Ghost Town | Two weeks of Beijing emptiness

I had my first restaurant meal in almost one month yesterday–a delicious three-course lunch at Hulu washed down with red wine and a coffee. Life felt somewhat normal for 90 minutes. I later posted photos of the near-empty streets and malls I passed in Sanlitun South. ‘Ghost town’ is a bit cliche but felt appropriate given the lack of people and those dreary skies.

Several friends contacted me and asked if the Sanlitun area has been this empty throughout the coronavirus crisis. So I’m posting other photos I’ve taken in our neighborhood these past few weeks. Most were taken during runs to corner stores or supermarkets. First, a few miscellaneous photos.

The first is the Sanlitun courtyard area at 1 AM on January 27, the early days of the crisis, but with the effects already very obvious. Nanjie, on the left, would close the next day, citing staff safety reasons, and remains so. Next is the corner of Gongti North and Xindong Road, near empty at 7 PM on January 29, a usually extremely busy time. The last two show the area near Chaoyang Hospital: the first is 4 PM on February 2, the second is at 9 PM on February 8. Quiet.


February 2

That Sanlitun South-Gongti North intersection is usually free-for-all blood pressure-inducing chaos. At 6 PM, on what should have been the evening before work officially started post-CNY, it was deathly quiet.

It was my first night out since January 21, with stops at Hulu and Groovy Schiller’s. The second photo shows Taikooli / Swire Village South from restaurant Hulu on the third floor: empty. As was Hulu, although it had the same superb happy hour, and a few tables arrived later. (It also had quite a few diners at lunch yesterday.) The last shows Sanlitun South as I returned home just after midnight.


February 4

An 8 AM jaunt to 7-ELEVEN. The corner of Sanlitun and Gongti South, the street heading toward Chaoyang Hospital, and the hospital entrance. The guys who sell baozi, jianbing, tea eggs et al shops were back.


February 5

Snow day. Looking north from the corner of Sanlitun- Gongti south, just across from Chaoyang Hospital. This street is usually busy, especially when the thousand-plus students, parents and grandparents crowd the sidewalks once the nearby school gets out. The benches get regular use, too: that undisturbed snow representing the general atmosphere of our neighborhood during the crisis. Further up, workers are shoveling snow at TopWin Center: the sidewalk out front has but a single pedestrian.

The last four photos show Sanlitun Soho; the overpass between Soho and Yashow (looking east); the street beside Yashow; and a view from outside Jingkelong supermarket at Gongti and Xindong Road.


February 11

A 7:30 AM trip for supplies. All quiet at Sanlitun-Gongti corner. And in front of Chaoyang Hospital. Very light traffic at that massive Dongdaqiao intersection. And no line at McDonald’s: I decided to go out for my first food since the crisis started. Egg McMuffin. To go.

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