After a flight from chiang mai to bangkok, overnite in bangkok then flight to singapore then another one to beijing - i arrived safely at 1am in the morning! Beijing means 'northern peace' and has a population of 20 million people (more than half the population of Canada). Beijing is one of the most populous cities in the world. The language spoken in mainland china is mandarin (in hong kong it is Cantonese). I have come across very few people who speak English - for the most part any English is very minimal. Therefore it makes getting around the city somewhat of a challenge as reading mandarin is not my strong point. However i have learned to say hello, thank you and i love you in mandarin (must ensure i don't get these mixed up and tell the people in the markets that i love them). As you can imagine land is a precious commodity here so everyone lives in apartments (no houses). In the mid 70's i visited both east germany and Czechoslovakia during soviet rule and found them to be very bleak and restrictive. To my surprise beijing feels like any western city and i hardly know i am in a communist country (at least the kind i remember from the 70's). Everyone is very westernized with computers and cell phones, McDonald's and KFC but more than that the people look happy and free to get on with their lives, although they always seem like the are raising their voices at one another but i think that is just the language. There is however a lack of ability to upload blogs so i may not be uploading any until I leave china (I will keep trying). The weather here is like a Toronto springtime with the days sunny and in the mid twenties- very pleasant for walking around. The traffic is crazy here and to help control the unbelievable congestion there are certain days of the week you cannot drive your car such as if your license number ends in a 7 you cannot drive your vehicle on tuesday's. Every three months the days of the week are changed. Another interesting fact I found out was during the 2008 Olympics the Chinese government would only issue visa's to those who were associated with the games or had tickets to the games so apparently there were less tourists than normal during that time.
Yes there is pollution but in my view no more than hong kong or Bangkok. The is very clean and actually a nice walkable place. I am staying in one of the City's Hutong areas. Hutong means narrow streets. So I am located in a nice Chinese hotel in the old part of Beijing outside the narrow alley is full of people, vegetable stalls and Chinese restaurants. The best part is I am around the corner from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
Also the lovely Jingshan Park is at the end of the road with its lovely flowers, a lookout that has some of the best views of the city (including views of the forbidden city). The day I was at the park I managed to get a picture of people dancing to music. Lots of elderly people seem to socialize in the park.
Around the corner from my hotel is the Forbidden City the down side is there is only the exit on the north side and you have to walk to the south side for the entrance (approx 2km)- oh well I am getting exercise. Across the street from the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square. Tiananmen means 'gateway to Heaven'. The square is massive and can hold up to one million people. It is the largest open urban square in the world. There are magnificent gateways on the south side of the square and beautiful garden areas adorning the east and west sides. The square is surrounded by the great hall of the people, the national museum of china and the working people's cultural palace. I spent so much time walking around the square I did not leave myself enough time to visit the forbidden palace so I will have to leave that for another day.
So far the food is much like eating Chinese food in Victoria dumplings, won ton soup, noodle dishes and soups - I do hope to try some Peking Duck.