First Stop: Beijing

Beijing touchdown: July 12, 2007.

 

First impression: Construction, construction, and construction everywhere. Looks like the city is really getting prepped up for the Olympics next year. In fact there is a subway under construction right at the Beijing airport, and this is supposed to be finished in time for the Olympics.

 

In a word? Beijing is HUGE.

 

Huge, as in eight-lane freeways, tall skyscrapers, the spacious Tian’anmen square, the massive Forbidden City, and the sheer length and grandiosity of the Great Wall. Beijing is all that, and more.

 

And then there’s people. People – tourists and locals alike – they flock to Beijing like a swarm of bugs attracted by the scents and sights of the city. Thanks to my Chinese companions, I was able to experience some of the things that I would probably never have the heart to try alone. Here are some of them, plus a few of my observations:

  • Riding the subway

    • Subways here are quite manageable, particularly if you’re already used to subway systems as in Japan.
    • Tickets are sold at the window, manned by persons. Apparently magnetic tickets have yet to make an appearance here. The tickets are also handed over to persons guarding the entrance gates. In my opinion, the subway in Seoul is more advanced in comparison. At least they had a vending machine for tickets there.
    • I couldn’t quite figure out how much the necessary fare was. I did not see any fare tables. But maybe I just missed them?
    • At the platform, there were no waiting lines of people. Everybody just sort of flocked to the door and squeezed into whatever space available.
    • There was a guard at the platform who made sure that everybody stayed behind the yellow line. He barked orders at anyone who dared to lean over too far. Feisty.

  • Riding the bus

    • This appears to be the most convenient and cheapest form of transportation here. Imagine paying a minimum of 1 yuan!
    • Buses are crowded, anytime of the day. Hardly surprising, eh?
    • I got the biggest shock of my life when riding the bus. I was sitting, and there was this girl standing over me, holding onto a rail while the bus was moving. Nothing particularly unusual until my gaze caught her exposed hairy armpit in all its black glory. I have never, and I mean NEVER, seen a woman with hairy armpits before. And here I thought all Asian women shaved their armpits. Wrong! How’s that for culture shock?

 

  • Eating
    • By now I’ve sampled quite a number of hitherto unknown dishes, and thanks to the sheer resiliency of my digestive system, I seem to be doing fine. :) I’ve been properly warned about drinking water, so I stick to bottled mineral water only.
    • Peking duck – my sister calls this “rubber ducky” because of how shiny they look, and indeed how “rubbery” they taste – this is true at least for some of the Chinese restaurants in Japan where we tried it. Fortunately, I found out that it is not how a genuine Peking duck should be. The meat is rather soft, and the soup made from Peking duck is quite delectable. Quack! :)

A few other observations:

  • Vehicles drive within their designated lanes. I think the traffic enforcers in Metro Manila would do wise to impose this traffic rule. If they can do it, why couldn’t we?
  • All taxis and buses I’d ridden drove within reasonable speed. They seem quite disciplined when it comes to speeding.
  • On the other hand, there are still traffic jams here – but not as bad as the ones I’d experienced in Metro Manila.
  • I haven’t seen the sun entirely for the last two days that I’ve been here. Fog or smog, I couldn’t tell the difference. Heh.

 

I’m set to go to Hainan island tomorrow. My newfound friend says it’s cleaner there. Hainan is semi-tropical, and is famous for beach resorts. It will be an entirely different adventure there. So…stay tuned! :)

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24 Responses to First Stop: Beijing

  1. gina says:

    OOH, Kathy on another adventure ha?
    Natawa naman ako doon sa hairy armpits =) story mo. Para ring sa blog ni Jo (Precious Thoughts) where she mentioned seeing pretty sexy girls at the airport where she works (in security), tapos when they raise their arms, ganoon din. LOL!

    Well, you enjoy the rest of your trip and see ‘the sights’ . Looking forward to peechurrrrs.

  2. Christianne says:

    One of the places I really have to visit before I die is China… Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen in particular! (Xiamen because we have relatives there)

    Please post pics of the Great Wall when you get a chance to visit. Do you have to speak Chinese to get around on your own, or does everyone speak English naman?

    Hindi nga daw talaga malinis ang tubig doon… And about food, I read that it’s not a good idea to eat raw vegetables. But you probably know that already :)

  3. Rowena says:

    hi kathy, just dropping by. enjoy your trip and post pics, lots of it. take care.

