Wandering around the city of 9 million bicycles... Good-bye China, it's been charmingly weird!

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Asia » China » Beijing
June 11th 2013
Published: July 21st 2013
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My adventure with China was slowly coming to an end… Once again lots of different thoughts were flying through my head and I had very mixed feelings about the next part of my trip – was happy to be leaving as new countries waited to be explored but at the same time sad as even though it took a while to comprehend a few things around here I got to love this amazingly bizarre country! Well… comprehend probably is way too big of a word here, as some things are simply beyond comprehension in China… anyway… as overwhelmed as I was during my first week in China, I learned to deal with any obstacles eventually… And what can I say – sometimes I’d rather face a challenge than have everything handed to me… So even though I have had some tough moments in China I knew I was going to miss it, especially its weirdness... But my adventure here wasn’t over just yet… I still had a little bit of time (very little actually) to explore the capital!

We arrived in Beijing in the afternoon and were supposed to go see the acrobatic show in the evening, so still had a bit of time to explore the surrounding neighbourhoods. We couldn’t be located in a better part of the city as our hotel was just in the middle of the hutong district! Lovely narrow alleyways, smell of food in the air coming from local eateries and many stands around, people sitting here and there in tiny restaurants or just chilling outside, chatting with their friends or playing all sorts of games. Just loved the atmosphere! We were strolling around the streets for a while but suddenly as we were getting closer to one of the lakes it became very dark all around and a moment after it was hailing!!! With more than 30 degrees outside! I certainly haven’t experienced this phenomenon before – well in these temperatures at least… We hid under one of the roofs and were just waiting for the hailing to stop. Straight away out of nowhere a few umbrella sellers appeared all around – they surely knew they could put up their prices pretty high as there were only two options at this moment for the stranded tourists – either wait through the rain/hail or walk in the middle of it. So the sellers started asking ridiculous amounts of money for the umbrellas – one guy even went as far as 100yuan for a small brolly!!! But we wouldn’t have any of it… If they didn’t want to put reasonable price on their goods, well… too bad for them I guess… After all we weren’t in a hurry and standing under a roof in Beijing, watching egg-sized ice balls falling from the sky was quite a unique experience on its own! Thankfully though we didn’t have to wait long and soon after hailing stopped and only a light drizzle continued on so we decided to take this chance and head back to the hotel (or at least get closer to it). It was unbelievable how flooded some streets around the hutongs got after these few minutes of hail/rain. But what was truly amazing was how inventive people were when making their way through these flooded streets – a few bricks or wooden planks appeared out of nowhere and where used as little bridges all around! And it all happened so quickly! Walking through the paddles in flip-flops wasn’t too much fun though as there certainly was no sewage system around here, so God knows what was floating around us… There would definitely be some feet and flip-flops scrubbing later on! Well… As interesting as seeing Beijing dealing with the monsoon rains was it was time to get back to the hotel as soon after we were going to the ‘jaw-dropping’ and ‘breath-taking’ acrobatic show.

Our local guide Yen was rushing us to leave early as using metro at this hour apparently was tricky, way too many people that is… But we didn’t need to worry it would seem as not only the metros weren’t overcrowded but also they pulled up the moment we got to the platform (it definitely could have been difficult to squeeze in there with our backpacks though as it still was pretty crowded in the carriages – it made me worry a bit about my journey to the airport the next day??? Ah well… It looked like I would need to use my elbows after all. 😉). All this rush resulted in us getting to the place way too early, more than an hour before the show. Ah well… A beer in a nearby restaurant fixed that problem very quickly and soon after it was time to watch the show… Maybe it wasn’t the most spectacular show ever, still there were parts of it that I truly enjoyed as some of the performers were absolutely brilliant! Especially one girl was just beyond elastic! She seemed to have no spine at all as her body could twist in million different ways – it was actually quite painful to see some of the movements (well, I know it would have been very painful to me for sure! 😉). Also loved the part when the girls were circling around on bikes and the one where they were throwing diabolos in the air as it came with a cute dance to it. I felt really bad for one girl when she dropped diabolo – after doing a few saltos she didn’t catch it in time – there was a bit of an aaaahhh in the audience then, but she got another chance soon after to make up for her mistake and completed the trick perfectly. One thing that was totally unnecessary in the program was the clown who was appearing in between – totally annoying with his stupid whistle!!! But I guess all the kids liked him at least… Still even though the show wasn’t the cheapest (and for some strange reason we had to pay for it separately! It only made me wonder again what Dragoman was doing with the kitty on this trip?) it was totally worth seeing. Maybe not exactly jaw dropping or breath-taking experience as it was described on the posters, but it surely was quite impressive!

