Here’s a photo of the front of the Beijing West train station – a huge magnificent building and I know they have at least 3 railway stations.
It was once again a crush to get on the train but at least this time the seat was booked so I didn’t have to join the crush.
On the train now and have time to reflect. The train is amazing – the ride is exceptionally smooth and when you look out the window it feels like you are going about 100km but then they have a screen at the front of the car and we are doing 306km an hour! The seat spacing is good so it is like travelling biz class. Very clean, very new.
Yesterday going to the great wall was a particularly hard day – hours of standing in queues, masses of people, uncertainty of getting things done, but looking back it was an adventure and utterly worth doing. I came here to try and understand the Chinese people and I can say that maybe I do just a little but most probably I don’t. On the one hand you must be extremely arrogant to think that you can ever understand a nation as different and complex as this; on the other hand they are just normal people who come from a different background and different environment.
The middle class live the same, drive the same cars, and have shops and schools and mostly everything we have. In Beijing they have a good standard of living AND THINGS ARE NO CHEAPER THAN BACK HOME! They spend money. Of course you can see there are poor people who may be country folk coming into the city, but in general there isn’t really a culture shock.
You do see people spitting and doing anti social things but that seems to be the peasants who have grown up in that way. The majority of people I’ve been rubbing shoulders with are young urban people who wear the same clothes, play on their cellphones (very big here – just about every young person walks around with a smartphone in his/her hand).
The food however is a disappointment. In general it is just plain nasty unless you go for the Chinese style food we know back home. Sorry, the bet’s off – I can’t spend the next 10 days eating things that make me heave. Macdonalds, I forgive you. Now having just mentioned Macdonalds, I headed towards one to have a look and found that it was a Chinese fast food shop that had “borrowed” the yellow M for themselves. Even Macdonalds is a knock off over here!
The language barrier makes it etremely difficult at times, but once you work things out and box smart, you’re okay. I am however reconsidering going into the rural areas and “getting lost” – this could be a tad foolish. I could be lost forever if my GPS battery runs out.
When the Chinese are just going about their business they are fine but when they get into crowds they don’t do the English way like us and stand in dainty queues – it’s just a push for the front. So I just have to get clever and steer clear of these situations (e.g. no tourist sites on holidays).
One funny thing – I was climbing the stairs out of the subway and an old lady who was clearly a peasant was dragging her bicycle up the stairs. I wanted to help but couldn’t say anything she would understand so I just grabbed the handlebars to share the load and she started screaming blue murder. She may have thought I was stealing her bike or just “what the help are you doing …”. Embarrassing. I walked away quickly and she kept on shouting until I was out of site.