Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pictures from Beijing

As much as I have to say about the Chinese government and Chinese politics, I had a fantastic time in Beijing and Harbin. I probably did about a half dozen identifiable things and spent the rest of my time simply roaming the city to the point that central Beijing became convenient enough to walk around without resorting to buses, taxis or the subway.

I grew to hate Beijing taxis during this trip. It was impossible to find one late at night or during rush hour, much of Beijing's core is an awkward place to catch a taxi and taxis don't venture there to begin with. If you do find a line of taxis waiting in a busy area, odds are that they'll quote $8 for a $2 trip.

For most tourists, most tourist attractions can be walked (eg it should take no more than an hour or so to walk from the Temple of Heaven to the Drum Tower) and you'll learn a great deal along the way.

You'll also find that if you're going to or from the core of the city, buses will likely go where you're going and will do so for 1 yuan (about 15 cents). Bus stops tend to be written entirely in Chinese, but it's also time to consider the fact that Chinese simply isn't that hard. Just as Chinese newcomers adapt to new countries by matching letters, you might do the same by matching characters.

Consider Tiananmen Square, which is shorter in Chinese than English (天安门), or Beijing station (北京站). If you learn even these six characters during your stay there, your trip will be a much more interesting one. The alternative mindset, of course, is that an expensive overseas trip is no time to start learning the world's most common language. That time is best spent isolating yourself with other backpackers discussing your travels to other locales prefaced by the verb 'to do', as in "yeah, I did Italy and Switzerland when I was in university, it was pretty chill".

That rant aside, here are some of the things I saw while I was in Beijing.

The crowd in the ticket hall at Beijing station. I'm convinced that this scoreboard does nothing but sow panic.

The aforementioned National Museum of China.

Officers from the People's Armed Police march at Tiananmen Square. They are technically a paramilitary force responsible for internal security. Unsurprisingly, they number 1.5 million across the country.

The Chinese Communist Party built itself a 90th birthday present at Wangfujing, one of many across the city.

Yao Ming in an ad next to, I presume, his mother, who is 6'3" herself.

Evening at Beihai Park in Beijing, a remarkable public space in Beijing.

The view from the sixth-floor cafe at the King's Joy Hotel in Qianmen. Note the dilapidated buildings in the foreground with the Forbidden City and the state apparatus in the background.

The Qianmen pedestrian street.

Between the pedestrian street and where I was staying was this unsightly relic from the past.

The ornate but far-too-small waiting room at Beijing station. The cafe in the waiting room was mostly empty. None of the people standing or sitting on their luggage wanted to pay $4 for a cup of tea and the soft booths that came with it.

Beijing station.

A taxi driver and a passenger discuss a destination on a map in front of Beijing station.

One of the preserved historical houses (I think this is actually the entrance to a collection of houses) on Beichang Street just west of the Forbidden City. This shady street with well-preserved architecture and occasional glimpses of the forbidden Zhongnanhai complex connects Tiananmen Square with Beihai Park. It makes for an excellent walk.

The north end of the Forbidden City, Beijing's imperial palace for five centuries.

1 comment:

holterbarbour said...

There are few relics from the past more unsightly than pot-bellied Chinese guys wearing their blue gym uniform. May they all be consigned to the dustbin of history!