Impressions and Contrasts

June 5. First full day in Beijing. Outside the 11th floor window of our luxury hotel, I can see other modern hotels and office buildings overshadowing the narrow hutongs, traditional alleys with dilapidated one story houses- filled with Chinese who probably service the office buildings and hotels.  This is just one of the many impressions of my first day among the Chinese living in this city of millions.

Gardens in the forbidden City

It is a Chinese holiday, a long weekend. We walked nearly 3 hours across Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. My impressions. Almost no cell phones in use. The concierge at the hotel was very impressed with my Samsong phone and told me it would cost over $100 US to buy here. I was surprised. I thought all electronics cheaper in China. The Chinese do drive with their horns and while traffic seemed calmer than we had been warned about, this may have been from the comfort of our small tour bus. We haven’t driven in it yet.  I saw almost no smoking by either men or women. The Chinese were very curious about us and particularly wanted to be photographed with either Tom or Clay, the two very tall, large men in our group.

Children were everwhere, beautifully dressed. Mothers encouraged young children to say “hello” in English. One mother obvious told her young son-perhaps 2 or so- to shake my hand. He eagerly ran up to me and took my hand, not really knowing what hand-shaking was. People are friendly and eager to extend their friendship to foreigners.  While the places we visited were crowded the crowds were orderly. Only once did our guide, Victoria get into a shouting match with some guy selling over priced picture booklets about the Forbidden City.  Women had beautiful umbrellas to keep the sun off them. It made a colorful picture.

One of the hundreds of buildings in the Forbidden City

We only had one questionable incident.  After lunch at the Old Beijing Noodle Restaurant, Ed and I opted out for the afternoon tour to the Temple of Heaven to go back for a nap. (The names of places are colorful as the people).  Our guide hailed a taxi for us and told him (in Chinese)  where to take us. Fortunately, we recognized the hotel as he passed it. On purpose? Was he like so many taxi drivers in so many countries with tourists? We’ll never know but we spoke up and he turned around, turning off his meter. The ride still was only about $2.50 so all was not lost.

We are beginning to understand the Chinese meal. Just about the time we filled up on the multi-plate first course, the main course arrives!  Last night a dinner of Peking Duck at the Hepingmen Quanmjude Roast Duck restaurant, carved table side.
What will we experience when we go to the Great Wall Monday?

About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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2 Responses to Impressions and Contrasts

  1. TBC says:

    My late great aunt, the heart doctor, traveled to China many times and said she adored the colors and the children. They were so beautiful, she said, and so well mannered.

    It is good to hear not much has changed in this regard.

    Also, as you write, it reminds us all that governments are different from the people they rule. We can disagree with the government, but most people are welcoming and helpful and, as you note, curious when we appear so different.


    TBC and Arnie

    P.S. Any word yet on the two Chinese teams?

  2. Leslie says:

    Your rally has not even started and already I am filled with curiousity of what each of your days are going to hold. I hope you have fun with plenty of adventures but hopefully the danger and suspence does not build to the depth it did in The Long Road to Paris.

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