Forbidden city in the rain
Forbidden city in the rain
Blog May 23, 2008
After having reported my experience in the bath which proved to be the result of an earthquake, it has since then grown into a national disaster, easily
overshadowing the preparations for the Olympic Games
To give an idea about the magnitude of it, here follow a few statistics of the catastrophe:
42.000 dead and 32.000 missing, over 200.000 people injured and close to a million people left homeless. A whole town has to be written off, with 80% of the buildings destroyed and the rest unsafe to live in. 400 bridges collapsed and 28.000 km of roads have been damaged.
What is even more impressive is the speed with which the Chinese central government has reacted to the disaster and afford it put in. Within a day the first of hundreds of thousands soldiers were on their way to assist, medical teams, rescue teams, plant and specialized units were dispatched together with huge quantities of food, medicine, blankets and tents. All the help it was offered by the rest of the world was gratefully accepted and directed to help centers from where they could be sent to places they were needed most.
TV-coverage was almost continuous
to get the nation informed and rally sympathy and donations. Chinese citizens all over the world, together with governments of almost any country that had humanitarian feelings donated huge amounts of money and goods. All that though will only help to get the worst results of the disaster behind the victims. The Chinese government has urged all departments to decrease their budgets for this year with 5% and that then was what I thought was a bad wind hitting the building I was bathing in.
China has not stopped to surprise me in other ways as well. People are gentle, helpful and polite. They smile most of the time, are well dressed and pursue business with an unmistakable capitalistic zeal.
Today the 24th, the number of dead has risen to 55.000, the number of missing gone down to 24.000.
But to tell more about China. First of all, once you arrive here it becomes overwhelmingly clear that the ideas we had in the West about this country are hopelessly biased by warnings about yellow danger, the military might and many more negative rumors. Let me say that I have no idea about military might and what dangers China may harbor
for the West. What I see here is a gentle people, willing to help and bending backwards to make you feel at ease. No aggressive curiosity, no turning of heads, no police at every corner, no show of weapons as in Pakistan amongst others, and no problems with officialdom. Everywhere you come, be it in public buildings, public toilets or the shop at the corner, even the busses are clean. No moment is ever lost to sweep the floor or grab a mob which are everywhere on stand-by. OK. The skeptical soul will point out that the whole country is put on a sort of war-footing in the positive sense to make a good impression on the visitors who are expected to flood in because of the games. But I think that a lot of what I observe comes quite natural to the Chinese.
Prices are higher than I expected, that’s true. But the beer is fabulous. Transport by train is fast and efficient, the municipal busses run at short intervals, taxi’s are modern and cruising in large numbers, all metered and helpful.
The language is a barrier, both the spoken word and the written characters of which the meaning
will for ever be a mystery for me. But, once again: help is near and it has yet to happen that I was unable to convey a message to get me where I wanted to go or get what I wanted to have or know.
Another myth we have harbored in the west, for as far as I know, is that Indonesian food is spicy, like Indian and so on, but that Chinese food is mild. Nothing could be further from the truth, I discovered wile recovering from a mouthful of noodles. Well is there variety, and not only as far as spiciness is concerned. Another feature is that all food is freshly prepared when ordered. At fast food outlets you’ll just have to wait until it’s ready.
For people who can afford to fly to far-away places like Indonesia, Alaska or South Africa for that matter, China should be added to the list of options. It’s marvelous here and the presentation of expositions in musea and other places of interest are fantastic. In Lanzhou, North/West China I visited a museum where pre-historic animals were shown, fossils that were found in the grotto’s in that region. Also magnificently preserved Artefacts,
pottery that dates from 6000 and 7000 BC. An insight in history going back that far alone makes it almost worthwhile to visit China.
In Beijing I found a mega city of many millions of people that doesn’t gave an impression of being so vast. Colossal modern buildings line wide avenues with an enormous network of public transport: busses, Metro and taxis, trolley-busses and millions op pedestrians, underground foot-tunnels and flag-waving marshals to help control the flow.
The first day in town I wandered around the Youth hostel, a modern building with an old section opposite the street. In this neighborhood thousands of slum-houses are pulled down to be replace by new dwellings, shops and restaurants. Literary thousands of workers here are busy getting electricity, water and sewerage facilities in place, uprooting street after street. But I have yet to see an unhappy face.
Anyway, the next day I made an attempt to reach one of the must see’s; the Forbidden city. I failed and got lost. The day after that even more so. It took me a time to get orientated and finally I found what
I had been looking for.
And I went to see the Great Wall,
taking one of 5 options to hike a section of it. It was quite and experience because that wall was not build in valleys, but from steep mountain top to the next. Descending steep steps and climbing steps often 40 cm high brought out the best in me, what was left anyway. But is was unforgettable. See the pics!
Anyway, I’ leaving the hostel tonight by train to visit a place in the North/East of Beijing, on the cost. So after a while I’ll come back to my blog with more news.
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