We're Never Coming Back

  email me at duncdafunc@gmail.com or check out my latest photos here

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from dunc_da_func. Make your own badge here.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

247天-中国北京 (Day 247 - Beijing, China)

china Ni hao!

OK, so before we get to the china part, a quick recap of the last few days. Stuck in Perth without any chinese visas, sam and i resort to riding around the city on the free bus to relieve our boredom. Overcast and dull as hell, the days are long, and the pool water too cold. Its sick. We're supposed to be enjoying ourselves. Luckily, the weather smartens up for our last day, which is spent browning ourselves by the pool and practising our chopstick usage ready for china. A few drinks to celebrate our send off from australia, and we're on the flight heading towards Hong Kong.

Which is SO NICE. Right, I only have the airport to comment on, seeing as the fog is so thick outside we can't even see outside of the airport. Even the landing was dogged by the fog, so not even a glimpse of the city. But. getting off the plane, you know things are gonna be different. It subtle at first - everyone in the airport speaks English, so it doesn't feel any different to, say, south america. But checking into our next flight was an almost silent process. The standard "take my belt off for the security check and my trousers fall down" joke doesn't raise a laugh. And getting airport information is such a more laboured process.


But the real difference is the food. Sam and I glide up the escalators (which announce "please hold the handrail" in 4 different languages as you step on) to the food hall to be confronted with a raft of chinese fast food joints. Every one has boards of dishes, with cantonese descriptions and a number. Half don't have prices. Half look like a bowl of pondwater. And the other half a non-descript, indistinguishable mess of rice, orange stuff and red and green peppers. We amble around for at least 30 minutes, no idea what to do if we even did make it to the front of the swarming queues. But eventually we step up and I utter the embarrassing "do you speak english?" question, that I wish I never had to say.

"of course" is the response. how embarrassing. I cover it up by ordering my food as quickly as possible and keeping my head down. And ten minutes later, Sam's tucking into some noodle soup with chopsticks (which she can't use very well) and I have a large bowl of rice which is going everywhere (because I can't use chopsticks very well either). Its rubbish. You can feel the chinese laughing at our inability to even eat rice without dropping half of it in our laps, all while I'm scouring the lonely planet for the right way to eat noodles with chopsticks (have you tried it?). Anyway, eating fiasco over, we have 12 hours to wait in the Hong Kong airport, so I find a cute book store (half cantonese and half english) and I browse the stalls for hours until the shop shuts and its time to get some sleep before the flight to beijing. Favourite moment - stumbling across a copy of ID magazine with my mate Casper's mix in it (I told you it'd be a big year for you mate).

I don't get any sleep however. I can't sleep in airports and stuff, and before we know it we're landing in Beijing International Airport and I've been awake for 24hours. Wired and freezing (its -5 degrees outide) we've arranged a free pickup by our hostel and we're whizzed through the city at 6am. Its amazing how no matter where you are in the world, leaving an airport always looks the same. The same familar motorways, tollbooths, highrise Marriot hotels. Even the roadsigns are all in english as well as mandarin (northern china - mandarin, southern china - cantonese). But before long we're driving down the streets of central china, past streets lined with red lanterns, massive neon signs of mandarin characters, ornate chinese buildings, huge stone lions. And literally HUNDREDS of people on bikes.

Right, its unbelievable the amount of bikes here. Unbelievable. They must outnumber cars at least 3 to 1. There's hundreds. And they don't have lights. Or cycle lanes. Or any desire to survive their cycle to work by the look of it. Cars and bikes merge into one huge mess, with bikes claiming AS MUCH of the road as they wish, moving over only for a car horn blowing behind them. And junctions are carnage.

But we make it to the hostel without killing anyone and after checking in, sam and I get our heads down for some well-earned rest before heading out into the surrounding district to check it out. we're staying in one of beijing's Hutong's (which literally means 'narrow alley'). i guess the closest english equivalent is a run-down council estate. Its old and crumbling, with tiny alley ways only just big enough for one direction of traffic to navigate past the throng of cyclist and rickshaws passing by. They're SO BEAUTIFUL, and ooze the character and lifeblood you would expect from what is in effect an inner-city slum. But because this is what they are, the chinese government has a policy to demolish these districts in a bid to modernise the city. Systematically destroying their heritage and character in the run-up to the Olympics (being hosted here next year - 2008), the chinese 'people' are divided about what should happen to them. But from a tourist's perspective, I see far more beauty here than I do in a raft of tower blocks - the replacement for these so-called 'embarrassments'.

Anyway, we spend the day wandering the local area - checking out tiny craft shops selling pieces of tracing paper cut into the most beautiful patterns. Seeing the hundreds of hairdressers with their tiny shops and hundreds of staff with shoreditch haircuts and trendy clothes. Trying to use ATMs when its all in mandarin. And seeing the familiar MacDonalds golden arches and promised of burgers for 45p. Even though there's a serious communication problem with a language that we can't even READ, we get by in shops and restaurants just fine. This place is enchanting - in a freezing cold, grey and dirty way. I think its gonna be good here.

Labels: , , , ,


Anonymous Trixie said...

Melua warned you. If only you'd listened!ihfekr

12:32 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home