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China,We Finally Meet

Beijing, China

After 30 hours of travel I finally made it to Beijing last night, although my stay is a short one as I'm heading to Xi'an tonight by train.

The trip from Capital Airport to the hostel was uneventful, although the humidity hit me like a bucket of water as soon as I stepped outside. The first rule of surviving Beijing is HYDRATE. The second rule of surviving Beijing is...HYDRATE!

My first observations of China:

Talk about bigger is better. The Capital airport is quite impressive, boasting world's largest continues roof spanning the entire airy terminal supported by huge columns. It really shows you what ambition and vast space combined can achieve.

This city is changing right in front of its residents, and most of them couldn't be prouder of their beloved Northern Capital (what Beijing means in Chinese). There are constructions everywhere, and the subway system is very convenient, clean, and packed! I looked around my fellow passengers on the subway and I swear I could have been in Tokyo, Seoul, or Barcelona (you have to squint your eyes a bit and imagine you are overhearing conversations in Spanish). However, as soon as I walked outside the subway station toward my hostel, it felt like a different world: locals gathering outside the station trying to cool off on a hot summer night, kids playing soccer, and vendors selling delicious smelling snacks from makeshift coal burner. The hostel is located in downtown Beijing, but the neighbor still retains its old charm. Narrow Hutongs crisscrossing like a maze, lined with stores selling everything from latest electronics to ancient herbs. Right outside of the hostel several folding tables and chairs lined the sidewalk and neighbors gather to eat, drink, and generally enjoying each other's company. Right in the middle of the street is a TV showing the broadcast of a World Cup match.

My hostel was full, so they got a room for me in a binguan (loosely translated, business hotel) nearby, with my own bathroom. I guess my first hostel experience will have to wait. It was midnight by the time I showered and repacked my backpack. Time for bed.

I set my alarm at 7am and was awoken by the bright sunlight thru the windows. I thought I had overslept and did a double take when the clock said 4:30 am. It was no mistake, and China does not observe DST, and the whole country is on one standard time-zone. It's going to be interesting as I travel west on the Silk Road.

After breakfast I headed out in search of a travel agency to help me arrange my travel to Mongolia at the end of this trip. It was only 8am and a Day Market outside of the hostel was already in full swing. You can find people selling and buying everything from fresh produce to antiques to portable DVD players. By the time I returned 2 hours later the crowd had completely vanished, and only the employees of the stores lining the street sweeping and cleaning up offered a clue there were about 10,000 people crammed into a space roughly the size of half a football field hours earlier.

I had an entire day to explore after I took care of my travel arrangement so I headed again. It didn't feel like Sunday with constructions equipments humming in symphony with the traffic and the entire city was filled with a positive energy. Store windows showoff the latest fashion from SoHo and Paris, and people walking about strutting their stuff. It was clear that Beijing folks are unaffected by the slow economy, and their optimism for the future is in stark contrast with how we feel back in the US of A. Beijing knows capitalism even better than us, as evidenced by about 80 banks in 4 square blocks.

While exploring the hutongs I smelled something delicious but can't find the source. It was quite frustrating but probably for the better. I decided to play it safe and went to Mickey D's. A Combo meal of a Big Mac, regular fries and a small drink cost USD$2. I guess exotic cuisine will have to wait after I give my stomach a chance to toughen up.

The day went by pretty fast and I need to head to the train station to catch my overnight train to Xi'an, the ancient capital of Han and Tong dynasties, and the beginning of my Silk Road journey. I'll be back in Beijing for a few days before I head to Mongolia, and the Forbidden City awaits.

This Rocked
permalink written by  Chihyau on June 20, 2010 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Backpacking in China
tagged China and Beijing

Send a Compliment

Hey no fair cheating on the food! Micky Ds is off limits, you need to eat your frogs legs like the rest of us! Or at least pizza Chinese style!

permalink written by  Robert on June 20, 2010

Love the sense of adventure. But I am hating on the hat.

permalink written by  Trent on June 22, 2010

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Many of you have heard me wax poetic about the open plains and the nomadic life of Mongolia. Well, I'm finally getting off the couch and trekking to the edge of the world in search of my private Shangri-la.

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