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Anywhere but the UK Almost three years of saving and hard work since graduation have culminated in this trip. My inspiration has come from reading inumerable atlas's and watching the quality output of the BBC ever since I was a kid. My route has changed in it's scope and length since my orignial ideas. The theme however,remains the same: to get beyond the shores of our tiny island and to experience and explore the world beyond. Oh and to have a good time and not work for six months!

Communication Breakdown

CHINA | Thursday, 5 July 2007 | Views [724]

After forty five hours on the Hanoi - Beijing express, which wasn't much of an express considering we had to change trains and disembark in Nanning for two hours, arrived in Beijing.  I was glad to be getting off having spent the previous night in the company of eight Vietnamese fellas who insisted on sharing a large bottle of liquor of dubious quality.  The conversation, suprisingly, had been pretty poor considering my chasm of knowledge of the Vietnamese language.  I did, however, manage to decipher from their passports, looking at maps and pointing that they were heading to work in Moscow.  At least I think that's what they were trying to say.

Stepping down from the train onto Beijing Xi Zhan railway station platorm #9 it looked much like any other.  It was only upon leaving the platform that I realised the station resembled an airport more than a railway station: this place was huge!  Leaving the station and making our way to our hotel only confirmed that it wasn't just the station, it was the entire city that was huge.  The main arterial roads here comprise four or five lanes going in each direction, often with an additional cycle lane。  In short they're big and they take an age to cross.  Not only are the roads big, but so are the buildings.  In New York the buildings are tall, but they don't tend to take up huge areas of real estate.  In contrast buildings in Beijing seem to pride themselves on consuming vast areas of real estate, all the while happily putting up a good forty to fifty stories on top.

If the scale of this city was the first thing to strike me then the pollution was the second: the air here is filthy!  Looking across Tianamen Square on late Monday morning I was unable to make out the huge gateway to the Forbidden City due to the smoggy haze blanketing the square.  After walking around for five or six hours it feels as though you need a twenty minute shower just to get all of the dust and crap of your skin and out of your hair.  God knows how they're going to manage to stage beach volleyball in Tianamen Square in just over a years time.  I couldn‘t imagine doing any sort of physical activity, besides walking, in that environment!

So that brings me to language.  All I had heard from people since telling them I was planning to go to China was: 'You're going to struggle there, no-one speaks English.'  This isn't strictly true.  Whether it be a street vendor hawking a copy of Chairman Maos 'Red Book' on Tianamen Square or the drinks vendor at the Great Wall many people have enough English phrases in their armoury to aid in lightening the burden of your wallet.  The real problem isn't that most people don't speak English it's that they can't speak English when you want them to.  It's not all bad, however, just today I met an guy who must have been in his mid sixties who spoke English with a posh home counties accent.  He managed to tell me a bit about his life and his trip to England in the 70s to see part of Concorde being built in Bristol before wishing me a 'safe onward journey' 

Anwyay as I was saying before our biggest problem has been in restaurants.  Until last night, frustratingly, we had been reduced to eating some of the crappiest food the capital had to offer.  This, a result of our Indo-European language heritage which seems to make speaking a tonal language near bloody impossible.  For the first couple of days I was picking words out of the phrasebook and in the process no doubt massacring the Chinese language.  Failing that I simply waited for something that looked nice to appear on a neighbouring table and then pointed at it.  Last night, however, things seemed to click.  I managed to order a plate of fried rice and chicken with cashew nuts and recieved a plate of fried rice and chicken with cashew nuts.  Perhaps I might just get the knack of this language yet. 

Some photo's will, hopefully, follow.  Every internet cafe so far hasn't had a accesible USB port.

Tags: Sightseeing


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