Second part of our spring break holiday was a couple of days in Beijing after a very comfortable night in a four berth softsleeper train from Hangzhou. Marjan had been to Beijing before with school and returned very enthusiastic, something I couldn’t really relate to, until setting foot in this amazing city myself. Yes pollution was pretty grim, but I thoroughly enjoyed Beijing’s highlights: the temple of heaven park with its amazing old trees, the variety of touristy and non-touristy, rebuild, untouched, and being-torn-down hutongs, the autocratic scale of Tianamen square, the green surrounding it, the imperial oppressiveness of the forbidden city, all of it teeming with tourists, 99% of which are Chinese. As was the great wall. Against all advice we chose the mainstream option of joining a tour to the Badaling section of the wall, which included a visit to the oldest of the Ming tombs (chang ling) with its wooden hall the pillars of which need to be seen to be believed. Badaling’s carrying capacity is about at its max during a normal weekday outside of holiday times, so it was very busy but fun. The company of all those Chinese families, often including the grandparents slowly making there way up and down the steep sections adds to the experience. I harbour Indiana Jones fantasies as much as anyone, and have come close to realizing some in the past, but spending more time on the road to visit less ‘touristy’ parts of the wall seems a ticket to the worst of both worlds. Some places are made by the crowds that assemble in their wonder. And of those, the ones made by local crowds are contemporary versions of the exotic experience. Yes, the ‘other’ is more subtle than it used to be, the ‘easy’ markers of dress, etc. have all gone through the globalization meat grinder, but plenty left to see. More than in backpacker enclaves like Khaosan road or Thamel for sure (until one leaves the main strip and wanders the back alleys, but that is true of every locale).  Like with the Grand Canal, it is the scale of the wall that beats my European sense of dimensions. The megalomania of it all is astounding. With peaks from the bus window at the bird’s nest, and the psychedelic assault on one’s senses of an evening walk through Wangfujing snack street, a very satisfying three days. Lots left to see, so we’ll have to visit again.

About roger henke

Still figuring out the story line that would satisfy myself here. Listening to what my family and friends evoke, what the words I absorb, the images that move me, the movements that still me, point to.
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2 Responses to Beijing

  1. Pingback: Hangzhou | roger henke's fancies

  2. Lucy says:

    Sounds great! I like little childrens heads that stick out of paper boxes 🙂 Just jalous I wasn’t there with you two!

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