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Arrival In Beijing

Beijing Travel Blog

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A real hero

The overnight train to Beijing was the best yet, with no smoking, a restaurant and bar (to keep the Aussies from going insane) and even a Western-style toilet. Once on, one of the guards started giving the hard sell on some wind-up torches he had to sell. It seems they all have their own side-projects going on. I was just commenting how bad they were when pretty much the whole of our group bought one. Stone the crows.

He was a bit of a character; once I had failed in an attempt to sell him my own torch for twice the price of his, I found out via an interpreter that once he realised I didn't want one, he said I had a face better seen in the dark. I had absolutely no comeback.

More animals = higher building ranking

In Xi'an I had bought some souvenirs, seen as I only have a couple of weeks to carry them around. I bought a painting by a local artist that I got reduced from 2,500 Yuan to 120 Yuan. I was happy with that. Then I got a Terracotta Warrior clay statue for about two quid. I left happy with the purchases. By the time I got off the train, the painting was with the lovely people at my hotel in Xi'an and the statue had not successfully negotiated the fall from the third bunk-bed tier and lay in pieces, much to the amusement of my new Geckos friends. The mongrels.

The first thing that hits you in Beijing is the pollution. The rest of China seems to be covered in a layer of smog, but the air in Beijing is horrible; I was out of breath just walking down the street.

Under refurbishment
No wonder that the athletes preparing for the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 are having special training to deal with the poor quality.

We headed out straight away, with plenty to see. The Forbidden City was up first - so called because for 400 of its 500-year-old existance, it has been off-limits for commoners like you and, to a lesser extent, me. Beijing, and indeed China as a whole, is a country under renovation. Much of the reason is to show off the city in the 2008 Olympics. So it wasn't a massive surprise to see that the biggest and best buildings within the walls were covered in scaffolding, but a shame nonetheless. I was interested to learn that one emperor had 55 children, taken from over 50,000 concubines within the city that were at his disposal! He must have been a busy man.

Emperor's building at Forbidden City
Maybe the standard is better in China (I couldn't possibly comment), but if that was me and it was in England, I would pick the best 20 or so and tell the others to forget about it.

The Aussies and myself then caught a taxi to check out Beijing's Hutong, the narrow, historic alleyways that are being phased out in a lot of places as China makes its leap into modernity. To be honest, someone had obviously spotted a way to make a dollar and they had all been given a lick of paint, restaurants and bars have sprouted up and persistant rickshaw drivers don't let you walk for two minutes in peace.

I find it hard to comprehend fully, but China seems like a country in denial - either that or a country still living in fear of its communist government. It seems inplausible to me - and most people in the West, I would imagine - that Chairman Mao Zedong, a man directly responsible for somewhere between 30 million and 60 million deaths as a result of the disastrous economical reform, "The Great Leap Forward," can still be treated as a hero, appear on money and have statues in every public square in the country.

Huthong man-made lake
I have questioned Dragon on the matter and he says that China only started to progress as a result of his cultural reforms, but I tried arguing with him that it only started to progress after his death. Under the disguise of communism - with an unrivalled communist party at the helm - capitalism is driving the country forward. The country is now up to fourth in the world's GDP tables, it has more Starbucks branches than the US and everywhere you turn there is a new shopping mall being built; this is not communism. While on the way to the square, I wanted to find out a bit more about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, but when I asked Dragon I quickly got hushed as it wasn't appropriate to talk politics in public. Perhaps it is more living in fear than denial.

That evening we went to see Chun Yi: The Legend Of Kungfu at the Red Theatre.

Monument To The People's Heroes
It was as you'd expect: a well-choreographed display by some very nimble and talented martial artists with a healthy sprinkling of painful-looking stunts involving bricks and metal rods and perhaps a little-bit-more-than-was-needed sprinkling of ballet. In an attempt to try and make you buy the postcards or the DVD, photography was strictly prohibited. Always one to fight the machine, I took a couple of sly pictures before getting told off by an usher. I thought about using the, "Sorry, me no speaka de Engleesh," line, but thought it might not go down quite as smoothly as with street vendors.

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A real hero
A real hero
More animals = higher building ran…
More animals = higher building ra…
Under refurbishment
Under refurbishment
Emperors building at Forbidden Ci…
Emperor's building at Forbidden C…
Huthong man-made lake
Huthong man-made lake
Monument To The Peoples Heroes
Monument To The People's Heroes
Tianamen Square
Tianamen Square
Epic face
Epic face
Chun Yi
Chun Yi
Everybody was kung fu fighting!
Everybody was kung fu fighting!
Beijing
photo by: Deats