Beijing super tourist!
So I only have 2 days in Beijing, today for touring & tomorrow to visit the great wall, so I decided to see as much as I could as thoroughly as I could today. I am still with no ability to upload pictures, because the hostel's disk drive doesn't work & the computer is not compatible with my camera, however, in a few days you will hopefully be able to see bad pictures of Andi in famous places. lolz.
1. Tian'anmen Square Yeah missed out on this BIG ONE because it was closed for some kind of official activities. Argh.I did get my picture in front of the giant picture of Mao though- woot! It was walking past the square that made it really hit me- I'm in freaking China. Wow.
2. The subway, this was really number one, but whatev. Thanks to the Beijing 2008 Olympics the subway talks to you in English, is well signed & stunning. It is the cleanest, prettiest, quietest, cheapest (about 33cents a ride) and most modern I have ever been on. Granted, I've only been in the US and Canada, but it really is a marvel. Oh and all that crap rough guides tells you to freak you out that the Chinese are going to shove you into oblivion, is total bull. They are a little more pushy than the average new yorker, but not by much.
3. Huotongs, these are like barrios, neighborhoods, or whatever you want to call them. And Beijing's make Nicaragua's or my own hood look like paradise. Not only is every inch of this city that isn't a park paved, but its in some stage of deconstruction or reconstruction, its dirty, grey and bricks are being moved around. Interestingly, the large scale buildings are not as crane-laden as commonly described, one Chinese student I was speaking to blamed this on the recent onset of the recession. Incidentally the recession is not to be spoken of here, it is taboo, and the government line is that China will win out as a result of the recession hitting the west, but not here. That, obviously, makes no sense, but thats the line. I hope to meet some more students tonight (I am going out near the economics university and crossing my fingers) so I can get a bit more deeply into it. Speaking of the recession...
4. I found Beijing's time square. Conspicuous Consumption Central. The street called Wangfujing is a 2 block insanity of everything from Boss to Nike to Nine West to Burberry, giant screens, ultra modern architecture & bling. It is surrounded on either end by kitch shops, and at the south end by a strange little section of chatchkies (sic?) and street food. And yes I dove into the street food. I had pork on a stick, chicken on a sticky, caramel covered baby donuts on a stick and yes, even grilled larval locusts on a stick. The former were fabulous, the latter nauseating, not because it was a bug, but because it tasted like locusts smell. Smell a locust, you wont eat it either. About 73 Chinese tourists took a picture of the giant white girl (and yes those were 3 of the first words I learned after hearing it about 15 times in my first four hours here) eating a locust. They weren't about to eat that crazy shit. I even heard one say Andrew Zimmerman in there somewhere...
5. Forbidden Palace. This place is HUGE and amazing. I took an audio tour for the first time ever and I was really glad. I learned a ton from the tour, but mostly that in China people don't die from cancer or heart disease, they die from sadness, loneliness, grief, anger, frustration, envy and any number of other emotional ailments. Further, they lose wars not because of poor planning, but because their leader isn't getting laid on the regular. To say much more about the Forbidden Palace, you will have to see the pictures.
6. Temple of Heaven. Another completely amazing sight. The wooden temple itself is a feat, and beautiful. But the best part was watching the locals use the park surrounding it. There was a line of card players 300 meters long, all boisterously playing some sort of game which involves matching cards, in rapid-fire succession. Also there were music troupes, dance troupes, old people jazzercising, someone teaching belly dancing, lone musicians, parents playing badminton with children and people playing with feathered hackisacks (which is way harder than regular hackisack- I tried). As an aside the Chinese are seemingly obsessed with exercise. Women in wool suits at the park are seen with resistance bands doing things I couldn't do at 20, let alone 60. There is fitness equipment everywhere. Like just randomly on the sidewalk, bars to pull up on (for which I am a foot too tall, lol) stationary bicycles, various swinging things, etc. Everywhere you go people are working out. The 80 year old climb the temple steps like spry children, stopping at the top for a smoke! Older folks push their wheelchairs until they can't anymore then sit in them. People come out of their little shops and do calisthenics on the sidewalk. This is how you live to 80 in eye watering, sinus burning smog.
**side note- I totally got ripped off here, by an alleged 'student' saving for a trip to Europe, who was really just a con-artist, passing the money I spent off to the shop owner. I was sooo mad. Oh well, you live you learn, and I really liked the artwork, even if I did overpay.
7. White Dagoba at Ben Hai park. My favorite sight. Bring on the Buddahs in a big way. It is a beautiful lake park, surrounded by Cypress. There were all kinds of wacky caves full of statuettes. Again, this is a picture issue, I will try to find an internet cafe in the next few days.
Until tomorrow, zaijian!