Beijing, Briefly

Published 2007-06-10

Downtown XMN from Sunlight Rock My brother and mother have been visiting this past week. I took them to the usual Xiamen tourist sites: Gulangyu Island, Nanputuo Temple, Zhongshan Road. There’s pictures of all the Xiamen stuff on the Flickr Stream. I won’t say too much except this was the most of Xiamen I’d seen, well, ever, including Sunlight Rock on Gulangyu and eating lunch with the monks at Nanputuo. Which was a definite highlight not only of their visit, but of my year in China.

Throngs At the end of the week we visited Beijing, and again did as much Beijing as you can do in three days: Temple of Heaven, Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Great Wall. Again I refer you to Beijing pics on the Flickr stream.

This trip represented the only travel I’ve done in Mainland China outside of Xiamen’s immediate environs. Beijing was nice as a contrast to Xiamen — the food was worse, the Mandarin was better, and the air of an unbelievably poor quality. When Karl and I visited Tian’anmen we almost could not see across it (half a kilometer). I will no longer put “Cleanest City in China” in air quotes when discussing Xiamen. (Except this one time, I guess.)

Most remarkable (to me) was how easily I can navigate a strange Chinese city (and Beijing is not easy.) I speak more than just survival Mandarin and my limited literacy is surprisingly useful. But even without my new linguistic bag of tricks, my attitude toward travel has become a lot more charitable. All the hassle stuff (taxis, hotels, public transit, asking directions) — I am much more confortable with this stuff than I was a year ago. I suppose I like it better, too, but probably only in the way that I like doing my taxes better now than I did when I was 25.

The Great Internet Crackdown continues apace. Flickr is now a casuality. Specifically, we can’t view photos on Flickr, although pages load and I can upload images just fine. Blogger remains totally blocked, requiring a round trip through a proxy to view or post. So add “repression” to the list of excuses why my posting has been/will continue to slack for the next few weeks. (Said list would also include “too busy at work” and “packing to leave” and “endless dog-related bureaucracy to get Bismarck out of here” and “interviewing for jobs back in Portland.”)

After viewing the sordid history of China in its capital I am feeling much less charitable towards China, the Nation (and seeing it afresh through my family’s eyes kind of dims China, the People, as well, although I still have a lot of affection in this regard). Yet Another Reason why I’ll be glad to be back in Oregon.