Beijing–First Impressions

After a powernap from a late arrival in my hotel, I woke up to a bustling Beijing. What I initially mistook for fog, I quickly realised it was the pollution that everyone referred to.

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China: Grey sky of pollution

 

Not to be discouraged, I was eager to see what the city had to offer, and caught a cab to Silk Road Market, highly recommended by the good folks at reception where I stayed. Silk Road Market did not disappoint. It was a maze of local shops, selling overpriced items to unsuspecting tourists. The name of the game was haggling. The famous “I Love Beijing” t-shirt abbreviated with “I Red heart BJ” is famous in the west, and I had to get my hands on of them.From an initial asking price of 800 yuan, I walked away paying 50 yuan for it, convinced that even then, I still probably overpaid!

A trip to the local foodcourt was not dissimilar to the local asian foodcourts around China Town in Sydney, offering all sorts of Chinese food, but also to my surprise, there was even Indian food on offer, shop held by a legit Indian bloke who migrated to China from Indian, in search of good fortune. None of the shops looked particularly clean, but not to be outdone by the locals, I was determined to give the local food a shot. The vegetarian fried noodles certainly did not disappoint, and by far one of the best I have had for years.

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Sampling the local cuisine

The hunger taken care of, I was keen to see what else was on offer, so a quick taxi trip over to Ya Show Market, I was left standing in front of a massive international shopping centre, with all sorts of international brands on offer, such as Uniqlo, Zara, Puma, H&M and the like. We found a local french cafe to freshen up, and the headed over to Hongqiao Pearl Market. It was nearly 7 pm when we arrived at Hongqiao, and as they closed at 7pm, I decided to call it a day, and come back another day for what it had to offer.

 

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Ya Show Market and the local French cafe

 

As I slide back in the lounge at my hotel, sipping a warm cup of tea and watching the local news in Chinese on CCTV, I contemplated at how impressive the Chinese were at imitating goods and items, and to such quality that often it was indiscernible to the real one.

A Month in China

Flight QF83 to China left Sydney without delays. Myself, the missues and 2 kids boarded an 8 hour flight to Hong Kong, from where we changed plane onto Beijing. Satwick was nowhere to be found. Satwick is a bubbly guy I am doing my MBA with, and he was supposed to be on my plane today. A few phone calls and messages led to no replies.

The trip from home to the airport was jam packed this morning, as is always the case on Saturdays. I know this because of a few early morning weekend trips I made to the city for classes for  my MBA. With that information, I left home early that morning, and I suspect that Satwick bore the grunt of this traffic, and possibly missed the flight as a result.

The trip itself was very turbulent, and it was with joy that I landed on solid ground in Hong Kong. First order of business was to find out about my connecting flight via Dragon Air, a cheap airline, as as expected, the flight was announced to be 1 hour behind schedule. Works for me, as I was starving – and a trip to the airport food court was refreshing.

The unfortunate news once we boarded the plane was that the flight would not be leaving on the expected time, as we had missed our window to taxi to the runway due to the initial delay, and the airline announced a further delay of 3 hours. A call was made to keep all the passengers in the cabin for the 3 hours, and start dinner service, in the hope that a window clear, and we may have a chance to depart earlier. Lady luck was not on our side this say, and 3 hours later, a total of 4 hours from original time, we departed to Beijing!

Landing in Beijing at 12:30am, and getting on a cab at almost 1:30am, we had the unique chance to see Beijing at night, with near empty roads. The fog was ever present, as previously warned. And yet, the city looked calming, like a beast that was resting after a long day of hunting. The story of the beast, I suspect, will unfold over the coming month.