How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE

Beijing at Last!

127 Comments


Rapid transit arrived inside the terminal every three minutes.

Rapid transit

Rapid transit

Directed by Robert, our arrival coincided almost to the minute with the train’s appearance. Luggage dragging people that we were, we rushed on and were transported to the parking lot where our mini tour bus awaited. (I have no recollection of exiting the train or getting on the bus.)

We zipped down the highway surrounded by young trees already dressed in delicate greenery. By comparison, Ontario was still in the throes of winter on this March 29th, but I squashed the thought as I gawked in awe. The highways were clean and neat with row on row of countless new tree plantings. To my limited gardening knowledge they were two to three-year-old saplings. I seem to recall some weeping willows (or not).

The Chinese writing is overwhelming

The Chinese writing is overwhelming

It must have been at least a good half-hour or so before the city limits loomed ahead, although. I hadn’t paid much attention to the time. What caught my eye immediately were countless gray apartment buildings: cement shells, without an outside finish; empty openings instead of window-filled; forlorn and abandoned-looking construction sites. There is a reason for this our guide, Robert, told us when I asked him.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the buyer,” he said. “He can choose the cost and type of windows, doors, cupboards, flooring walls etc. he is willing to pay. In addition to hiring a sub-contractor to finish the interior of this carcass, the owner is responsible for hooking into the main water and electrical.

Unfinished apartment buildings

Unfinished apartment buildings

“But why are so many unoccupied. How long have they been empty?” I asked.

“More and more people are moving into the cities every day. They haven’t come here yet.”

“Who builds these things? Where does the money come from?”

“Sometimes the companies run out of money, it’s true, and must wait till they find new resources.”

Our bus progressed through streets crammed with buses and cars and lots and lots of people. I watched young and old city-dwellers ride bicycles in terrifying traffic, sometimes with loads of cardboard or wood tied in a pile behind them. I saw no helmets and an assortment of non-practical shoes. I noticed a number of girls riding mopeds with waist clutching male passengers. Really? Does this mean more girls own the motorbikes?

Another interesting sight: one-seaters, which looked like someone had wrapped a sheet of tin around a bike for a car-like body with a roof. Actually, these vehicles were not run by pedal power after all from what I could make out. I still have no idea what they were / are.

Newer, old and knocked down buildings stand side by side. As we moved through neighbourhood to neighbourhood, Robert informed us a lot of the old city was being torn down to make way for the new. During the long drive to the hotel we viewed rubble from many such scrap heaps awaiting removal.

IMG_0247

I noticed a certain rhythm to the traffic. Each time we came to a stop light, our bus driver, pulled the hand brake. Why? We were on a level road not on any incline or stopped midway downhill. All the drivers around us honked horns all the time and after a while I became aware of something else. This was their way of letting the other drivers know, ‘I’m coming through.’ The drivers weren’t angry nor irate. No screeched brakes shrieked. Bikes and buses seemed to play a game of chicken. Three or four lanes appeared to accommodate five or six lanes of traffic. I covered my eyes. Buses and cars dodged in, out around us, but not one transport truck was in sight.

Some quick and interesting facts:

  • Beijing is the same latitude as New York City
  • Beijing is the capital of Peoples’ Republic of China
  • It is the third largest city in China
  • China is shaped like a rooster. Beijing is located at the neck of the rooster and is known for fresh water pearls
  • 20 million people / 5 million cars
  • Since the Olympics, 3 million more cars on the road = work = wages = cars)
  • Odd / even license plate policy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_space_rationing_in_Beijing
  • First car market here was the German Volkswagen
  • The second was Buick from the U.S.

~ * ~

Any mistakes are my own. I admit my attention span and hearing are not always on alert. These few facts I jotted down as I thought I’d heard them.

~ * ~

Next Week: Beijing at Last (Part 2) May 30th

Previous related posts:

  1. /2014/05/02/day-1-getting-to-the-airport/
  2. /2014/05/09/day-1-contd-killing-time-at-chicago-airport/
  3. /2014/05/16/day-2-are-we-there-yet/
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Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

127 thoughts on “Beijing at Last!

