I have been back in Sydney, Australia for a week now. It is fantastic!
China has a piece of my heart though. I experienced so many great things in such a short period of time that I am a changed person. More on that later on. As I reflect the words impressive, dirty, busy, engaging, shocking and sweet come to mind and that is just the people I met. Hehe.
Beijing really did impress me. The architecture was so diverse. Rapid new developments next to old rickety houses with weeds growing from the front windowsill. Amazing public buildings: The Beijing National Centre for Performing Arts, shaped like an egg, resting on a lake. Through the main entrance you walk beneath a glass ceiling and as you look up you see the lake’s water above you. A great experience. Trailing around this area on my bike with immense Tiananmen square on one side with green suited soldiers on every corner looking out to the road at forty five degree angles. Then on the other side the Hutongs. Residents living in semi charming squalor behind a thread bear curtain with a tree in a courtyard and a dumpling place next door on the street.
The dirt! My first day in Beijing the smog was so thick. My eyes burnt, my throat closed up, my nostrils grasped for air. At the end of the day a thick, sticky coating of unnaturalness lined the back of my throat. Fortunately this was not a daily occurrence. No wonder everybody hacks their lungs out though. In my last week we were blanketed in smog again. As I walked the block of my hotel in the north east of central Beijing I was absolutely shocked to see a tall industrial chimney that I hadn’t seen before pumping out immense clouds of smoke. Day parked cars covered in a thin coating of ash by evening…
Adding to this dirt would be the enormous traffic. There is no rush hour in Beijing. It’s all rush hour. Scootering and hootering bikes and trikes with black Audis (cars of the officials that would drive red lights, honk through and join interchange traffic without stopping). Later I would see Audi ads on TV with the slogan of “better life” and a smiling family. It would seem to have a better life in China you should be a communist official to be more equal than others…
For ten Yuan you can get a ride on a back of a motorbike trike from the subway to wherever close by. Sitting facing the traffic and a thin blanket of a back door flapping around you in the wind as you sped to your destination. I would do that after a boring or tiring subway ride. Invigorating! Also motorbikes cash taxi too. I saw a Chinese grandma getting a side saddle ride back home once.
It is worth noting that a pedestrian crossing in China on a green man doesn’t mean anything about pedestrians and crossing. Cars, especially taxis, will not hesitate to drive through. This is fun when you are in them, but a country needs to sort out a pedestrian crossing properly to be seen as civilised and proper!
Smog on the first day and street traffic
The Beijing National Centre for Performing Arts. The egg on the lake
The Beijing National Centre for Performing Arts in the background of a Hutong. Like a spaceship has landed!
Smoke stack near hotel