Sunday

Beijing – a fascinating rush





What I saw in Beijing testifies the city’s power as the nerve center of the country. The Tienanmen Square is buzzing with security, No cars are allowed to park close to the historic buildings. The capital city has more security, barriers and policemen than normal Chinese people, I think. The mama mia factor when you see the Tienanmen Square, despite the effort and the long walk are unreplicatable! It's bigger than life.

Tienanmen Square is the world’s largest public square (the size of 90 football fields); it still reverberates with the ghosts of recent history. The vast inner city of 24 emperors for almost 500 years, is China’s most impressive treasure house. Only occasionally an emperor would venture out, And no one was allowed in without permission.

The Forbidden City is located in the center of Beijing and is surrounded by a chessboard of roads, including five 'ring roads', which circle the city center in concentric circles. I liken this to Delhi for some obvious reasons. Roads lined with trees that create beautiful facades and avenues. All buildings of national heritage or government offices bearing the national flag. Zany cars with sirens that go off suddenly in the middle of the road signaling vip movement.

Cameras track everybody. They follow you in the foyer of an office building, they trace you to the landing you get off, tracks you inside the floor visiting people. The cameras are not subtle. They are un-missable, making no bones of the fact that they are watching one and all.

Beijing also has some unique shopping areas. My friends took me to this mammoth horizontal (one storied) building that boasted of fake branded goods. From I-pods to steam irons to clippers to beaded ornaments to hi-phone to chinese arts and crafts to fake Nikes and Adidas’s to all imaginable designs in jeans - the list is endless. And there were takers. The parking lot was full. People were making a beeline into this market because soon it was going to be closing time and the trader/shopkeeper doesn’t want your business if it is past his shutting down time! I walked away from this market with tiny ceramic Chinese figurines which I distributed amongst my office colleagues. Crafted beautifully. Looked authentic. Were lil china men smiling and fishing.

The Kunming lake at the Summer Palace is another bewitching huge site a complete must for a tourist like me. Such scenic beauty, such calm waters, history in every nook and cranny. Ornately decorative architecture from both inside and outside. There are dragon boats and marble boats used for cruising on this lake. Even these boats have a history which the Chinese are not too fond of speaking. I discovered that the Marble boat which is moored at one side of the lake was built from money that was allocated from some other purpose. Very India like, I said to myself most amusedly. Corruption is not spoken about openly here. But exists in equal gigantic proportions.

China is a land of overt discipline and subjugation, a land where people may question the authorities in their mind but never openly or ever in rebellion. It is regimented and authoritarian. Maybe that’s why the billion plus nation can produce world goods at a pace no one can match? Works for this country I guess

16 comments:

RavneetSingh said...

Yo Mee! You know I;ve been going to China for many years now. My earlier gripe used to be the language barrier..but now they know some english and I know some mandarin so it is much easier to do business. Super cool country yep.

runa said...

Tienanmen Square. I was nearly handicapped after walking as much as I had to walk around that area!:( Why are they so paranoid about vehicles and providing parking closer to the square?!:(

ashish said...

Hey wassup, Howz Goa been? You back tonight? Tmrw? China as far as I am concerned is a wanna be. After seeing what they did at the Olympics opening ceremony I am not sure I can respect them for anything. You know..?

sanjiv said...

Beijing, a city with much security for sure. And also the seat of power yes. Beijing surprisingly never felt as glitzy to me as Shanghai does. A function of where I stay maybe. For sure there is much history and uniqueness to it. Yea Tienanmen square is seriously huge! Need to be fit to walk all that distance

gita said...

Hey Mee, Ive never been to china and don't think I will ever either, your post is most informative, so I get to discover many places because of you:) More power to you babes:)

melinda said...

hey jet-setter, how was goa? am so envious of you that you get to run to goa so often. beijing is so much in the news in the papers here mee, and not all of it in the media is complimentary. guess some of it is thanks to over ambitious chinese inviting trouble

Sunil said...

This is nothing but a facade...what you see is what the government wants you to see. The real China lies just beyond its cities. My cousin, who's a hippy and travels 8 months after working for 4, spent about 2 months criss crossing China. There is abject poverty and deprivation across the country. Why...even if you go into the little, obscure streets, behind glitzy buildings in Shanghai, you would see the rot. The Chinese people do not have the capacity to think beyond what is told to them and they just do not care for tourists. Not that they are unfriendly...they are simply, well, emotionless! Much of this, I think, could be attributed to its political ideology...blame Mao for everything, I say. Despite its extrodinarily rich history, where culture and both arts and sciences thrived, it is today one big, ugly country that will, perhaps, forever remain so.

Shvetal said...

China is a great example of superb people government unity towards lifting its national pride. wish we can learn something from that.

ALLEX said...

great post indeed. .... its their inherent nature due to which the country is making such great strides.... the brilliant dazzle put by them on the opening of olympics speaks of the great artistic skill of the inhabitants.

Neelu said...

Hmmm..must admit I'm curious about China. It is a facade, of that I'm sure. Though there are times after the mayhem of Mumbai, I long for some order!

sumit said...

a fascinating post on a fascinating country by a fascinating mind!!!

Mee said...

RS- my experience has been very different. I have struggled to make them understand :(

Runa- yea they do seem to be rather knotted up abt security, terror threats?! who knows

Ash- Goa was fab as always:), yea many people sentiments have changed of china becos of the olympics, its almost like the shine is wearing thin

Sanjiv - No doubt Shanghai is way glitzier than Beijing. By night its like a lit xmas tree:)

Gits - ty:)

Mel - partially that is true, and partially it could also be a question of bringing humpty dumpty down?:)

Sunil, much truth to what you say for sure, my first few days I kept looking around for the billion plus people and found very few scattered people, only glitz and shine. And then one driver explained how the tree lined roads hide the dirt n the poverty away from visitors eyes. having said that, atleast they have pulled off perceptions, look at us, bombay is a large slum and for gods sake also a financial capital?! can we do smthg abt our image like they have done?

Shvetal- absolutely!

Allex, Neelu - :)

Sumit- ty, you are too kind:)

ALLEX said...

great post.... quite enticing description........would love to visit

Mee said...

allex - ty:)

Brian said...

Lovely post ;o)
me lookin forward to visiting this mysterious nation some day.

Neha said...

hey mee, I have been to China long time back i guess around 10 years .According to me Beijing was very complicated city I had a very hard time........nice to know that things have changed.When i was there ,it was very difficult to get veg food and communication was the biggest task.However the city is extremely fascinating.