How the Cookie Crumbles

Life in the fast and slow lanes after SIXTY-FIVE

Beijing at Last!

53 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 system.

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 masses 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: tuk tuks, which looked like someone had wrapped a sheet of tin around a motor 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 neighborhood to neighborhood, 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.

~ * ~

More about tuk tuks (three-wheeled transportation)

 

Next on January 20: Beijing at Last (Part 2)

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles 2017

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.

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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!

53 thoughts on “Beijing at Last!

  1. I was fascinated by your description of the buildings. It must have been a little eerie seeing those ghosts.

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  2. It is amazing when one gets off such a long flight how the brain is affected. Your not having memory of getting on the train made me think of some similar experiences after long hauls. It must have been quite overwhelming all the sights and sounds!

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  3. It must have been a total sensory overload. I could feel the ‘rushiness’ of it. I know that’s not a real word but it seems to fit!

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  4. Tess, what an introduction to Beijing. Interesting about the building, and traffic congestion! I’d be covering my eyes, too. Look forward to more of your China adventures! 💛 Christine

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  5. There are some advantages to a managed economy… and disadvantages… Who knows.

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    • Seems such a waste of money. We kept hearing how the ‘people’ were all moving into the cities… So many workers who could hardly feed themselves each day. Sure they wanted into the cities but they can’t afford it 🙂

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  6. Strange country, China, and Beijing is a strange city. Those huge empty apartment buildings have been the focus of a few documentary programs. I can’t imagine wanting to own something that doesn’t even have a connection to the sewer and electrical systems – you’ve never really know what you were getting or responsible for. Seems like China has plunged too fast into the 21st century. Your photos and observations are fascinating – thanks for the tour, Tess.

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    • When you buy an apartment, you hire a contractor and sub-contractor to hook up to the main line. The thing is, these buildings are all wet cement inside with no windows to keep out the rain. How do you dry the insides out before putting up walls or a floor? If you build it, they will come. We heard words to that effect over and over.
      Money people come in and build these things and sell them to the government.

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  7. Great post, lots of info!

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  8. Sounds like it was an amazing if frenetic place!

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  9. It was fun to revisit your amazing trip.

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  10. Those high rise reminded me a bit of Moscow.

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  11. You are such a wonderful raconteur Tess. I think the whole empty building thin is a bit weird. I can understand the concept of the new owners being able to finish it off to their own specifications, but to have to sort out power and water must be an added pain thy don’t need!

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  12. That’s a funny/interesting stat about the Buicks. Fun to revisit China with you Tess. Mega hugs.

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  13. I can imagine your culture shock, I had similar when I first landed on African soil!

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  14. Pingback: Blogger Daily – Saturday 14th January 2017 – Bananas, Mystery, Character development, China and Tea | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  15. Great view of the non tourist sites of China. Fascinating about the empty buildings and amazed by the millions living there!

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  16. Truly amazing descriptions! Beijing sounds huge! Years ago my 6’4″ brother went there with a group and he said he felt like a giant. Even with that, he said there was NO personal space…kinda like your description of the traffic 🙂

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  17. Nice recanting of this trip Tess. I kind of like those Tuk Tuks LOL. And Buicks in China? Whoddathunk? 🙂 ❤

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    • Buicks in China? Why not? Cheap labor, right? We saw some really bad tuk tuks. I don’t know why I can’t find a picture of my own. The ones on the internet don’t have what I’m looking for. All you deed is a motorcycle engine, two extra wheels and some aluminum to keep out the rain. Of course, Thailand, Bangkok, Cambodia–all over those parts of Asia have them.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Long flights and travel in foreign county can be daunting but the rewards are great. You get to mingle with the people, live the life style and probably go through culture shock. You will look back on the photos and be able to relive your adventure enjoying from the comfort of you home. Looking forward to reading more about this trip.
    Well done.

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  19. I don’t think I’d survive Beijing, Tess. I became claustrophobic just reading this! 🙂 ♥

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    • most places we visited weren’t crowded at all, but some were downright a Stephen King movie set. You don’t want to lose the guide nor the person you’re traveling with. The people there don’t sweat over crowds. There’s a rhythm and music to their movements. No matter how close they are to each other, they do not touch 🙂 anyone–do not reach into another’s space. 🙂 Baffling and too close for comfort already for we Westerners. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. A place full of surprises from the very beginning. Thanks, Tess!

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  21. Always interesting how guides can be defensive about the cities they are describing, viz the empty apartments. here we’d probably make a joke about our incompetence. Another national characteristic. The numbers though are staggering – what an immense country.

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  22. Your travelogues are wonderful. I love them.

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  23. A very interesting post, Tess! Great detail that pulls me in!

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