07.05.2009 - 10.05.2009 27 °C
Well I'm currently(well I was when I started writing this entry) in Beijing Capital Airport on my way to Seoul in South Korea. I've spent the last 3 days in Beijing and the city just amazes me! The sheer size of the place is baffling, everything seems to be super sized (especially the map scales where what looks like a ten minute walk ends up being about 40 minutes). What can you expect of a city with 18 million people? The whole country is just amazing from a size point of view. Brace yourself fact fans as you are in for a few gems.
Did you know that China consumes ½ of the word's concrete and 1/3 of the worlds steel every year. Most mind boggling of all is the fact that the Chinese people consume 45 BILLION pairs of disposable chop sticks every year! That is 25 million trees cut down every year just for chop sticks! And I thought Russia was big!
Anyway I've spent the last few days getting acquainted with some of the sites in Beijing. I've been to the Temple of Heaven in the south of the city. This impressive Taoist site is where the Emperors used to go to perform ceremonies to ensure good harvests. I've just had a look at wikipedia and it has some great panoramic pictures which put my photos to shame so I'm not even going to post any from there.
I also dropped into Tienanmen Square
( I don't know what you've heard but if you do a google search or wikipedia search on Tienanmen Square in China you do get to read about the massacre of the protesters (youtube is blocked in China though )). There are some resemblances to Red Square in Moscow. There are lots of communist style buildings and monuments to the “workers” and of course where Red Square has the Lenin Mausoleum, Tienanmen Square has the Mao Mausoleum. Of course I had to call into see the infamous/famous (depends on who you talk to here in China) man. The queues were simply astonishing, much larger and longer than the queue for Lenin, and there were lots of Chinese buying flowers to lay infront of his body. It was all a bit surreal again, much like visiting Lenin. The guards were equally efficient in ensuring that you didn't even slow down as you walked passed his body. If I view Ho Chi Min in Hoh Chi Min city do I get a prize for doing the triple crown of embalmed dictators!
I also called into to Beijing Zoo to see the Pandas but I'll get to see Pandas in a more natural environment when I visit Chengdu on my travels around China.
To be honest the Zoo is a disappointment. All the money obviously is spent on the panda enclosure. The rest of the animals are enclosed in some pretty appalling conditions, the Lions are basically in a small concrete enclosure which had no enhancements as were many of the other large animals. One of the reasons I went to the zoo is the fact that I could get a boat from there all the way out of the city to the Summer Temple of the emperors. This impressive area was the retreat of the Chinese Emperors during Beijing's hot and humid summer period. It was simply a spectacular spot. It was so serene and peaceful, a really beautiful spot to spend an afternoon. Once again my photographs fail dismally in their attempt to convey the beauty of the spot.
Beijing seems to have a rather vibrant nightlife with some areas being designated as the bar/club/restaurant zone. On the first night out we definitely hit on what I think is the best part of town for nightlife. It is a large lake surrounded on all sides with bars and restaurants. There are lots of people out playing games, eating dinner and drinking. There is a great buzz about the place and everyone seems to be in a great mood (have I mentioned how friendly the Chinese are?), within minutes of arriving I was playing a badminton type game with some Chinese people. The night seemed go on and on without stop – I'm not sure they have a closing time in Beijing.
Before I headed out on the second night a few of us headed up to visit the Olympic park which was very impressive (makes the Australian park which I saw last year look very drab - I'm not going to bother visiting the Seoul Olympic park at all). The water cube is very impressive when it is lit up and the Birds nest stadium is simply an astonishing feat of engineering.
Well that's Beijing for now, I head off to Seoul next for a week before returning to Beijing for a few days to catch the sites I missed e.g. Great Wall, the Forbidden city etc. and then continuing my trek around China and Tibet.