Visiting Beijing – and trying not to get hit by a car.

I don’t know this for a fact, but apparently China’s new President often refers to the Chinese Dream. Some commentators point out that he has yet to define what the Chinese Dream is. Well, let me tell you. The dream is divided in two parts. The Chinese people dream of:

1 – Owning a car.

2 – Using it to run over a pedestrian.

If that’s not the case, they certainly hide their true dreams very well. Luckily, there are pedestrian streets.

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And Beijing residents are famous for following rules.

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Actually, they are so bad at following rules, that the city has built fences at taxi and bus stands, to force people to line up.

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To avoid being run over by cars, you can take the subway. Beijing has a very vast, very cheap, first class subway system, but it gets very busy. People who have not achieved the Chinese dream – and thus who must take the subway – are very frustrated at their failure and seek vengeance. So they make the sacred vow that they would prefer to die rather than let anyone already in the train car get off before they get in.

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Having had enough of the subway, I decided to walk from my hotel near Beijing Central Train Station to the Forbidden City (a few km). I took this picture on a different day, and it illustrates how smoggy Beijing can be. It also shows that in Beijing, they don’t build small buildings.

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Anywhere in the centre, Government buildings, hotels, apartment complexes, shopping centres are all massive.

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Like this Government building, on Tiananmen Square, which is not really a very exciting place. There is nowhere to sit, and you will find nothing like food vendors, musicians, grass or anything else except big communist monuments, buildings, and security cameras. The square is fenced off and you must go through an airport-like security gate to go in.

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I had read there were policemen in civilian clothes there, but I was not prepared for what I saw. Usually, policemen dress in civilian clothes to hide their identity, but here they stood in plain view, under umbrellas, often standing along uniformed police, behind a police line. I have no idea what the concept is.

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The square has typical communist sculptures. They are cute, like miniature versions of the ones I saw in North Korea.

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And the Mausoleum where they keep Chairman Mao’s body, again like a miniature version of the one in Pyongyang. It was closed when I went. You can’t take pictures inside anyway, so you are not missing anything.

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The speakers suggested a big event was about to take place, and this had clearly affected the flower budget in a positive way.

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The entrance to the Forbidden City. Ironic that the communist leader has his face on the residence of Emperors who “oppressed the masses” for centuries.

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There I realized my mistake of having walked to the Forbidden City. I found the Gate of Manifesting Virtues very beautiful but, compared to all the big communist buildings I had seen on the way, very small!

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And the Hall of Central Harmony – which at the time of its completion would have been one of the most impressive structures in the world – I found, well, a little small.

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Unfortunately, you cannot enter the halls, but you can peek inside from a few open doors. As you can see from the big cluster of people in front of this hall, it’s a little busy. I had no desire to get into the shoving festival and it’s very difficult to take decent pictures in such a setting anyway.

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Constructing these massive buildings with this level of finishing must have been an incredible undertaking in the early 15th Century.

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Since several buildings burnt down (some several times), these enormous bronze bowls were installed throughout the complex so water would be available to douse the flames.

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I visited the pottery gallery and learned one thing. “Once you’ve seen a Ming Dynasty vase, you’ve seen them all”, is a sentence you can never say. This piece was made at the same time as the next one.

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So different, yet both from the Kangxi Reing (1662-1722).

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The Forbidden City is very large, even if not all of it is open to the public. A very nice place to walk around and if you avoid the clusters of tourists, you can have big open spaces almost to yourself.

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And there are signs in English, although the powers that be seem to have gotten into a little fight with the sponsor.

I will have a few more things about Beijing in the next post, but truth be told, I am mainly using Beijing as my transport hub this Fall. So far the city is doing a much better job at it than Nairobi did last summer! Still, I am not usually in a very touristy mood when I am there, concentrating more on planning my next leg, so I have not seen or done that much.

#China

2 thoughts on “Visiting Beijing – and trying not to get hit by a car.

  1. Very interesting. Fascinating really !!! And I like the humor !!
    We met once in the Jabron chez Raymonde et Serge. I remember clearly your very nice and expensive shoes and the crazy idea of joining the Legion.
    Thanks
    Michel

    • Merci, mais cette histoire, ça ne nous rajeuni pas. Si ma mémoire est bonne, ça doit faire bien près de 20 ans!
      Au plaisir,
      Colin

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