Holga & Xiabu Xiabu

29 Aug

Remember that I told you about the expired Kodak colour slide films which I took with me, in my first post? (The one from 27/08/2009, called “Departure day”) Well, the reason is that I found a very original way to avoid having to throw them in the dustbin… Five letters: Holga! Those are very cheap plastic camera’s designed in Hong Kong about 30 years ago… :-) They are very poorly built, with some light leaks , strong vignetting (Dark corners) and relatively soft focus, mostly around the edges… Not worth spending your money on, you would think? I would agree, but the Holga has also some advantages! First, it uses medium format film, and you can take square pictures with it! This way, the film is lit on a surface of no less than 6 by 6 centimeters! This is a huge surface, compared to the “regular” 35 mm film… For me personally this is also very practical, because the Holga uses the same film as my Mamiya 645, although the Mamiya takes pictures on a surface of 6 x 4,5 centimeters… (Hence the name…)  You can also take 6 x 4,5 pictures with the Holga, by swapping the film holder, but then you have to turn the camera sideways to take “landscape” pictures (In the Mamiya, the film moves vertically, whereas in the Holga the film moves horizontally…), but I prefer to take 6 x 6 pictures of course… :-) I can project them with the same projector by the way, as the mounts for 6 x 4,5 and 6 x 6 have the same external size, only the size of the “window” differs… Furthermore, the imperfections of the Holga can deliver very nice artistic results! Just do a simple Google search to find examples, the Flickr website has a lot of them, too… Anyway, a ideal camera to feed some of my expired films… ;-)


Unfortunately, I didn’t receive my Holga in time… :-( I ordered it from the UK the week before I left, but the postman only came by on Friday, and there was no one home to open the door for him… So after my last working day I only found a note in the letter box that I could claim my package from the UK on Monday the 29th of August, after 11:00… :-/ (After my departure…) But the idea of experimenting with such a Holga didn’t leave my mind, and so I decided to try finding one in China… :-) (That’s why I took those films with me anyway…) A quick Google search before I left revealed that they are relatively popular in China, and that Beijing has a vibrant “Holga scene”, and several sellers! :-) Furthermore, the camera’s are really dirt cheap here in Beijing! Only 128,- RMB for a basic black model! (Around 13,- Euro!)


Unfortunately most sellers were located in the North of the city, whereas we are located in the south, but there was a direct bus running to one of the best known sellers in Beijing. So off we were, by bus number 996… :-) As Beijing is a huge city, it took us almost two hours to reach the place! But on the way there was more than enough to see for me! :-) For example a guy carrying no less than 21 boxes of fake Italian shoes, from the brand “l’Alpina”, by himself on and off the bus… :-D


We arrived at a place called “Wuluqiao” in Haidian district, a bit North of the “Wukesong” subway station of subway line 1, crossed the pedestrian bridge over the busy ringroad, and entered “old China” once again… :-) A bunch of old style apartment blocks (Only a few stories high…) with a lot of trees between them, old men playing chess, or having a chat in the shade… :-) In one of those blocks the seller was located, and when we arrived there, a girl opened the door and brought us to a room full of Holga camera’s! By that time, the seller showed up, too, and I told him I was looking for a Holga 120 GN in silver/black colour, called “X-men”… (On his website, he showed this version in silver/black, and I kind of liked it!) but unfortunately, he didn’t have that… He had a 120 N though in silver/black… The difference between the “N” and “GN” versions is that the GN has a glass lens, the N has a plastic lens… As the N was so cheap I decided to buy it, but I also wanted a GN, as I actually trusted a glass lens more! Some Holga users prefer the plastic lens, as it delivers the “Holga feeling” with soft focus even better, but I first wanted to do some experimenting with it… :-) So for 276,- RMB I got myself a 120 N and a 120 GN! :-) (128,- RMB + 148,- RMB) Cool!



We walked back to the busstop, and took a bus to the subway station of Wukesong, where we hopped on a subway towards Wangfujing, in the center of the city. Fan likes it a lot to eat in a chain restaurant called “Xiabu Xiabu”, and I kind of like it a lot too… ;-) That restaurant serves hotpot (A pot of boiling water with herbs in which you cook your food yourself…), in a special way… :-) You sit at a long U-shaped “counter”, a bit like in a pub… The staff walk in the middle, and serve you from there… :-) Everyone has their own hotpot, unlike the situation in regular hotpot restaurants, where you sit around one hotpot with several people. I ordered a “curry” hotpot for a change (That was something new to me…), but Fan chose the spicy one. (Usually I also prefer that one…) We ordered some fish balls, crab sticks, rolls of lamb meat, rolls of beef, mushrooms, etc… :-) Very nice, we’ll surely come back here!


After that, we walked around in the “Oriental Plaza” (A shopping mall at Wangfujing) and entered a supermarket called “Olé”. There, they mostly sell imported things, even from Belgium! :-) Including chocolate brands from Belgium I’ve never heard of myself… ;-) But you can also find a relatively large selection of Belgian beers, including Duvel, Hoegaarden, etc… The prices are about double the ones in Belgium, though, so I didn’t buy any of that. Instead, I already bought the postcards for this China trip! :-) They will only be sent in the second half of September though, but now I already have them… :-)


Then we went to Xidan, to buy some new Jeans trousers, but to my frustration the shop where I usually buy my trousers was gone… :-/ We walked along the shopping street to find it but without any result. Eventually we decided to go to an Internet café, and try to find a shop where they sell the brand, but found out that it didn’t exist anymore! (Website taken offline, etc…) So we gave up, and went out again. We took a trolleybus to China Art Gallery, as I wanted to check out a photo shop that was recommended online where they can develop film without screwing up. (As the Holga camera’s are so basic, and cheaply built, I really want to test them out before taking any “important” pictures…) The shop is called “Photochance”, and is located just opposite of the street at China art gallery… :-) The shop was indeed still there (In Beijing you never know, things change way too quickly…), and they even had some English speaking staff, and the service looked professional! :-) I told them that I would come back with some film very soon! ;-)


Then we hopped on the “special 11” double deck bus, which brought us all the way from China Art Gallery (The busstop is called “Meishuguan Bei”) to where we stay, at “Caihongcheng Xiaoqu” (Rainbow city, little district), and where the day ended with some more, nice food… ;-)

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