Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Great Wall

After 1.5 years in China, I finally stepped outside the province of Guangdong. Thanks to a SAS conference in Beijing, I travelled there last month. Beijing is very cold in the winters and quite dry & hot in the summers. I was more anxious than excited, anxious about the pollution levels there. People told me that it’s impossible to travel without masks and people sometimes have to inhale imported bottles of fresh air to survive. I stayed there for 4 days and the pollution index was never more than 120 ppm which isn’t so bad.

Beijing looked very historical to me. It was a nice combination of the old & the new, the ancient & the modern, the lively & the quiet. The locals told me there are at least 30 million registered residents in Beijing and the whole city is nothing but a series of circles of different radii. The cost of the apartments increases depending on how far you live from the center of the city. Surprisingly people of Beijing seemed very happy. Pollution and extreme climate had no effect on their love for the city.

Chinese Tea House near 'Sun of the Altar' park

The first day we went to a Park, basically just one side of a large park called ‘Altar of the Sun’. As we walked along the park, Vivian, my colleague from office told me a bit of the Chinese history. Some of the kings from the Ming, Qing and Song Dynasties had 40+ children and how they felt it was important to have many sons because a large family was equivalent to a strong family. After the park visit, we had dinner at one of the old Beijing houses which was converted into a restaurant. They served the best of fish, prawns, shrimps and other sea-food to people who could eat them and sympathized with vegetarians like me (the only one there). I have no idea why they do so. I happily enjoyed the mushroom soup, special greens, baked eggplant and lots of fresh fruits.

Crushed Tofu

Veggies, sauces & Rice pancakes

The second day was us attending the conference and getting hit by what Marketing does to people, the latest of which I realized was having a robot on the premises. The sessions were mostly in Mandarin. They gave me a Bosch earphone to hear the translations. I figured someone at the back end was translating stuff. The device was handy only in the morning because it stopped working by the noon. I guess the translators got too tired by then. After a long day of trying to understand what was being said, I tagged along with people to a famous Beijing restaurant where they wanted to try the Beijing specialty “roasted duck”. I felt that the cooks had some special talent in cutting vegetables and meat. While returning, I looked at the skyscrapers and tall buildings which were beautiful in the evening lights. I thought of India and wondered how many years behind we actually were. People usually state things like 10/15 years. My question is, how far ahead/behind will we be then? Open-mouthed smile

SAS Robot

We went to the ‘Great wall’ on the 3rd day of our trip. A wonderful person named Sha came along to show us around. We started our walk to Badaling (one of the areas of the wall) and it wasn’t very easy. I was requesting my fellow travelers to take the rope car while going up but they weren’t convinced. There are steps only in a few stretches and mostly one needs to walk on steep stony slopes. People were gasping for breath, so was I. I took very many breaks before reaching the top of just a small part of the wall. I observed that the wall stretches for miles and Sha told me that the construction of the wall hasn’t stopped. They are either repairing something or building more. There were some ‘Hero Stones’ where one could stand and take photos to feel like a ‘Hero’ I guess. Many stones had names of people engraved on them. The sky was blue that day and I took some nice pictures (all from the phone). I also did something funny of sending post cards to people from a small post office at the Wall. I soaked my feet in very hot water that night and prayed for the ache in my legs to ease. It did work and I slept for 9 hours without moving an inch.

The Great Wall [Badaling side]

Hero Stone's hype

On the final day of our trip, we went to Tianenmen Square & looked at Forbidden city from outside. The square area had all sorts of places that a capital city should have. There were flags everywhere, large & wide administrative buildings & I enjoyed learning more of China’s history from Vivian. We also did some shopping for friends & family. I admired the extensive Metro system (16 lines that even colours are difficult to distinguish) & the 16-lane roads (with one allowed to take one’s car either on the odd or even days) that Beijing has.

Adminstrative buildings

Tianenmen Square

Beijing metro system

It was a short trip & I plan to travel to Xian, Shanghai, Chengdu, Mongolia and Tibet someday.

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