Friday, January 9, 2009

Reflections on Beijing

So, I went on a little trip to Beijing recently. It would very easy for me to just post a bunch of vacation photos, but almost all travels blogs do that kind of thing. There are plenty of photos of Beijing all over the web. I thought it would be better to write about how much truth there is to the myth of China being so hardcore red.

Until now, I had never been to a communist nation. During my childhood and teenage years I was always told that the commies are evil snakes in the grass. Never trust a Red, was a common response to any question I had about Communism when I was younger. During college I read the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. I found many theories in the Manifesto to be interesting. Considering my working class background the idea of sticking it to the man appealed to me. Although, given the track record of Communist governments I have never been able to accept the communist agenda. So, going to Beijing I had many preconceived notions about the Communist system.

My first taste of Red China came at the airport in Beijing. The airport itself was very clean and well maintained. Trying to get through Immigration was a bit of a hassle though. I don`t know if it is normal or not, but the line at Immigration was very long. It was almost as long as the lines I expect to find at the airport in Tokyo. I waited in line for about 1 1/2 hours before I finally had my passport and visa checked. The guy at Immigration reminded me of the people who work Immigration at airports in America. He tried to act tough and make me sweat a little. I just answered his questions and got the process over as long as I could.

When we got to the hotel it was time to relax a little; and checked the overall quality of our living conditions. The room itself had plenty of space. The bathroom was clean and had all the comforts of home. We also had Internet access! A lot of people have told me about the poor quality of water in Beijing hotels. We must have gotten lucky because our water was clean and drinkable; not the brown river water I was expecting. Overall, the hotel was very nice and well serviced.

I did not have a lot of time to really get the full experience of Beijing, but I saw enough to make a few observations.

Tianaman Square
I have heard so many things about the government center of Beijing. All the important government buildings are located at Tianaman Square. There was enough Communist propaganda to start the revolution all over again. The hammer and sickle was plastered on almost every building. It was a little shocking for me too see such a sight. The area itself was very peaceful and in perfect order. Nobody was getting out of line for any reason. I did feel a little tense feeling in the air. It was as if the Chinese people are under some kind of forced control in the area. I have not felt this kind of tenseness since I left America. The strangest part of being at Tianaman Square was when it was closed for the night. A gang of military guys showed up and started demanding that everyone leave the area or be arrested. I have never seen such a thing before. Military patrolling the streets while policing citizens is something I hope to never see in Japan.

The Great Wall
It was a great experience to see the Great Wall. It was almost an all day trip to visit the great wall but it was well worth the effort. I did not see so much Communist propaganda at the Great Wall. Things were kept pretty traditional. I guess the reason for this is to delight tourist while not scaring the shit out of them.

Beijing Duck
I did have time to enjoy some Beijing Duck. The duck was actually pretty good. I had a fine roasted duck for New Year`s. The size of the duck was slightly smaller then a chicken. I drank plum wine which matched the taste of the duck perfectly. I would suggest having duck if you visit Beijing.

Like I said, I was not in Beijing for very long; only a few days in fact. I spent most of my time checking out a few things and trying to relax a little. I had to rush to be able to even see The Forbidden City. The one thing that really stuck out in my mind was all the rough looking people I saw. It looked like a lot of people did not have a stable job. From time to time I saw small groups of man, wearing worn-out tops and bottoms, trying to keep warm using a trash can fireplace. China must have the world`s largest temp. work force. I am willing to bet that those men wonder from job to job just trying to make a little money to feed their families. People in China do not seem to be living in a worker`s paradise like the Communist model promises.

Overall, it was a very good trip. The gal and I got to relax and ring in the new year with style. I hope to plan another trip sometime down the road.


jay said...

You trip sounds like it was very interesting. I will definitely have to try duck when I go in Feb. I wouldn't dare bring my computer there though. Free Internet access in China sounds like a trap, hahah. How was the weather?

TheGhost said...

It was damn cold in Beijing!