The beginning

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Apr 14, 2006

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Flag of China  ,
Wednesday, March 15, 2006


The flight from Perth is decent; but the 8 hour transit in hong kong is death and the flight to beijing is so sickening that, despite the incredible levels of pollution, arriving in Beijing is a breath of fresh air.

People keep speaking to me in Chinese. However, it becomes evident quite quickly that I can't respond. It happens in 1 of 2 ways. Depending what mood I'm in, it may come in the form of 'sorry mate - i don't speak Chinese'. However, when making a more concerted effort to learn chinese and adapt to the difficulties, the Lonely Planet phrasebook makes an appearance and I struggle, reciting an alphabetical translation. THis is often met with strange looks. As I wrote in a group email, there seems to be no difficulty in communicating the concept of confusion. In general, my pronunciation is crap. Damn tonal language. Today I tried to order tea. I know the word for tea is 'cha'. I know it. It says it in the book. I've eaten enough yum cha to know it as well. But it's not 'cha' it's 'cha' with an upward sound. I resort to the book and get my tea. Killing me.

First impressions: Beijing is much cleaner than expected. Cheap, not that busy and warm. Chris convinced me that it had been unseasonably cold this winter in Korea and northern CHina and that I should bring a big jacket. So I did. I now hangs from the hook in the dorm, unlikely to be used ever again.

Ordering food is killing me. Despite studying the phrasebook a bit before arriving, when it comes to the crunch, my memory fails me and I cannot recognise any chinese characters nor recall any crucial words (noodles, rice, beef, pork) for food. And so, it is quite possible that the food situation will be the death of me, especially given the amount that I am eating off the stalls on the street. I guess I'm doing it for 2 reasons:
(1) the adventure of it. The excitement, the whole 'doing it because that's what the locals do' philosophy; and
(2) because I can actually see what I'm ordering. See problem as outlined above...

It's strange how your mind works though. Ordering beer was not a difficulty and my mind had instant recollection. Pee-jyo me up I say. I will admit that the food situation is a little bit average at the moment. Hopefully it will get better. I should say that the food quality can't be faulted... I have managed to stay away from the many KFC and McDonald's outlets all over the city. Hopefully, this will continue. It shouldn't be too hard. It's not as if it's Hungry Jack's...

The sites in Beijing have been nothing short of breathtaking. By far and away, the great wall has been the highlight. Despite quite a lot of tourists, it was magical. That's all i'll say. I don't think the photos do it justice. I sat at the top of the wall for a good 2 hours, watching it snake down towards the tour buses below, writing and pondering, all the while evading the touts due to my chinese appearance.

The difficulty that I have found with Beijing is managing to maintain an appreciation for everything that you see. Everything is so impressive - in grandeur, ornamentation, beauty, and so on - that you easily get to this stage of 'oh - it's just another 15th century Ming temple with gold ceilings and an ornate carving on the roof', or 'i'm so damn sick another "Pavillion of ultimate bliss, harmony, happiness, fortune and sexual gratification."

Despite, at least in my mind, living in the shadow of the great wall, there were other great sights in Beijing. If I had to describe them each in a single word, I would have to say:
(a) Mao Zedong Mausoleum - weird (surely he is a Madame Tussaud's Wax Figure)
(b) Summer Palace - brilliant
(c) Forbidden City - brilliant
(d) Temple of Heaven - brilliant
(e) Old City Hutong - average

Since finishing work just one week ago, it seems by brain has consciously shut down., restricting my vocabulary to 'brilliant' and 'average'. I'm sure some would argue that I never possessed a greater vocabulary...

One thing that has surprised me if how small the emperor's living quarters have been at each of the palaces. Now, I don't know about you, but if I were emperor, my living quarters would just verge on the ridiculous. They would be like an entire suburb. Or you could have a forbidden city and then also a forbidden emperor's quarters. Makes sense to me. At least he had the right idea with the concubines...

So, on top of all of these sights, add to the mix a chinese football match which almost turned into a riot, ridiculous bargaining over 10 cents Australian and 70 cent beers and Beijing has been pretty damn great... brilliant.

And so, to the new blog feature that will conclude each new entry - the new blog feature which the New York Times has described as 'the most exciting new blog segment to be created in 2005-2006. Truly hilarious and insightful' (this is just one critics assessment and may or may not be true). I call this segment... the Top 5. Some of you may be familiar with the concept. For the 1st instalment, we will start off in a familiar fashion - the heartland of the Top 5. The topic for this Top 5 is 'Top 5 songs that describe my time in Beijing':

5. A Whole New World - yes, from the Aladdin Soundtrack
4. Don't Pay the Ferryman - Chris De Burgh
3. Common People - Pulp
2. Another brick in the Wall Part 2 - Pink Floyd
1. Heaven is a Place on Earth - Belinda Carlisle
Slideshow Report as Spam


dorian on

First comment. Sweet.
Bravo Marky Mark

Your laconic delivery and clipped syntax make for great travel writing. Keep it up.

Even with the translation issue I am puzzled as to how you could be struggling with the food situation in the land that brought us yum cha...surely you can just grab a handful of chicken's feet, stuff them into your face and profer some cash in the greasy aftermath?

On the plus side, the language barrier will probably prevent your Chinese mates realising what a rude prick you are. Brilliant.

Finally a small criticism. I am sure this won't be the first time that someone has accused you of prematurely rolling out Heaven Is A Place On Earth. I take comfort in the fact that this time we don't have to listen to the whole thing.

Look forward to more musings. As you might expect, am intrigued by the concubine thing. Perhaps you could investigate further...

See ya man.


poochie on

Yip yip yeow
Knock, knock.


I hereby promise to add insightful tit-bits to each and every posting you put forward Mr Tj-hunglikeahorse.

From your Beijing highlights, I particularly like how you pointed out specific refences to Perth, and the humorous conotations that these bring. I haven't eaten HJs in weeks. You can't go there alone, you just can't. I mean, how are you going to race someone to the front of the checkout if you are there by yourself?

Go well.


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