Thoughts on Visiting China

on the wall

I spent most of June in Beijing plus a few days in Tokyo- and loved it! These are some of my observations about China:

1) Phoenix will never host an Olympic Games

Yes, even from Asia I can make a Phoenix connection somehow, but this one isn’t my usual, optimistic view. I spent nearly an entire day at the Beijing Olympic Village. I saw the Birds Nest, the Convention Center, the Aquatics Center, the underground mall, the dragon shaped river, and the Sunken Gardens. The Olympic Village was huge! It was also easily accessible from the newly constructed subway line that connected it to the rest of the city.

I was by myself during during a few of the days in Beijing so I have a lot of photos taken at an arms length.

The Aquatics Center

Something this big, something this modern and easy to get to will never be built in Phoenix. Ever. Phoenix hosted the Superbowl a few years ago in a stadium not located in the city of Phoenix (it’s in Glendale, a west valley suburb) and frankly out in the middle of no where, with nothing to do, and nothing to see. The major complaint I heard during the Superbowl was how spread out the Valley of the Sun is and what a pain it was for everyone to have to drive everywhere without any other transportation option. Plus, unless you’re a little crazy like me, the Arizona summer heat will repel the peoples of the world from visiting during the hottest months of the year. Sorry, but the Olympics will never grace Phoenix.

2) Chinese beer is horrible

Not horrible in the taste, horrible in that I could drink 3 or 4 and feel no buzz! I drank 3 beers while exploring the Great Wall of China and all I got from it was the urge to pee.

 

3) There is no national Chinese liquor

Maybe I’m wrong on this, but I can’t think of any type of fermented beverage unique to China. Russia has vodka, Germany has beer, America has bourbon, England has gin, but China has… what? I’m going to need to do some more research about this but I’m astounded that a culture dating back thousands of years has no alcoholic drink. Is alcoholism a problem in China? So many questions…

4) The Forbidden City (or the Palace Museum) is awesome-sauce

I ignoratly had no idea how huge the Forbidden City is. I just thought it was a few old buildings that had miraculously been preserved. It is miraculous they have been preserved but there is more than just a few. I spent about 6-7 hours there and only saw a fraction of what there is to see. (To be honest, there are only so many rooms for concubines that I can look at before they all start to look the same.) The botanical gardens were stunning.

5) I feared for my safety in every single automobile I was in, but saw zero accidents

In China, as is also true in Russia, pedestrians have no rights. If you’re walking near a street, in a crosswalk, on the sidewalk, be prepared to die. Even people riding bikes expect you to get out of their way. They ding that stupid little dingy bell and by the end of my time there I just wanted to push them all over as they sped past me. There was more than one occasion when we were driving down an alley with a car coming head on and no where to go. There was a time we made a left hand turn from the far right lane across 7 lanes of traffic. There was a time the cab driver passed a car on the right, in the shoulder of the road, on the freeway! Thank goodness I could take the subway most places I wanted to go.

6) Pizza Hut in China is an experience

I’ve never had escargot in any Pizza Hut ever- except in China. I’ve also never had shrimp stuffed crust pizza in any Pizza Hut except in China. I’ve never ordered “Cream of Fungi Soup with Various Fungi” from any Pizza Hut except it China. The bathroom in the Pizza Hut in China was state of the art with colorful little scented beads in the urinals. It pretty much rocked.

7) I had to pay a cab driver with US dollars

Now that might not seem so weird, but think about it: If someone took a cab to the airport in Phoenix then offered to pay in Chinese Yuan, the driver would be like, “What the hell is this?!” It wasn’t my fault, per se. The cab ride to the airport cost waaaay more than it should have. I’m pretty sure the cabbie took the scenic route because it should not have cost that much. I paid with every last Yuan I had then gave him a ten dollar bill and did my best to explain that it more than made up for the deficiency. He didn’t seemed too pleased, but it was the only thing I could do.

8) The language

The Chinese language is thousands of years old. How cool is that?!

9) I missed eating veggies

I was in hotels and didn’t have anywhere to cook so I ate lots of bread and doughy things I bought on the side of the road. By the end of the week I was dying for some broccoli. The first day there we did go to a vegetarian restaurant across the street from the Confucius Temple. That was awesome. I also drank gallons of tea. Tea is also awesome.

10) China was amazing

Beijing reminded me a lot of Moscow so things like confusing addresses, communist looking housing buildings, street markets, milk in bags etc. were familiar to me. I finally learned how to say “subway” which is probably the most important word I learned so that when I got lost at least someone could point me towards a way to get home. We spent the last night in the Beijing airport which is something I’d rather not do again though, but I can’t wait to go back.

 

3 Comments on "Thoughts on Visiting China"

  1. Trev says:

    Yay, China! I’m glad you had a good time. This subject is too near and dear for me not to leave a few comments on some of your comments:

    3) Bai jiu! Of course, I don’t drink and so am am not very familiar with the details, but if someone asked me what China’s “national liquor” is, this is the one that instantly springs to mind and that I’ve heard the most references to. Did you not encounter it?

    Also, tangentially… It’s not a “national liquor”–actually, it’s a medicine–but one thing I find grotesquely fascinating is “she jiu.” Rather than give away the surprise, do a Google Image search for 蛇酒. I saw a documentary on Chinese TV on this and was rather taken aback, but when I asked my Chinese roommate if he had heard of it, he responded totally matter-of-factly like there was nothing at all unusual about it, “Yes! It’s supposed to be very good for health.” *shudder.” They’re alive when they make those. One story on the documentary involved a man being bitten even after two weeks of the product “soaking.”

    4. Amen. Everything in Beijing is huge. It’s hard for that to truly sink in like it should until one goes there.

    5. Beijing has some of the safest and most orderly traffic in China. :D. In the country as a whole, I’ve heard, the average driver has been driving for under 5 years; in Beijing, quite a few people have been driving longer than that, and the infrastructure is more suited to forcing relatively orderly traffic flow.

    7. I’m sure he didn’t mind. Beijing cab drivers are a lawless and obnoxious bunch. I couldn’t believe the blatant scamming and law breakage (ignoring the meters–look how they all break simultaneously around tourist areas!–demands for foreign currency, price gouging, and more) when I visited there with my parents last year.

    8. Okay, this is one of the topics where I cannot restrain my ornery inner linguist from coming out to try to quash a bad language myth: ALL languages are the same “age.” No language is any “older” than any other. What would that mean, exactly? (It’s like saying a “race” of human is older than others).

    That said, Chinese does have an interesting history, particularly the written form from our perspective. But, do consider that modern written Chinese is only a little over a hundred years old.

    9. Hmmm. Chinese eat way more fresh vegetables (though always cooked) than we do, generally. I can imagine how in Beijing though as a tourist it’s easier and more convenient to go for the bready things.

    10. Indeed! :) Next time you go, if within the next two years, consider visiting me in historic Manchuria (perhaps on the way to the Harbin Ice Festival or as a unique not-hot summer destination).

    • J. Seth (I go by Seth) Anderson says:

      Thank you for your insights. I appreciate them. I can’t wait until I can come back. I have a secret project I’m working on that may take me to China more often if it gets off the ground… details coming soon. :)

  2. Dean Scott says:

    Thanks – this was an enjoyable read. Happy July 4.

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