friend was garrulous telling him all about his ife in China, about his family that had to live apart due to finding work in the cities, and in this case his wife disappearing and leaving him and his son to fend for themselves. He was keen to go to this particular venue as Peng had told him he could get some soybean IceCream which was a food he loved and missed since he had left England. He located the bar on the sixth floor but due to the lack of customers they weren’t making the ice cream and he left sorely disappointed. He had arranged to meet Peng for supper at another Buddhist restaurant which served HotPot, a traditional Chinese meal but this was solely vegan. They met and cycled to the restaurant at ‘The Place’ mall, which boasted a massive LED screen canopy with digital animation, the largest of its kind in Asia, though surprisingly, as it was immense, not the world. It was another amazing dining experience for him at the Vegan Hotpot, discreet veiled dining areas, the tables adorned with hobs that boiled the broth that he was then expected drop the vegetables, tofu and other delicacies in to cook. It was a delicious meal and when Nicholas paid, the humble and gracious owners offered gratitude to them for having eaten Vegan and contributed to saving the planet. As an western visitor they presented him with a gift of a glass water bottle that was made even more special as the words from The Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī, also known as the Great Compassion Dhāraṇī, Mantra were on the bottle. He felt welcomed and blessed by them, though Peng was a little disgusted that they gave the gift to the ‘White Man’. By the time they left night had fallen and the screen, which had been off in the daylight was now awash with spectacular animations and images accompanied by suitably chilled out music and called ‘All of Beijing Look Up’. They took a Didi taxi, Beijing’s answer to Uber, back to the apartment where once again he wrestled with the slow technology. Tired and frustrated by the inadequacies of the data speed he went to bed.

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