Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hi fromn Beijing!

Well, I made it to this wonderful city, which I'm really enjoying.

Began my stay here by getting rid of my heavy suitcase. Left it at the airport since I'll be flying out of there in two weeks. Was really proud of myself because I negotiated with the left luggage people a special rate of about 30 euros for all that time. So I'm down to the "back pack" on wheels I purchased in Hoi An, Vietnam.

When I first arrived in the city on the airport shuttle bus, my first impression was of a modern, thriving metropolis, which it is, of course. In fact, I read in the Lonely Planet that Beijing is as spread out as all of Belgium, it's so big! But, like Paris, there are definite quarters and neighborhoods, and just across from my hotel are a lot of these old-fashioned "hutong", or courtyard houses, although not the famous ones which I'll visit on Sunday on a tour. And there are lots of little shops everywhere, without the hawking you've got in Vietnam.

Distances are enormous. The airport shuttle left us off at the train station and it looked close enough to walk to my hotel, but after walking 40 minutes I was still miles away and had to take a taxi. The taxi drivers, by the way, don't speak English at all, and, as I was later told, often try to cheat you. But everyone else--the personnel in my hotel, in shops, restaurants, etc.-- has been friendly. I speak using my hands or encouraging them to use their often limited English. Feel I'm helping them get ready for all the tourists that will be coming here for the Olympics in 2008. It's funny, in the shops they say "looky, look"--sounds a bit like the French saying "lucky Luke".

Last night I took some wonderful photos of soldiers bringing down the red Chinese flag from its pole in front of the KFC down the street from my hotel. Also of some minority culture people. Unfortunately, however, the Chinese gal at the hotel and I erased them by mistake. But today I took a lot of pictures and will try to upload some oin this blog later on.

I watched TV a bit last night. No BBC, CNN or TV 5 the way there is in Vietnam. Just Chinese proganda--lots of films on the Revolution and soldiers--or stupid song or dance shows.

My hotel isn't expensive--$30 a night for a big room and bath with breakfast and tax included. It's what's considered a budget hotel in the Lonely Planet, but it's very conviently located near the Forbidden City, which I visited today, together with Tiananmen Sqaure andWangujing street, the later being the big shopping street of Beijing. Beijing reminds me alot of Singapore and Hong Kong. There's that vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere about it.

Tomrrow I'm off on a guided tour of the Great Wall and the Ming tombs. More sightseeing in Beijing on Saturday and Sunday. And on Sunday night I'm taking a night train to Xian, where I plan to spend a few days. Then will fly south to catch a boat along the Yangtse River and then on to Shanghai. It really is just as easy here as Vietnam to arrange local tours through the helpful staff at the hotel.

That's all for now, folks. I want to see if I can add some photos.



At October 19, 2006 9:51 PM, Anonymous B. Vincent said...

Oh dear, the Forbidden City! How I envy you.
One question: how huge or how small is that mythical place?
One more question: is your Chinese getting any better?


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