September 09, 2009

Jin Gang Guoji

The Prince of Peking needs a suitable residence. My Beijing pad is called Jin Gang Guoji (or Golden Harbour International in English). Located on the outer edges of the central business district (CBD), it is an abode of peace in a city of smog. The massive complex takes up a full city block, with its domed towers lit up majestically at night.

Security guards man the entrances, but the real work is done by the locked gates. The gates open with an electronic swipe card and are quite heavy. Petite Chinese ladies struggle mightily to open them as the guards watch nonchalantly. I wait patiently for several minutes while they use all their strength to push open the door. If I approach them from behind to lend a hand they are startled by my appearance. They go into a state of shock and start hyperventilating, so I have stopped providing this service.

The ARNABode of Beijing follows the traditional Chinese architectural pattern of having a central courtyard with rooms enclosing it from all sides, but on a much larger scale. Manicured gardens, an artificial lake that is occasionally filled with water, and a circular platform where old folks practice tai chi in the morning and children play in the evening are the main features of this inner sanctum. I estimate there are 5-10 thousand inhabitants living here. It is a five minute walk from my apartment to the street if I exit through the official gateway to the outside world. There are a string of convenience stores located on the bottom floor of the buildings that make up Jin Gang Guoji, and sometimes I use them as shortcuts for entry and exit. I often buy fruit, chewing gum, and phone cards to show my gratitude.

“When you're safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.”
- Thornton Wilder -