Thursday, August 6, 2009

China

After Hanoi, I went to China.

I wish I had spent longer there. Three days was a bit short to spend in Beijing, although I saw all the big things that I had planned to see. Because I was only there three days, I was able to spring for a better hotel room, and treated myself to a sumptuous peking duck dinner on the last day. With longer time, I could have seen some different temples and museums and zoos in the city, but perhaps that will have to wait for a future date.

I had some interesting impressions of Beijing because it was the first city I came to after leaving Vietnam. It was like coming back to civilization again. There was a wide, well-paved highway from the airport to the city. There were actual criss-crossing highways in the city. There were subway stations and decent buses. Everything seemed much less crowded in general. But the biggest change was the lack of motorbikes. Sure, there were a few here and there. However, it was mostly cars and bicycles, and they didn't constantly fill the streets. It was actually quite pleasant walking down the street. I didn't notice pollution per se, but the skies were pretty hazy during my whole time there.

One other difference was that there seemed to be less English everywhere as in Vietnam. I think since Vietnam relies more on foreign investment, they realized the importance of putting English translations on signs and restaurants and such, but the Chinese seem to be attempting to be more independent of America, and all around me I saw chinese symbols that I couldn't even read. When I asked my hotel for a place to eat, they wrote two symbols on a piece of paper, and I had to wander down the street trying to match the symbols to a sign. I felt that the Chinese were also not quite as friendly as the Vietnamese, but that may just have been my impression.

I took a hiking tour of the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai, which was 10 kilometers. I severely underestimated the strenuousness of it. A lot of the area was old and unrestored, which was really cool to see, but it was tough climbing up and down steep staircases and ramps that were falling apart. I was completely exhausted not long into the hike, but I kept on moving and eventually I finished it. While I was walking, an older mongolian woman was following me with a bag of things to sell, and she kept fanning me and chatting with me and helping me climb down steps, until the end when she asked me what I wanted to buy. I was thankful for her company so I bargained down some good quality chopsticks from her.

When I first entered the great wall, there was a group of chinese who were all taking pictures. A few of them asked to take pictures with me, which I guess is something they do. So I posed for a few pictures with them, and they seemed happy at that. I couldn't imagine someone trying to do that in America, though.

In Beijing, I checked out the Forbidden City, which was full of old temples and palaces, and one could really spend hours and hours in there. It's very crowded and full of people from all different countries, with automatic audio guides in about 30 languages available. The guide explained everything to me, so I understood the gist of the chinese imperial history. Mostly I just liked looking at the architecture and hearing about the meaning behind certain statues.

And now, some pictures:




3 comments:

Kat said...

Peter! I'm very very jealous! I'm hoping to make it out there soon! Hope all is well!

And ps- I love peking duck! haha

Michael Lovett said...

[quote]One other difference was that there seemed to be less English everywhere as in Vietnam. I think since Vietnam relies more on foreign investment, they realized the importance of putting English translations on signs and restaurants and such, but the Chinese seem to be attempting to be more independent of America...[/quote]
Uh...China is rather huge compared to Vietnam my friend. :)

Also, the reason English is so prominent on signage and such was...(drum roll) "the war". When you have THAT many GIs living in that part of the country for several years, what do you THINK is going to happen?

Beijing should have road signs/street signs written in PinYin, but there is NO reason for them to give up their characters for "UmeriKuh" or the west for that matter. And oh, that first part you mentioned about foreign investment? What? If it wasn't for foriegn investment in China, it would not BE the fastest, largest growing economy in the world right now!

Now that I gave you a bit of tongue, I do wish you have time to return to China and spend, oh, I would recommend no less than a MONTH to even get a SLIGHT feel for it. There is just too much to absorb--various minorities, various geography/environs and so on.

Petros said...

Michael, I'm glad you stumbled across my humble blog and decided to comment. I find it fascinating learning about history, culture, and other countries, so thank you for posting some information. When I have more money and time in the future, I plan to travel all around China and the rest of the region, but at this time I could only afford a brief trip to Beijing on my way home from my year in Vietnam.

As a not very experienced traveler, I mostly just post my observations and I hope that other people can help me make sense of it. I may draw some faulty conclusions, but I never portray them as fact. I don't claim to know much, so I welcome anyone who wishes to correct me. (I could do without the sarcasm next time :)