Friday, April 20, 2007

China - First days in Beijing

From the backlog of posts that I write up, but forget to post: My first few days in Beijing

Yesterday, I arrived for the first time to the People's Republic of China. My folks are travel agents, so my mum, all on her own, organised an 11 day tour of China, taking in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. I'm so amazingly proud of her, because she's at an age where she should seriously be retiring, and spending her time growing orchids, travelling, flitting away all of my inheritance and basically enjoying herself. Instead, she's still finding time to organise whole new ventures, like tours in China - working out where to go, deciding on the hotels, and doing everything you need to do to make sure people enjoy themselves on tour. I dunno, I guess I was just really proud of her.

We arrived yesterday, a day ahead of everyone else in the tour, and were taken around by the travel agency that working with my mum. Our first meal was hosted by the head of the company, and we had possibly one of the best chinese meals I've had in my life. It was what amazing - like nothing I've had before... One of the travel agents who joined us was this stick thin girl who barely ate anything. She'd just watch everyone eat, pick a tiny piece of vegetable or fish, leave it on her bowl, move it around a bit, and finally, after she'd was absolutely sure she'd used up the same amount of calories that tiny piece of lettuce would be poisoning her body with, she'd eat it. GRRR! This annoyed me no end, because here she sat infront me me - she was a living, breating reminder that just because I was on holiday, it did not mean that normal service should be suspended, and it did not entitle me to put whatever food or drink that passed in front of me straight into in my gob. Thankfully, my better senses took note of that reminder, and promptly chucked it out the window, and I happily and greedily pigged out. Something that would pretty much happen at every meal for the next 11 days!

Things that have surpised me so far:
  1. Capitalism & Modernity: What has really surprised me about Beijing is how modern it is. Literally 5 mins walk from our hotel are loads of shopping malls, selling loads of western brands like Gucci, Prada, Esprit... I'm not sure what I was expecting, but huge shrines to capatalism in a communist country wasn't really it...
  2. Lack of pollution: From what I've been told, I was expecting to be walking around in a constant pea soup thick fog of pollution from the chemical and metal work factories. Surprisingly though, it's been amazingly clear, with some of the blueset skies I've seen. Our tour guide says that the government has been trying to change because of the Olympics, and now soon some unlucky citizens in towns outside of Beijing will be looking after those factories, as well as their pollution..
  3. Cold: Because I was moving house up until the day of my trip to China, I packed in a real half arsed way - just throwing in any old crap, being told that China was ahot and muggy. Hot my arse. I've arrived here to 6 degree weather, and have spent all day freezing my preverbial off. I'm hoping it gets warmer cuase I don't want to be wearing the same black jumper every day of my holiday... and I don't think that the 4 light summer skirts will do me much good...

Our first day in Communist China
Our first full day has been spent looking around the Hu Tong area, which is one of the last old areas of Beijing. Driving around on rickshaws, looking at the buildings which used to belong to Emporers officials, was really cool. Strangely, we ended up going into someone's actual house, so we can see that these buildings, some of which are over 200 hundred years on, passed from generation to generation (well, until the reforms in 1948) are still used today. What really made me smile was the fact that in 180 year old house we went to visit, the son had loads of football posters on the walls - one of which had the beautiful Thierry Henry on it. Again, this is not what I was expecting at all. It was a definite kick to the nuts of my preconception of what modern communist China is. No-one is wearing blue boiler suits. No one was demonstrating, with tanks rolling them over. Very few bicycles. To be honest, it looks just like any other modern capital. Am I disapointed? Well, possibly. But not enough to wish it was anything else but what it is..

Most Uncomfortable Moments:
This was going to be a dead cert this afternoon, but now... it's a possible toss up between these two:
  1. My mid 60 year old mum saying to me "gee, there are lots of quite good looking guys around in Beijing aren't there?"
  2. Me turning on the tv this evening, with my mum sitting in the room. In the day time, when the tv gets turned on, it displays a picture of the hotel. In the evening though, that little picture turns into a preview of the hard core porn that you can pay for. And embarrasingly, I couldn't get the remote control to change the channgel, no matter how hard I mashed every button on it. And if you think I'm joking, and was actually wanting to watch the porn, then no - hard core porn + your mum in the room does NOT enduce any good time feelings. Eeek
Mum asking me about hot guys. Mum watching me trying to turn off the porn... hmmm tricky.


Alex said...

Ah, hotel TV... :p Interesting post, glad you're finding time to write up your travels - I'm off to Taiwan later this year and can't wait...

Not a Cookie Cutter said...

Eek...I would have bailed with the mom/porn situation, I get squeamish during scenes discussing things of a sexual nature and my mom is in the room...