Beijing: No Piracy And Be a Responsible Citizen
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 2 of 5 › view all entries
Beijing is being heavily reconstructed because of the 2008 olympics and the Chinese have passed a law that all construction must be completed by 2007, so all the dust and dirt from the overhaul can be cleaned in time... SO we're talking construction going on everywhere at the same time. It's real bizarre. But from my initial impression of the city, it definitely looks like it needed a facelift. There's a lot of poverty in Beijing.
We took a transit bus from the airport to the main train station and walked out into madness- two first impressions: one, the chinese are wiley and impatient. They do not wait in line. They will blatantly cut in front of you, in fact, they'll keep squeezing forward until there's no space left.
The second impression is that the majority of the people are old. In Vietnam, the majority of the people were young (because of the war). Definitely the opposite in Beijing. Everywhere I looked, 90% were middle aged... again, very strange. (As a sidenote, I think I've since figured out why there aren't that many youngins hangin around.
Train station madness, I mean it. Pushing through it all, Tracy and I came out into the station plaza and walked about a half hour to check out a hostel that was highly recommended by my guidebook. The place was on the 10th floor of a 4-star hotel and looked awesome, but it turned out that it was shut down for repairs (the first in a series of blunders caused by my guidebook - more on that later). So we walked all the way back to the train station and checked into a hostel right across the street. Great place - only had one single bed room left by the time we got there, and we eagerly said we'd take it.
The next day, we went to the forbidden city. Along the way, we got lost and found this old catholic church in the middle of nowhere that was surrounded by a steel fence. As we were passing, some chinese guy was banging on the gate and then another guy who looked like he had nothing to do with church finally let him in and left the gate wide open.
We eventually found the walls of the city, but couldn't tell where the entrance was (the forbidden city is huge) so I sat down to check out the map. My ass wasn't on the sidewalk 2 seconds when this chinese guy and a young girl asked us where we wanted to go. It was our first time being approached by chinese who spoke english, so we were more than happy to make conversation. When we told them we were looking for the entrance of the forbidden city, they insisted on showing us, taking us through an obscure opening in the wall and through these beautiful chinese gardens along the way to the main gate... all the while talking away under the guise that they wanted to practice their English. They were both art students and they were about to go to New york for an art show featuring chinese art.
When we finally escaped the art shop, we walked on to the forbidden city. Pretty amazing stuff, but so extremely over-crowded that you're almost better off watching the last emperor for a good look at it. The funniest thing about our trip through the city was the audio tour we got, which included an ear bud and console with a map of the city, marked with little lights at each point of interest - but the damn thing was automated and timed to follow the "ideal" route through the city, so the majority of the time we were listening to history about parts of the city we weren't even at.
I bought a beer in the middle of the forbidden city. Fuckin a.
Eventually, we came out into Tianamen square - lotta space, lotta concrete, very chinese. Tracy bought a kite and we felt like kids trying to fly it. Chinese families kept coming up to us and asking to take pictures with us. We had peking duck that night. I realized I'm not much of a duck guy.
The next day we took a 3 hour bus ride out to the great wall. The tour we signed up with dropped us off at a section of the wall and then we hiked about 4 hours to the next major fortress, where the bus met us to take us home. It was a great experience except for one thing... locals follow you the ENTIRE time trying to sell you something.