  1. You have arrived! 🙂 bit of a culture shock isn’t it, arriving at a new destination. The traffic, you described it so well, a lot of ducking and weaving and the most crazy of combinations, risking life and limb to get to where they are going. We experienced it in Thailand and Vietnam. I loved it though and I am sure after your heart beat went back to normal rhythm, you were able to take it in better. Excellent post, keep them coming! 🙂 ❤ x

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  2. Dear Tess,
    I have never been to China, and am really enjoying all the detail. I don’t think I would try to drive there, but I am very curious and would like to go there some day. In the meantime, I will be taking notes! Thanks for a great post filled with lots of information. I’m looking forward to many more!

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    • Never? I thought you’d been everywhere. The thing is if you don’t go soon, it will not be the same. I will talk about that in another post…not not for a while.

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      • I am looking forward to reading that post, Tess!
        There are still lots of places I haven’t been, and I’m reaching the age when I look at my list and hope my knees hold out long enough for me to get to them all. I want to go to Asia–have only been as far as the Asian side of Istanbul. I have only been to the tip of North Africa. I have not been to The Galapagos Islands or Antarctica. This summer we are making headway into Eastern Europe. Possibly Romania next fall with my sister, and much depends upon where my son goes in the fall to teach English. Mexico, Turkey, or Japan? (I will go visit him no matter where he ends up).

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      • Make sure your son gets sent to the most exotic locale so you have to visit. 🙂
        Your list of visited places makes my mouth water. Why or why did I stay in my cocoon so long. Ha ha.

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      • It’s never too late, and you have chosen a very cool and exotic place to visit. How appropriate that you should come out of your cocoon on the Silk Road!

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  3. Would love to visit there and your descriptions are great. No thank you on driving there. Thanks, Tess! ❤

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  4. How amazing that must have been to drive through there for the first time. You’ll have to return, only the next time around, you’ll have to drive a car yourself. 😉

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  5. Fascinating. I love the cleanliness. I wonder at what cost. Maybe none! I’m excited to read your insights.

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  6. It is so great to read about your first impressions. I’m glad you took notes and pictures so we can experience this trip with you. Looking forward to your next post.

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    • Thank you, Darlene. I’m glad I took notes too because I asked my traveling friend a question here and there because I hadn’t written something down and she can’t remember either. What a wasted trip it would have been without the notes. ❤

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  7. Poor thing, after that flight, I’m sure you didn’t remember. Large Asian cities can be extremely overwhelming – so so many people!!! I visited Beijing about 10 years ago and the same about the empty unfinished buildings was true then….with all the money we owe them, you’d think they’d stop lending it and invest in their people. Nope. japan, while claustrophically crowded, has many places of peace and tranquility – it you can just get the people out of the way! no wonder they are so funny about being touched, private, etc. But I do love Japan. I think of Fukushima as it was before the tsunami – the coast was so beautiful and the small towns around were charming. Thailand was same/different but so beautiful. I did not care for India at all, any place I went. I am glad you had this chance to do this trip. I am so looking forward to more of your adventures and perceptions of it. I will say everyplace I went, the people were courteous and helpful. and some of the men are so….handsome! Everyone should take a trip like this at least once. it is good to get out of one’s comfort zone and see new things and be challenged. and then, to get back home!!!! I am just so grateful you arrived safe and sound. Date: Fri, 23 May 2014 23:12:03 +0000 To: thspencer51@hotmail.com

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  8. Very interesting Tess. The culture shock of the written language would be most challenging to me. I like to know what is going on and it’s hard to tell if you can’t read the words. Wonderful descriptions. I’m thankful for your inquisitive mind. Reminds me of riding the bus in Costa Rica. Maybe not so crowded there, but crazy drivers, in cars and motorbikes passing the bus on both sides, passing on the shoulder. People in towns walking in front of the moving bus and other vehicles. I swear, I will NEVER rent a car in a foreign country like that if I can take the bus.

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    • I concur. My car and I are a team. Driving an unfamiliar one would undo me. 🙂
      What overwhelmed me was the size of the huge
      in-your-face characters. At first it felt like they were pressing down on me; I couldn’t breathe.

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  9. Some cool facts. Great photos.

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  10. What was that movie, dang. The famous line was, “If you build it they will come”.

    Bit of a shock to the system isn’t it? Your descriptions are fabulous Tess. Loved driving along with you.

