Barely back I was sent to another culinary school and this time in China. Eating Peking duck and climbing the Great Wall are in my bucket list so I was excited about the trip. Then right just before leaving North Korea bombs the South. I was on my way to China’s capital and it is located quite close to neighboring ally North Korea. On the plane I prayed “Dear God please don’t let there be a war!”.
My Beijing tour included a visit to the Olympic Village to see the Birds Nest stadium and the Water Cube. Then we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is home to the UNESCO world heritage site the Imperial Palace. I had to give up a visit to the Summer Palace and the Panda Zoo for meetings. Anyway what was more important for me is that I was able to achieve another life goal…and that was to have been able to eat Peking duck in Beijing.
On our last day I had a chance to go to The Great Wall. We went to the one at Badaling. This section of the wall is 600 years old and was one of the most important passes. It was 2 degrees, windy, and I felt like my toes were going to fall off! On the top and looking across towards inner Mongolia….I couldn’t help but imagine the powerful history of this 8,000 kilometer amazing man-made wonder.
This is my blog so you don’t have to agree with me but as an outsider here are my thoughts on Beijing:
Beijing is so cosmopolitan! It is a heavily populated modern and technologically advanced metropolis. It is a big city with a population of over 17 million and a land area of around 18,000 square kilometers. They have a minimum 5 car highway and massive infrastructure. I should have been impressed… but I looked towards the hazy sky and there was a blanket of smog hovering upon us. Beijing is the nation’s capital because it is surrounded and protected by the mountains. However when there is no wind the air gets trapped and settles inside the city. The pollution or “crazy air” has already reached hazardous levels today.
The new generation of Chinese are trading their bicycles for new cars. So the very wide roads are congested and traffic is just terrible. Our guide boasts that everyday 2000 cars are produced in Beijing alone. It made me think that all the efforts that are being done by the rest of the world to reduce carbon imprint or protect the environment are easily being negated by the factories of China. The sleeping dragon has awakened and its fiery breathe is definitely polluting the heavens. Buddha would have jumped over the wall if he found out the air in his home today is barely safe to breathe.
Popular brands, labels, and franchise restaurants can now be found in this big city. They even have a 3 story high store of my favorite clothes shop UNIQLO. And in almost every corner is a Starbucks and McDonald’s. My guide a Chinese yuppie in his thirties says he has to pay for his condominium and car from future earnings. He also tells me he has also acquired credit card debt. I told him that he now lives like an American. What ever happened to the thrifty and saving Chinese communists? These urban migrants have now been seduced by the needs and wants of the western word capitalists. Again Buddha would have jumped over the wall with this paradigm shift.