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'I Saw Pictures' in Asia

Beijing, the first days

CHINA | Saturday, 5 November 2011 | Views [529]

Everybody is trying to kill everyone.

At least, for a second that’s what your inner life- defending mechanisms are telling you. You’re passing the road on the green light, correct, so what is that cab doing in the middle of the crossing?  Why did this motorcycle almost hit you in the  face? Where did this bus come from? From your left, that’s where, step back, form a bigger pack with other pedestrians, surround yourself with guys on the bicycles (the “Beijing” formation) and go. That’s just one flavour of Beijing, and we’re really, really enjoying it.

So far, we’ve seen most of the spots where the density of tourists is the biggest- Tiananmen Square, , Gate of Heavenly Peace where we waved to uncle M., Temple of Heaven and so on. For those moments there we were part of touristic attraction too, as Chinese tourists were taking pictures of themselves with us, often with uncle M. in the background.

Some places described in the guidebook that we wanted to see were just not there anymore. Beijing is under construction, and large areas are being demolished and people are relocated from their old homes. All in the struggle to make Beijing even more beautiful.

Less touristic places, our favourites: a little bar found by a pleasant coincidence in one of the hutongs (Baishu hutong, just opposite the public toilet), where we keep coming back, have not seen any tourists there so far (as, to be honest, it looks a little dodgy), and when we came there a second time, we were offered a Chinese menu, which, apart of being even cheaper than it already was (portions are huge!) had tastier choice. It’s actually a lot better than, for example, fried silk worms or scorpions, as they are pretty much tasteless, though they make good pictures so that your friends can go “wooo...gross, I totally want to go to Asia to try this!”.

Beijing looks best when seen from a bicycle. You see so much more, and you take part in the city’s almost insane flow of traffic. Surprisingly, it does feel safe somehow, as long as you maintain confidence and do quickly cycle in between that bus and a bunch of pedestrians. There’s no place where bicycle bells and horns are more used (and appreciated) than here.

A guy at the very (west) end of the street where our hostel was (Shijia Hutong) rents and repairs bicycles for 10Y for the whole day. There’s also loads of little bike “pit- stops”, scattered around, on the pavements beside the roads.

Our hostel proudly advertised a free trip to the Great Wall, provided we stay for 3 nights. We asked a member of staff whether we can go.

“Yes, however there is one thing you should know”. He leaned over his desk, face serious, and continued with a strong Chinese accent. “It is not a the Great Wall of China. It’s only a model.”

Not only MP fans will find this hillarious. We organised our own trip then. See the photo gallery for more pictures.

Also, almost everyone is trying to overcharge us, but as much as it is irritating, it doesn’t surprise us.

There will be more on Beijing, as that’s where we’re ending our trip in a few months time. For now though, we’re taking an overnight “hard- sleeper” train to Xi’an, which is a kind of success, considering how long it took us to find a special “foreigners only” ticket booth on Beijing Zhan train station.

Brought to you by us from a Tibetan Cafe on Nanluogu Xiang hutong!

(Note: we would appreciate if you could put any comments on our blog, rather than a facebook page- otherwise, we'll not be able to read them for some time while still in China:))

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