So we’ve been here a couple of days now, and we have found so many notably unique things about Beijing.
The main one is the city’s interesting mix of old and new. The contrast between the modern, much brought on by the Olympics I’m sure, and the slums is so stark. Modern skyscrapers will tower over tiny, winding neighborhood alleys housing people in one-room homes (hutongs). Cars ride beside bicycles fashioned into shops, luggage, etc. It is really very interesting.
Some other first impressions:
- The city is incredibly vast. It seems like a never-ending sprawl of buildings that disappear into the smog. I don’t even think there is a “downtown”.
- Speaking of which, the air pollution is really quite terrible. There is so much smog that not once in our week here did we see a blue sky. On top of that, the residents often are heard to be hacking up big spit balls onto the street – likely a result of the pollution.
- The airport had a quarantine section. We walked through an infrared scanner to ensure we didn’t have a fever, and we were then subject to quarantine if we were coughing or exhibiting any other signs of disease.
- The subway is incredibly efficient. There are no arrival times because trains just constantly replace one another. I guess you need that for a population of 20 million?
- There are security/police everywhere! But the funny thing is that though they have presence, they did not appear to be upholding the many rules set out.
By the way, we have been enjoying many of the fresh food markets here. Notably, one huge one occurs early every morning outside of our hostel: