The Forbidden City at Dusk
Sorry for my ridiculous hiatus in posting. Things have been pretty wild since getting back to Japan after the Bo-Peep tour. Too much to update you on here, but I will do my best.
On New Years Day, I boarded an evening flight for China, touching down in Beijing around 10PM. I've been living in Japan over 2 years now and it is a complete shame that I had yet to see one of the most significant cities in Asia. I decided to take advantage of the slow pace in Japan over New Years and get my ass over there.
Thoughts and reflections? On the positive side, Beijing is a bustling city with access to some incredible sites. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City were each double the scope that I had imagined. The Great Wall of China at Badaling was a site to be seen and not described in writing, but unfortunately, the bitter cold winds made the experience more trying than I expected.
The Great Wall at Badaling
The best thing about China was hooking up with some cool travelers along the way. Almost as soon as I got to my hostel, I got friendly with a group of Chinese guys my age who worked in offshore oil-drilling in Tianjin. They were quick to break the ice by offering me a cup of Chinese wine, perhaps some of the strongest liquor I have ever had. We goofed off until midnight, hit the sack, and got up early the next day for a day of sightseeing.
Jackie, Chenhuan, and Nana, the Chinese guys from my hostel
In Japan, Chinese people have a reputation for being loud and rude. But after a week in Beijing, I really came to appreciate Chinese cultural forwardness. People in Tokyo are perhaps too shy. Getting into a deep conversation with a stranger is a challenge. In Beijing however, the people I met were constantly probing me and responding deeply to my questions. Conversations were noticeably more hearty. I'm sure my prejudices play into my experience, but these are my honest impressions.
Then there is the negative side. Don't take me the wrong way, but China is a bit of a scary place. Make no mistake, it is a communist country whose government has totalitarian tendencies. Communist and especially Maoist imagery can be see everywhere throughout the city. The media is tightly controlled and many major internet sites are blocked.
The Gate to the Forbidden City
Economically, China is the country everyone is talking about these days. China, China, China is all you hear about in business news. But what I saw was a primitive capital city with a noticeably low standard of living. Looking at just the numbers, China is certainly outpacing the rest of the world, but if you put your feet on the ground over there, you might second-guess everything you've heard.
My next stop will most likely be Shanghai, the modern hub of China. They say it is certainly a foil to traditional Beijing.
It was an outstanding trip, but nothing compares to the Tokyo hustle!
The Forbidden City
A narrow hutong (traditional alleyway) after dark
D-22, a famous indie rock club. Could it be the Ruby Room of Beijing?...
The gate to Liangshidian Jie, a famous tourist street