Also at any moment without sense of hesitation you could be affronted by some stench or other. A terrible rotten sewer assault to the nose or a rotten garbage purification stench. Sometimes a caustic burnt plastic acridness regaling of nostrils. And then it would be gone. Near the drain of some certain street crossings this would happen and it wouldn’t be long before you knew where to stand to increase tolerance and decrease exposure.
Beijing is even completely different now to how it was five years ago. Massive development and construction. Subways to my mind always seem to be an engrained and established part of a city. So it is surprising to see new ones on street corners not yet finished or to find out that the one near the hotel we were staying was only a few years old. I was further surprised to find out that the best way of building the first subway in the 40s was to knock down the original giant walls of the ancient city and open dig the subway, then put a roof on. The reasoning was that nothing was over this area and therefore simplifying the building process without having to change the city..! A decision they very much regret now as the few parts of the original city walls left are much celebrated. However to get from one end of the city to the other in 30 minutes is truly great. In Sydney traveling the city is an hour plus of bus and train changes. Such a shame. That’s why the Beijing subway makes the impressive list, and cheap too.
The temple of heaven also impressed me. Tian Ten. The building I guess is impressive but what I most liked were the grounds it was in. Acres and acres of grass and tree parkland. When in the centre, the city just could not be heard. People come here to relax and do Tai Chi and I really liked the feeling of the place. First time I got there it was just coming to dark but I felt totally safe roaming around and checking out the sights. Watching the sun set over the temple and witnessing all its geometry and then walking back through the dark to the main entrance was really uplifting. Total magic.
Another thing I wanted to reflect on was the sight of a kite. When you look up and you see a kite it’s a good feeling. People in China love flying kites. In my first week we were in Tiananmen square and this old guy was getting hassled to move on. He was flying fifty small kites on one piece of string. I just thought in the middle of a city that was incredible and a grown man. Then I forgot about kites. As we came back from the Great Wall all tired and exhausted a week later (more on that soon) we came closer into the city and I saw one red kite way high. In fact it was between two giant new apartments. I have never seen a kite so high. It somehow made the apartments seem small! I thought someone was flying it from the roof of one of the apartments. I was sure I could see someone standing there! Just quickly this reminds me of the story of the first fleet coming to Australia and the aboriginal people not seeing the ship on the horizon. The reverse of what I was doing: imagining something whereas the other premise was if you had never seen something like that before in your whole life you wouldn’t see it. Anyway as we came closer more giant apartments loomed up and I spotted another kite. In total I saw five red kites so high and above all this concrete. It was inspiring to see something so simple, so majestic and towering above everything. Usually its an older guy holding on to a big wheel with 2 kilometres of string coming from it. Just standing there, chatting to people and enjoying his afternoon.
Later on I was walking around the city and ended up in an industrial area next to a canal. I was enclosed by a massive development and a few scraggly trees with giant building cranes towering over me. But above it all: one red kite.
Tian Ten (Temple of Heaven) Miles and miles of parkland surround it. So Beautiful and peaceful and surprising to find in a crazy busy city.