A city of contrasts.
19.02.2009 - 23.02.2009 3 °C
Weve been here a while now and its been a bit difficult settling in to things in this City, maybe its the culture shock or my Western sensibilties but there is something alien in this place to me. On the one hand there is beauty all around, even in a city as big as this one but then on the other theres definately a dirty underbelly to it.
Hawkers and scam artists are everywhere, seemingly the in thing right now for the city's scamsters is trying to get you into "Art Exhibitions" and then charging you stupid amounts of money for the privelidge, Im not sure exactly how it works because we havent been gulible enough to be led into one but there are loads of them trying it on, all with the same rehearsed lines of english. Im currently practising how to say "I dont speak English!" in a few different languages to see if that will help.
On the flip side of the coin, much like the Forbidden City there are little gems hidden everywhere in this city that are extremely beautiful, just yesterday we went searching for a tourist site, found ourselves a little bit lost and stumbled upon this incredible University campus on a frozen lakeside in a small forest, with a giant, very old padoga in the scenary. Jen managed to get some pictures so I'll try and get some images of this place. What I found so amazing was that this place was nestled, hidden in the middle of a grotty grimy downtown type of area.
Perhaps the perfect example of the two sides of this city is Beijing Zoo, we both like animals and wanted our first look at the Pandas, the Pandas didnt disapoint and were very fluffy looking but the point is that they were in the own plush, shiny, new looking part of the Zoo and looked comfortable and fairly well looked after. But just a few minutes strolling the rest of the park the other animals obviously werent so lucky, grim looking perspex containers with dirty water and slabs of not so kosher looking meat. Then a couple of minutes further down you happen upon this giant 50ft Lioness statue that really has to be seen to be believed, but it didnt make sense to me. It was obviously an expensive investment so why not invest in the animals? Hmm.
Its pretty much what this city is all about. Weve come across Malls that look swisher than the Bullring but in slumlike areas which leaves the places pretty deserted with loads of bored looking shop attendants, I guess this is what rapid development will do to a place. But enough of my obviously western musings, I doubt I will understand much of what is happening in this country but its truely a bizzare place for an outsider looking in, thats how it for me anyway.
And oh my god! The smog, its so bad some days I actually get light headed and you cant see the sun for the haze.
We're leaving Beijing tomorrow for hopefully a slower pace in the more traditional looking Pingyao.