Beijing in 11 Adjectives, or My Impressions of China’s Capital City

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If you’re following me on Twitter, you know — especially from this Tweet — that I have just returned from China; and today I’d like to share with you my first impressions of Beijing, the country’s capital. For the purposes eloquence (I know your time is valuable), I’ve decided to go with a list/bullet-point format, and here they are:

My 11 Adjectives to Describe Beijing, China

  • Dynamic and Emotional — Traffic jams, people honking horns with and without reason (why not honk it if you have it, right?), lots of people around
  • Immense — It is actually more than a city! It includes 16 districts, 2 counties, nearly 300 towns and villages… And its population exceeds 19 million people
  • Serious and Focused — I’ve found it very similar to Russia in this… people are very serious, and seem to be very focused
  • Smoking — And not I’m not referring to the smog that was there on first day (US embassy, actually, issued a warning that the air became hazardous), but the vast majority of people seem to smoke, and you can smell smoke everywhere (from public areas to “non-smoking” hotel rooms)
  • Polluted — …but isn’t this, sadly, natural for any huge city?
  • Expensive (or may be Cautious is a better word to use here) — My hotel’s security deposit was 4,000 Chinese Yuan (which is $630 USD) in a 4-star hotel, and 5,000 Yuan (or some $790 USD) in a 5-star one
  • Different — Food, air, people… all were very different from Western Europe, or the United states. As mentioned above, some of the things were very similar to Russia (and former Soviet republics) though
  • Puzzling — Prepare to be puzzled! For half an hour I was being told that there was no non-smoking rooms in the hotel, but patience and persistence did their job (it seemed like staff just didn’t want to make any extra moves), and I finally got a “non-smoking room” (as in: it was prohibited to smoke in it, but as soon as the air conditioner turned on I learned/smelled that it’s blowing “smoke” air; checked out in the morning, and moved to a 5-star down the street). Another example: a taxi driver can get “lost”, and look for a hotel (that is in 5 min drive away from your point of departure) for 25 min. I do, however, allow for a possibility that this is tied to another adjective (“entrepreneurial”) though.
  • Predictable — Why was I not surprised to find out that neither Twitter, nor Facebook were accessible?
  • Surprising — Oh, yes, it is possible to be both predictable and suprising (example: the beautiful Christmas tree decorated with Russian nesting dolls in the middle of my second hotel; thank you for making me feel right at home, Shangri-La!)
  • Entrepreneurial — They have a place (owned by the governor of Beijing) called Dr. Tea which offers “free” tea-tasting ceremony, which culminated with me spending $200+ on tea (probably the most expensive tea purchase in my life) in their shop.

Also, if/when you go, be prepared that very few people speak English (unlike in Western European countries, or Israel, for example), and many may seem unfriendly at first. The latter doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. It is the same way in Russia… they are just always on the alert, and prepared to fight for their space under the sun. And speaking of the Chinese sun, here’s a picture under it (on the gorgeous Great Wall of China):

So, there you have it — my own subjective view of Beijing, based on a 3-day trip in mid-November, 2011. If you have something to add/comment, please be my guest! That’s why I have that “Comments” area under this post…

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