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  11. Did you have to hold your breath? The pollution in Beijing is legendary.

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  12. What an overload of information on a brain with no sleep. I can imagine the eye popping attempt to see everything. The apartments surprised me. Does that mean for who ever purchased the building to rent it out? Or per person who rents has to pay those costs to finish the apartment?

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  13. I am thinking of you sleep deprived and taking all of this in. It must have indeed been overwhelming, all the noise, people, different language, crazy traffic. So glad to read your journey.

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  14. This is awesome, Tess! Loving the play-by-play and getting to vicariously enjoy your trip and journey. 🙂

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    • Your empty buildings remind me of a town not too far away where construction stopped for whatever reasons. Interesting concept re how the Chinese find their building projects.

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      • ALL of China looks like that. People are on the move. Everyone wants the good life. Some workers travel a couple hours each way each day to come to the city for their work.

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      • Interesting. There is just something mournful looking about a landscape like that. How would you describe the folks you came across on the day to day? Did they seem a happier or more pensive crowd?

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      • Not down in the dumps at all and it occurred to me this past weekend, I hardly saw anyone over 40 or 50, except in the country. The side we saw were all up and coming or scrambling to be such.

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      • Guess with the population being what it it, that’s a very positive thing! Thnx, Tess 🙂

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      • It’s the culture. They don’t moan and groan like North Americans who think life owes them something / everything. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Joanna. Since I started blogging about this I realized I get to relive my trip. I was so overwhelmed while away, I couldn’t process much. This gives me an opportunity to look back and finally have everything compiled so I can go back and read it anytime. Might even save for my granddaughters. ❤

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  15. Love it! I am just about to start a free, online, short, university course on Chinese culture and language and am so fascinated by the stories from your very recent journey! It’s great, so exciting! 🙂

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    • Thank you, Gigi. I won’t be inclined to give any cultural information—maybe a teeny interesting bits. I couldn’t take it all in. You’d have to do a movie shoot to catch it all and anyway, although we covered a lot of miles from north to south, there’s tons and tons to see and learn about. 😀

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  16. Tess – I love the way you asked your questions. I hope you have the same tour guide every step of the way. You’ve gathered a number of interesting facts first hand. I bet the guide is limited in just how much information he’s allowed to share. You know, have you thought of a career in travel writing? As with all your writing, you could certainly pull it off and that would finance your trip:)

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    • That would be a wonderful way to travel! In a million years, it would not have occurred to me. 😀 Aren’t you a font of information!

      Trouble is I’m not full of vim and vigor anymore and it would be a job, which means work. 😎

      No, China has loosened its rules and the tour guides said all kinds of things we were surprised they said out loud. Times are a-changing.

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      • I’m happy to hear China is allowing more information to be passed on. I know it’s the nasty ole investigator in me that remains so suspicious of anything and everything ‘they’ do.

        No, we don’t want you working. I think of all types of adventures if only they didn’t sound like too much effort. Tom’s unable to travel at the present time and after living out of luggage for 20 years (more or less), I’ve hung up that hat.

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      • Travel is nice and living out a suitcase is okay for a while but there is nothing like my own bed, pillow and Lady Gaga. 😀

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  17. They tried that alternate day driving in Athens. Apparently it failed because most Athenians simply bought a second car so that they had a number plate for both days!

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  18. Fascinating stuff, I’d find the traffic terrifying though! All I can think about is that you STILL haven’t slept! Weren’t you delirious by now?

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  19. Great to visit but probably awful to live there!

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  20. Asian cities seem very colourful and busy to us Westerners. Lots of movement, colour, sound, writing etc. I always think is Asian cities as ones that fill all your senses. Sounds like Beijing fits this description.

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    • Yes, Jay, the whole experience was overwhelming. The characters on buildings were so huge (the writing), it made me cringe and feel like a piece of dust. As well, because I couldn’t read it, I felt disoriented. 😀

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  21. I’m enjoying your trip with you, Tess. Keep it up.

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  22. a bustling place it would look like!!
    Transport in foreign climes are always an eye closing event 😉

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  23. When I read in your post that China is shaped like a chicken, I just had to check in out. That’s interesting trivia. I think it’s odd that it’s the place of fresh water peals considering it has a sea harbor.