After the show we headed to the night market. After all it was time to see (and try?) some weird foods sold around in Beijing! As soon as we entered the market we got to see some unusual specialities – like scorpions on stick for example! Many of the poor creatures were still moving!!! I wasn’t that adventurous to try them though… Further up there were even more weird things on stick – lizards, snakes, starfish and even seahorses! There were more usual foods here as well – kebabs, dumplings and lots of other things…. The prices were surprisingly high though! Not to mention that they tried to rip off the foreigners as much as they could… One guy went just beyond with dishonesty! He was selling dumplings – a portion of 6 on a little tray, which was supposed to cost 15yuan, however when one of the girls from our group ordered one tray he insisted that she should pay 15 yuan per dumpling! Are you kidding me? 2 euro per dumpling??? We just saw you selling a tray of dumplings to a Chinese guy for 15 yuan! After a very unpleasant exchange of words (the guy not only was dishonest but was extremely rude as well!) and a bad taste in our mouths after this incident we decided it was time to head back to our hotel. Suddenly the skies opened again though! It just started raining like crazy! Two minutes and we were almost ankle deep in water… Well… There was no point in waiting as it didn’t look like it was going to stop any time soon. So with the raincoat on I sprinted to the metro station… I can’t say that getting soaked twice in one day was fun though… just hoped that I would have a better weather on my last day in Beijing, and in China for that matter as well!

It looked like my prayers were answered as we got beautiful weather the next day – sun shining and clear skies, just perfect! In the morning, straight after breakfast, we took a metro to Tiananmen Square. I definitely didn’t expect these hordes of tourists! The square was just swamped with people… Not sure how we managed to stay in the group and not loose anyone along the way… As significant as the place is in the Chinese history, it sure doesn’t feel that significant right now – people are constantly trying to sell you something and there is absolutely no chance for a bit of peace and quiet to reflect on things or to take a photo without having 50 people in it, simply way too overcrowded… Again we got asked a couple of times to pose for photos with some people – most of the time I don’t mind but when a gang of Chinese, possibly drunk, guys as they surely stank of booze (maybe from a night before though? Either way – disgusting!), basically without even asking tried to hug me and were shoving camera in my face, well sorry, but that’s just a bit too much! So after a few minutes spent on the square it was high time to head to the Forbidden City. Wasn’t really too keen on it as the crowds were just petrifying! Despite the overwhelming amounts of people around, I really enjoyed the walk through the Forbidden City though. Honestly I didn’t realise how big this place was! Still when you’re walking around the mighty buildings you can let your imagination go and picture how life could look like all these years ago… I didn’t really have much time as had to leave the hotel at 3pm if I wanted to catch my plane to Bangkok in the afternoon, so it was rather a quick walk through the Forbidden City. Unfortunately… as I wouldn’t mind spending a bit more time there and learning a bit more about the place. Next we headed to the park just opposite the exit gate. Straight away we climbed to the pagoda on the top of the hill where we could see the whole Forbidden City from high above, as well as the panorama of Beijing… Forbidden City looks even more impressive when you can actually see the whole scale of it… Quite an amazing sight! And then it was time to slowly head back to the hotel…

My adventure with China had come to an end eventually… There were still many things to see in Beijing but unfortunately I ran out of time… I really got to like this massive city and seeing that there were still a couple of places to visit and revisit (as I would definitely give the Forbidden City a second chance) I would definitely like to come back to Beijing one day. Not to mention that there were still lots of other parts of China to be explored. As overwhelming and bizarre as this country seemed at the very beginning I got to learn its ways after a while and got to love it even though many things are still beyond comprehension and I seriously doubt I would ever be able to understand them… but I guess that’s the charming part about China, it’s certainly very different to other countries. Cause how can you explain the men rolling up their shirts and walking around with their bare bellies? Or the kids with no nappies but having holes in their trousers instead to be able to do their business wherever and whenever? And how can you ever get used to all the throat clearing, nose digging, burping or slurping??? But then on the other hand how can you not love this country – all these lovely places to see, foods to taste and most of all the people! Many of them are actually very friendly, you just have to give them a chance! Until next time China! As for now it’s time to discover another country… Next stop: Thailand!

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