Visiting the giant neighbour – Beijing (part 1)

Beijing was originally called Peking and then the name changed to Beijing, only to be changed again and reverted back. It has an interesting history of name change with the change in the political scenario.

Our first glimpse through the aircraft window revealed a rather brown and desolate looking landscape.  We were arriving there towards the end of winter season with temperature hovering around 3 degrees centigrade (at 11.30 in the morning and below – degrees in the night) and hence the flowers were not in bloom.  The winter is rather severe in most parts of China specially in Beijing and the surrounding areas.  My heart sank a little without the usual greenery that one is used to seeing in India.

The airport was huge and modern.  One of the first things that caught my eyes was that almost all of the officials/employees at the airport be it custom or otherwise were young Chinese people.  The signage were in both in Chinese and in English and we had no problem in managing our way through the airport.  The officials were helpful and polite but unsmiling.

I also noticed that we were perhaps the only two “brown” people who arrived at Beijing among many “whites” from the west.  All the other Indians (read people from Punjab) were on their way to Canada through another 12 hour long journey.

Our guide was already waiting for us at the airport with transport.  She was bubbly, talkative, spoke good working English and wore bright cloths.

The car jumped onto the highway from the airport and all we could see were huge expressways with six lanes speeding under the wheel, with little or no landscape around us.  The roads were super excellent, well maintained and managed remotely with very few traffic signals or police.

As the car entered the city, I could not help but feel extremely impressed by the presence of impressive towering buildings all around us.  The hotel (Kapok Wangfujing) was situated in downtown Beijing again with four lane roads, surrounded by tall office buildings or hotels.

The guide, her name was Catherine, kept talking to us about the important buildings in the city, the history of Beijing and the significance of some of the important landmarks of the city.

Accordingly to her suggestion, we went to watch the Beijing acrobatics show and to tell you the truth, I was rather disappointed.  This is not a statement of a “die hard” nationalistic person but I have seen better with our own Kalaripayattu artists from Kerala. Below is a picture from the show where the acrobat keeps piling on chair after chair and shows many acrobatic skills on the higher and higher pile.

Chinese acrobat in action

Our trip to and from the acrobatic show was by the bus and by Beijing Metro.  It gave us an excellent peek into the daily lives of an Bijinger (if one can call them that, 🙂 ) The office time metro was as packed as the suburban trains of Amchi Mumbai and we just had to be in the right place to be pushed in or pushed out.

The city is squeaky clean or at least the areas where we lived – during the day we kept seeing people with brooms and trays, continuously sweeping the streets clean.  However, don’t feel bad.  Are the Chinese like us in some ways? oh yes, they spit as much as we do, but much less in Beijing than other cities. 🙂

From the time I landed in China, I started getting a major complex about my size as almost all the women were petite, slim and oh, so well dressed.  They were smartly dressed in their very colourful western attire and immaculately made up.  Sometimes, it seemed as though we were in the middle of a fashion show and I am not joking here. 🙂

women at a bus stop (I could not click them from the front, lest they felt offended, so you have to feel satisfied from the back shots)

After the show we wondered around the streets a bit, braving the biting cold.

However, the piece de resistance was reserved for the evening.  There was a finger food pavilion that opens up every evening in front of the hotel for the locals as well as for the tourists. However, the tourists do more of the marveling while the locals have their fill.  Why?  Well, the finger food mostly consisted of deep fried beetles, scorpions, snakes and other exotic snacks, ably supported by many kinds of pork, beef, mushrooms, seaweeds, bird eggs and noodles. We tried out the noodles, the eggs, the mushrooms and some of the pork snacks.  Can’t say they were yummy, but interesting alright.  Below is a glimpse of the food pavilion with some of exotic staff on display.  Take your pick!

exotic finger food at Beijing

The shops come alive in the evenings and looks a bit like a desi fare  that opens up right in the middle of a very modern surroundings. That perhaps is the interesting thing about China, they have progressed far and wide as compared to us in terms of infrastructure, industry, economy but have retained their culture through food and language a great deal more than we have.

Later, in the evening, we simply enjoyed walking around in that cold evening, speaking (at least trying to as their English speaking skill is zero to pathetic) to people, watching what others were eating and wondering at the sheer variety of things that were unfolding in front of us.

More on Beijing in my next post.  Do let me know what you thought of this post and share.

view from the road in front of the hotel

I live in Bangalore, India, and by profession, I am CEO of a consulting organization, an Organization Consultant and an Executive Coach. I write because I like writing my thoughts and reflections for me to review my life and the life as I see around myself. However, sometimes it makes sense to convey my thoughts to others and connect with others. Maybe it strikes a chord; may be it does not. My life has been my most outstanding teacher, which is why I like sharing my experiences, memories, encounters and other narratives that I build as I go along. I am interested in people, society, culture, ways of life, individual and collective narratives/stories as they lead us to discover each other as nothing else does. I also write about coaching, people's lives, culture, stories, mothering my daughter, believing in a feminine way of life, and most of all, believe that all politics starts from the self and personal convictions

5 thoughts on “Visiting the giant neighbour – Beijing (part 1)

  1. Interesting round up. The country certainly seems to have beaten Delhi hollow. The food seemed too ummmm…..unusably for my tastes, though, especially being a vegetarian. The L&M had told me that it is very hard to find vegetarian food that would appeal to our palate there.

    I agree with your assessment that they have preserved their culture better than us. We are intent on aping the west in everything and are eroding our identity and culture.


    • 🙂 vegetarian food is difficult to come by but not impossible, as a matter of fact, they eat a lot of vegetable but with meat mixed in it!!

      The development in China in terms of jobs, money, infrastructure, etc are far far ahead of India as of now. They are truly a superpower today and the second largest economy in the world. Hell, they even lend money to US of A these days!


      • Hi Sharbori,
        Thank you for this info. I have a specific diet preferring organic food. Sounds like there isn’t much of an option for that. I do stay away from white flour, sugar and salt. Will I have a huge stomach ache on my trip as I had in Paris? GOING ANYWAY!!! I am very excited about the trip. Read further into your info and will email you…best


      • Dear Marilyn,

        Thank you for visiting my blog and your comments. China is a beautiful country with friendly people in most places. The staple diet in most of north or north east of the country is noodles and meat, mostly pork, while down south it would be more fish and sea food. Re your diet, please ask your guide to help. I ate mostly vegetable which are stir fried and had lots of garlic and suited well with sticky rice. I have gluten allergy and hence the rice.

        People eat a variety of food there and experimenting with their home cooked style would perhaps be more helpful for you.

        Do visit again.



  2. Thank you for commenting on your trip to Beijing. I will be touring most of China in July and wondered where else you traveled in China and your thoughts on those areas. Do you think it a good idea to learn a bit of the language to get around? I have read part one and hope to find part 2. Appreciate your putting in the time to blog.


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