I am now in Beijing, where anything and everything goes! I am slightly overwhelmed, not of the mass population or language barrier, but of the scale of the city. I am told Beijing is more old fashioned and a slower pace than the other major cities, so I cant even imagine how I will feel in Shanghai.
Beijing has so many tourist attractions, its like trying to visit all the sites in Rome! From dozens of temples to modern buildings and shopping and the Olympic park. I began by trying to walk everywhere not realizing that it takes hours and quickly learned the metro system! I was staying near a Buddhist temple which i visited one afternoon because I saw tons of guards surrounding the place. A few minutes after I entered, about 8 black sedans drove right in and sprinted out of their cars with a camera crew. Later I found out that it was the prezident of the EU, not sure what was going on though! The temple was really neat tho, the monks sat around singing while one guy went around pouring tea into their hands which they drank then wiped it on their bald heads! At most tourist attractions, excluding the forbidden city, I was shocked to be one of the only white people. Not that it bothered me, but it made me feel like a celebrity because all the other Asian tourists would come ask for my picture. Then as soon as soon as others notice, they swarm over to snap a photo with a white girl…. so after a while I started taking their pictures too!
Getting used to the people and the way things work here is a challenge. Its not that the people are in a rush or trying to be rude, but that’s how it seems from my perspective. The transportation is a good example: They do not line up, as a train is getting ready to board, people crowd the gates and make a run for it as soon as they are opened. To me, not knowing how this worked, if i had a seat or assigned area or which car to go to, and nobody speaking English here I just joined in and ran aimlessly! It turns out that all seats are assigned and there is no need to rush, however some people only have standing tickets and I supposed they want to find a good spot in the aisle? Their use of plastic is here is also interesting. from bags holding clothes or food to being taped and strung together to make bigger bags, economical to say the least.
I stayed a week in Beijing and that was definitely enough time for me, possibly because it was my first glimpse at China and being on my own it was more stressful. But I did meet some fun people and got to see a lot. My favourite area is probably the Wahfujing (that’s probably not how you spell it) but it was a nice pedestrian street and has a night food market that serves absolutely anything you can imagine on a stick! dead or alive! it was more of a show than a meal for me, but very wild!
The hutongs were also really cool, the older parts of the city that are getting destroyed for larger developments. They are residential areas that consist of a puzzle of alleyways and homes inside homes, usually around a courtyard. I rented a bike one day and got lost in the narrow streets, not realizing if I was inside someones home or not, as they sort of spill out and all interconnect.
The streets here are also lined with what I call shop-bikes. Literally a transportable shop on people’s bikes, not a trailer behind but built around the person. For example most are like dollar stores, with knick-knacks like socks, cutlery, sunglasses and random junk, but others are fruit stands, pet shops or bakeries. Very creative and convenient bicycles!
The worst part of Beijing was by far the tea scam that I fell into, being alone and exhausted I fell for some girls that asked me to go for a cup of tea which turned out to be really expensive! What was most disappointing was not losing some money but finding out that the girls I met weren’t actually my friends 🙁 they were so nice to me! o well, I guess that just means they were good scam artists and at least I will now be skeptical of anyone who approaches me in the future, since I am sure this won’t be the first time……
so off to Shanghai I go!