I’ve spent the past 5 days in Beijing and find the city to be a paradox… but there’s no doubt that it is seriously impressive. I mean, it’s a city of nearly 22 million people which is a LOT but yet it pulls it off in some kind of organised chaos. The air pollution is the worst in the world (it’s seriously kak) but the city is clean! It boggles the mind. But do I like the city?
Everyone that had been to Beijing prior to me getting there had warned me to pack my patience, and if you know me, sadly you’ll agree unreservedly that patience isn’t something I have. But I remember thinking that the people telling me this were just being silly. How bad could it be right? The answer – effing bad.
There are 22 million people in this city, making use of the same infrastructure as everyone else – roads, subways, busses etc. All of which I must say are brilliant but even the best systems take immense strain with such volume. As a result, expect to be squeezed into the subways during rush hour. And I mean squeezed! Try navigate the subway with a backpack and daypack. Go on – I dare you!
There are crowds everywhere! One of the most remarkable sites in Beijing is the Forbidden City – home historically to the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is a site that is incredibly impressive and occupies a prime location on Tiananmen square. But don’t go there on the weekend. I went on a Saturday and it was like the world was visiting the site. In fact, sometimes the Forbidden City attracts 80,000 visitors a DAY!
The heat. At one point I thought I’d died and gone to hell. The temperature was around the mid thirties most of the time but that isn’t the killer. It’s the humidity thanks to the thick layer of smog that almost constantly blankets the city. It’s like wearing a hot wet blanket all the time. I’ve only ever experienced worse humidity in the Amazon and I thought that that was going to be the death of me.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – give yourself a day or 2 to get used to the above. You’ll need to acclimatise to the crazy, especially if you are used to having your own space, peace and quiet. You say goodbye to quiet when you get to China – it doesn’t exist.
The redeeming qualities of this city and why I’ve decided I love it:
The city has over 60,000 restaurants and the ones I visited served some of the best food I’ve ever had. From vegetarian to meat dishes, both spicy or plain, you’ll be blown away! Try Peking duck – awesome! I think foodies could spend a month in Beijing just restaurant hopping without ever getting bored. Lucie – if you come here – you won’t leave!
Try the weird stuff like scorpion, starfish, centipede and grasshopper on Wangfujing Street – it’s a fun experience!
Some of the coldest beer can be found in the city too – excellent way to compensate from the death-inducing heat.
I’ll be honest: That first subway ride and walk from my arrival in Beijing to my hostel was a challenge. I had just come from Mongolia, the 16th largest country in the world with only 3 million people, of which half live in the city (i.e. so much vast, empty, beautiful space) to Beijing where there are so many people that if anyone stood any closer to me we’d melt into the same person. The heat needs some getting used to.
But once you adapt to the above and take a step back from it all, you can’t help but appreciate what a remarkable feat it is that a city this size works so efficiently, is so clean (air pollution excluded) and somehow remains the industrial powerhouse of the world.
Jokes aside, if I had to do manual labor in the heat here I’d opt for suicide on any given day.
Yes, they’re jam-packed with other tourists but you have to see them. China has an incredibly rich history spanning centuries. Suck it up, get out there and learn something new.
The Great Wall
This was incredible! I was really lucky to join a small group (which consisted mostly of new friends from my hostel) and we virtually had the wall to ourselves for a few hours to hike. It earned its name for us – it’s a remarkable piece of work. I don’t know how they managed to build such an extreme thing back in the day without modern equipment. Hell, I don’t even know how you’d build it WITH modern equipment!
To summarise, it took me a day or 2 to accept to the madness that is Beijing but as a write this, it has to be one of my top 5 cities!
I’m aiming to put together another photo journal shortly.
Cheers for now