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    • Hi, Glynis. Yep. China is full of surprises, in more ways than one. All I have to tell will be revealed along the way. Blogging this gives me the opportunity to process what I’ve seen and heard. Lucky me. I get to go on a do-over. 🙂

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  24. Impressive that you were able to snap so many good photos out the window. Doesn’t look like the pollution was too bad that day. How was the fog of your sleeplessness at this point?

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    • I all but floated until we finally hit the pillow sometime after supper. Things I’ve questioned my traveling friend, Sue, about are lost. She doesn’t remember either and she got a bit of shut-eye on the flight. ❤

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  25. You’re describing the building structures, but I hope you’ll stay long enough to go to the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, eat Peking duck, go to a book store, Tiananmen Square, drink tea, or eat hotpot, etc. That is where you meet the people, history, and their culture. After you can cross the street on your own, it’s fascinating, and a Westerner is often treated as if they were a celebrity 🙂

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  26. Thanks for sharing this fascinating journey with us Tess. Your usual attention to detail allows my imagination to follow along. 🙂

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  27. How interesting, Tess. I have never visited there, but hope to at some stage.

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  28. Looked like a beautiful place. So clean and organized.

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  29. The traffic is horrendous there. I never got used to it through the whole trip. Hope you had better luck. And it’s so frightening to see those motor scooters. I remember a family of 3 or 4 stacked on one next to huge trucks. I learned (or was told I also discovered you can seldom be quite sure on those subjects what truth you’re getting) that besides picking out the fun stuff in this apartments, people bought their own sinks, toilets, etc., and when they moved they took them right along with them.

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  30. An assault on the senses!

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  31. I love your insight into Bejing Tess. It is such a strange experience being so tired and jet lagged after a long flight and then trying to take in all that is around you in a completely foreign land. Even the air smells different, everything seems so alien doesn’t it? I’m so glad you asked all those questions, as I wanted to know too…I would be just like you…why? why? why? 😉
    The traffic sounds very similar to Italy in every way you describe. You literally hold on for your life, or it seems that way. Can’t wait to see where you stayed 😀

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  32. I’m enjoying your stories and photos. Really interesting about the apartment building … the things we take for granted. Looking forward to hearing more.

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  33. You had me at “Cut the Crap.”
    I will be back.
    Great blog. I wanna dive in deeper (and I shall).
    Cheers,
    Lance

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  34. A wonderful travelogue!

    Ooh, and a one-seater sounds like the perfect car for the antisocial. You don’t happen to have a picture of one of those do you? I wanna see if I should add it to my Christmas list.

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    • Those car things are weird. They look like something you’d put together over a bike but it has a seat and doesn’t use muscle power. I’ve been all over the internet to try to find a picture but I can’t. At least not yet.
      We still have enough time for your Christmas list.
      ~(*_~)~~

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  35. Cool, Tess. Love seeing these pictures of your trip!

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  36. I read that (or did I see that on tv?) about the apartment complexes. By the way–how was the air pollution? Hear it’s pretty bad.

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  37. China seems to be a Medieval country thrust into the 21st century.

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  38. Lovely and informative. I’ve never been to China myself, and seeing the pics makes me really envy you the trip. At least now I can enjoy it vicariously.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  39. I love your observations and questions, Tess! You kicked off a memory of a month long traffic jam in China back in 2010…. So glad you went in 2014! Here’s a link: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/08/24/long-haul-chinas-traffic-jam-stretching-long-km-weeks/

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  40. Amazing adventure! I have been to Europe and Canada, my neighbor to the north, but never the Far East. Your trip is very fascinating to me!

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  41. The traffic was crazy in Honduras when I went- I closed my eyes the first few times. The lane would be two lane, but four rows of traffic would head our way. We were in the back of trucks with metal bars. I just couldn’t even stand to look. People honked their horns a lot. Motorcycles would weave through the crowd….children were on the sides of the rode and come very close to being hit.

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    • I closed my eyes as well. It’s the only way I could keep sane. I don’t know how people live in this kind of traffic and survive from day to day. In Shanghai, our tour guide told us on average there are 200 vehicle accident a day. I don’t wonder.

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