On art zones, seeking enlightenment from a creepy-but-kind-of-cute monkey of knowledge and vintage cultural mishmashes.
Like many of the contemporary districts in China, 798 Art Zone comprises a refurbished industrial site, complete with abandoned train track and old modernist buildings that open to reveal new art spaces, cafes and stores, with the requisite graffiti and installations that distinguish this place as an 'art zone'. Go here for your quirky notebooks, prints and to fulfill your hipster cravings. Because you didn't know you needed to see three caged T-Rexes stacked on top of each other but you do know you need it now. Like many places in Beijing, it's a work in progress in its construction and the slight gritty, earthy vibe of the buildings really kind of matches a lot of the art going on inside. Just don't visit on a weekday - especially not a Monday - because most of the galleries are closed.
Beijing, being Beijing, does not do things by halves - the fair was part party and part vintage market. The market stalls themselves were a mixed bag of quirky, gaudy and the ever-so-slightly-creepy but I managed to find a couple of treasures, while also enjoying the effort that went into decorating the stalls and the layout of the space.
In Sydney, anything that has 'Asian' in its official name will - more often than not - be a cultural mishmash of stereotypes (granted, generally well-intentioned), so it was an amusing experience to see the 'Western' equivalent because in Beijing, 'vintage' apparently means enjoying gourmet hotdogs, tacos and German beer while browsing a collection of secondhand Doc Martens and earrings that look like they've been dug up from the crypts of Italian nobility (or ripped off from a Dolce & Gabbana collection, make of it what you will). Which you can enjoy while walking past attendees - expats and Chinese alike - dressed in their best tea dresses and impeccable 1940s rolled hair, sitting on haystacks to listen to Chinese indie rock music and American country songs being performed live. And fairy lights. Always fairy lights.