  4. mitsuru says:

    hi kathy,

    ni hao ma! i’d like to scale the great wall and walk with history inside the forbidden city someday. buti ka pa andyan na. :)

    btw, i did your the 1st part of the me-me already. he-he

  5. zherwin says:

    vehicles in their designated lane? mmda is trying to impose that the yellow lane in edsa should only be for puv’s, guess what, cars are also using them.

    what is a subway by the way? hahaha.

  6. kathy says:

    Meron palang kapareho ng kwento ko, lol.

    Thanks, I’m having a blast although I really miss my family. :( Anyway, I will try to post pics when I get back. Forgot to bring my SD-card reader hehe.

  7. dimaks says:

    did i hear donald duck there?

  8. kathy says:

    Christianne, I didn’t know that you are also Chinese. Do try to visit China when you get the chance. Observation ko lang, if you don’t speak Chinese it would be quite difficult to move around. The best and most stress-free way to do this is to have a Chinese guide with you. :) Not everyone speaks English. Taxi drivers? Not at all. But Beijing is a tourist area, so there are English guides and maps. I suppose it would even be more tourist-friendly after the Olympics next year.

  9. kathy says:

    Hi Rowena, thanks, I’m enjoying my trip. And thanks for dropping by again. Sorry di ko pa mavisit yung blog mo. For some reason, I can’t access blogspot-based sites from here. I’ll check out yours as soon as I get back. 😉

  10. kathy says:

    Thanks for doing the meme, Bill. 😉 Check ko na lang next time. Di ko maopen ang mga blogspot sites eh. Go figure.

  11. kathy says:

    Zherwin, talagang disiplina ang kailangan natin para maayos ang traffic flow sa daan. Sana masolb na yang traffic jams sa MM.

    Subway- hindi to yung sandwich ha hehe. 😉

  12. kathy says:

    lol @ dimaks
    Pero masarap siya, pramis. :)

  13. Gypsy says:

    Rubbery Peking duck?? You should try it again somewhere else?!Ang crispy ng skin nyan..grabe. naglalaway na ako…hehe. Enjoy the rest of your time there!

  14. Wil says:

    i’ve seen quite a few unshaved armpits of women here in California, especially in berkeley since hippies are known not to shave their pits. although they weren’t asian.

    everytime i hear that word tian’anmen, i always think of what happened in 1989. i’d probably feel eerie if i ever saw that place.

    i’m surprised the entrance/exit to ride the subways aren’t machine-operated (i.e. no magnetic tickets). i can’t imagine if it’s still like that once the olympics start.

  15. snglguy says:

    I’ve seen my fair share of unshaved armpits when I visited China eons ago. It’s a cultural thing kasi eh. People there believe that women who shave their armpits are either prostitutes or club hostesses… heck even some of my relatives in the Xiamen province have unshaved pits, hahaha. 😀

  16. rhodora says:

    Ay, hindi pala mabenta ang wax sa China. hehehe.

    Careful what you eat in China, Kathy! :)

  17. Belle says:

    hi Kathy,

    have you picked up a word or two of Chinese language?

    good thing the woman with the hairy armpit didn’t make “tot” infront of you hahaha.

  18. niceheart says:

    Wow! China naman ha. :)

    You have some very interesting observations there. And that hairy armpit part is funny. :)

    Well, have fun during your stay there.

  19. kathy says:

    Gypsy, I was referring to the Peking duck we tried here in Japan – maybe because the meat was frozen prior to cooking? In contrast, the one I tried in China was oh-so delicious. :)

  20. kathy says:

    Unshaven pits in Cali? Whoa, now that’s something I don’t hear everyday. 😀

    It felt surreal being at Tian’anmen, knowing what happened there years ago.

    Regarding the subway – let’s hope they put something more efficient there come Olympics time. However, there is a new subway being built right now – perhaps it will have all the modern conveniences.

  21. kathy says:

    Snglguy, I was actually hoping that you or some other Chinese blogger would enlighten me about this rather amusing custom of not shaving armpits there. Anyway, thanks for the info! So ganon pala? Buti na lang di ako nagspaghetti strap! 😀

  22. kathy says:

    I had quite a good time sampling various dishes in China, so far intact naman yung tiyan ko hehe. :)

  23. kathy says:

    No, unfortunately I was too dazed listening to unknown speech to pick up any Chinese words.

    Well now that you mentioned it, actually someone did – and although it was a man, it was a rather strange feeling more embarrassed than the one who committed the “crime,” hehe. 😉

  24. kathy says:

    Thanks niceheart. Actually I got back to Japan about four days ago. Oops, time for an update. :)

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