Aug 30, 2010

北京 - Beijing, China. Impressions – Part I

I always thought of Chinese as quiet and timid people in general; I was totally wrong. On the flight from Paris to Guangzhou the majority of the passengers were from China, and everything was alright, I didn’t suspect anything at all; however, on the flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, which was a domestic flight… wow! What a transformation of personality, I never imagined Chinese people could be so obnoxious and prone to disobedience. Everyone was loud, no one wanted to stay put on their sits, no one wanted to wear the seatbelt even after repeated warnings of the flight attendants, and they ran through the plane from one place to another. In the middle of turbulence when the flight attendants were asking to please sit down, fasten seatbelts and don’t use the toilets… well, it seemed that for many people that was just the perfect time to get up and go to pee. It was kind of funny.

Beijing is huge, very modern, and clean. And at the heart of it all the Forbidden City, so beautiful and magnificent; so colorful, such detail! I was impressed in a very positive way. The metro and transport system is pretty good and extremely cheap, some times you wouldn’t feel like you’re in China if it wasn’t because of the Chinese characters everywhere. Yet, you can still breathe the inequality. How is it possible that you can find one restaurant let’s say T.G.I. Friday’s (an American franchise) and pay 250 Yuan for a piece of meat… and just across the street you can go to another restaurant and get a good meal for just 20 Yuan? Or get a cup of coffee at one place for 40 Yuan, when one could easily eat two dinners for the same money… that’s just bizarre. I don’t see reason for such disparity.

Tall buildings right in front the hotel

In any case, for happy tourists and visitors like me, the city could be a very economic place to be… We were ten people, we ate delicious Chinese food until our bellies exploded, including beers and drinks for just 450 Yuan… that’s pretty much what a single person would pay in Paris at a reasonably good but not that fancy restaurant: amazing. I enjoyed the food so much, oh my god! Chinese food is just made for me; I was born to eat Chinese food.

Ten happy explorers eating in excess (I'm number ten)

Then one afternoon we went to the Great Wall! Sublime, just sublime… an ode to human craftsmanship. What I didn’t imagine at all is that I had to climb to the top of a really tall hill… I don’t really know how long it was but there were like a million stairs, each step of the stair was of a different size, making it harder to climb. Once I went down my legs were shaking.

The top of the hill which only true heroes can reach

The tour guide said that if you climbed to the top you would be a true hero… so you can actually buy a ‘hero certificate’ at the tourist shop: haha…

A true hero

To be continued… tomorrow.


  1. I assume that by "Chinese food" you mean Pekinese cuisine. My wife and I were in Beijing back in April, and as well as visiting the usual must-see sites [Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven] our mission included sampling two particular items: Peking duck and Pekinese dumplings. We found an excellent roast duck restaurant directly opposite the entrance to the Temple of Heaven.

    I wrote a number of blog posts at the time about our trip, which you might be interested in:

    Northern Capital, an introductory piece;

    Extramural activities, about our visit to the Great Wall;

    Social Contract, about a sign I found in a local park; and

    Keep off the Grass, which is self-explanatory.

    I live in Hong Kong and write quite a lot about Chinese [mainly Cantonese] food. Just click the "chinese food" or "hong kong" labels on the right of the screen.

    By the way, you shouldn't generalize about Chinese people. Hong Kong Chinese have been queuing politely for buses and trains for years, but with the arrival of large numbers of tourists from the mainland, the system broke down and became a free-for-all. My guess is that a significant number of your fellow passengers were on a plane for the first time, and they were not being rude or stupid, merely ignorant. Did you notice that the Beijing subway employs people whose sole job it is to show passengers how to use the automatic barriers? China may be thrusting itself boldly into the 21st century, but a lot of its citizens remain rooted in the 19th, or even earlier.

  2. Hi Dennis, thanks for commenting. Yes, you're right... I shouldn't have generalized about Chinese people. Well, there more than a billion so there has to be some plenty of well behaved people too! Though, it's also normal to generalize about latin american people... like for example, "all latinos dance salsa" :D

    By the way, the Pekin Duck is delicious! I wish I could find some of that here in Paris.