Bei Jing is left behind, Xi’an, the heart of China, is the new stop. Nine days in Bei Jing, more than enough time for the first time, but I would love to visit it again. The highlights for me were Summer Palace, 798 and insights of the local customs (like spending one and half hours buying a hard-drive or one-hour at a tea-shop drinking all those teas). One amazing thing about Bei Jing is top-notch infrastructure – I have never seen as quality and massive anywhere during my travels. Furthermore I guess it is not limited only to Bei Jing seeing all those highways in small cities on my way to and out of Bei Jing. I was lucky as there was very little of air pollution until yesterday. That made me wondering what all the fuss about pollution was, until I could see it with my own eyes. Talk about good timing… On the other hand, locals claim that air pollution is even worse in Xi’an, but we shall see.
Terracota Warriors is one thing to see here, as well as Hua Shan, one of Taoism’s five sacred mountains. I caught a hostel cold and am a little bit tired after the night spent on a train (hard-sleeper, top bunk, no foreigners in my carriage except myself – comfortable enough and beats Russian trains for sure), but enthusiastic enough to see what Xi’an has to offer. Over and out.
A good sign of an interesting place is having no time for writing a blog or organizing photos. Beijing is very cool. There is so much to see and do here, so it is not even funny. I would rank Beijing as one of alpha-cities, along with NYC, London and Berlin and in terms of skyscrapers and infrastructure it leaves NYC way behind. There is no downtown here – you get off at any metro station and it is skyscrapers and 21st century sci-fi as far as eye can see: chrome, glass and disco lights everywhere. On the other hand, if you venture into one of a hutong, it is like being thrown back into the past with its low-standing buildings, busy street life and ubiquitous street vendors. Despite is size, Beijing does not feel crowded for some reason. Subway gets filled only during rush-hours and even that is not that bad. Anyhow there is no trained personnel to push people into carriages. The infamous Beijing traffic is not bad either, after Ulan Bator which was a complete nightmare traffic-wise. People are very friendly, unless you bargain with them, which can make things a little intense. Interestingly enough once the deal is done and finished, Chinese switch back into the friendly mode. Nice.
There is a lot to see here and I am sure that there will be more than enough left for a next visit. Summer Palace is beautiful and tranquil, The Great Wall is well a very long wall with some breath-taking scenery, Tiananmen Square with its Flag Raising ceremony and Mao mausoleum are well patriotic, Temple of Heaven is nothing special, Forbidden Palace is yet to see, but everybody claims that is nothing special, National Stadium is a stunning view at night and so on. Today’s discovery is 798 Art Zone, a huge district filled with modern art, postmodernism and hipster culture. Numerous galleries, installations and street arts, art shops and workshops, cafes and pizza places. It is like Soho in NYC in its glory years. Beijing Zoo is planned for tomorrow with its lazy pandas. Several more days planned here in Bejing and then Xian and its Terracota Army.
Over and out.