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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beijing Diaries, Day 3: Not So Awesome Forbidden City and Some More

Let me tell you, as I promised, about what happened on that second night then.

A hot water shower and a cup of tea later I was contemplating whether I should stay in my room to get a well deserved rest or just go out and see around. Then a moment later I realized that I had forgotten my dear old pair of Bata back home (kind of strange that now I've come to call my apartment here in Japan 'home' but to be honest that is how I feel) so that left me with no option but to go out and get a pair of slippers. I was not going to stay there for five days wearing shoes all day long. I put on my jeans back, went down to the lobby and found out that there was a supermarket close by where I could get a pair of slippers and other stuff that I needed.

It was only ten or so minutes walk from the hotel so I decided to walk because I really wanted to see the real life over there; immediately I realized it was no Japan. People were less polite, bad driving, way too much noise and a mild form of chaos just about everywhere. Kind of reminded me of Colombo; you can certainly draw comparisons with the notable exception of pedestrian crossing. When I say that I bet you assumed that for some strange reason pedestrian crossing must be better over there. I'm right, am I not? And who can blame you for it is really hard to believe that there could be any place in the world that's worse in that department than Colombo. But that's until you go to Beijing.

Let me paint you a picture of pedestrian crossing in China. It could be the biggest city in China but it has traffic lights only for vehicles, not for pedestrians. Luckily drivers seem to follow them mostly but pedestrians, now that's a different story. They just cross the roads at will - I've lived long enough in Colombo to know that it's shit there but trust me this was much worse - without a care in the world. Imagine a pretty big road with four or six lanes. The usual method of crossing it is you just step onto the road unless there is a vehicle within 5 meters on the left side of you. Then walk as farther as possible towards the middle of the road until another vehicle approach you at which point you would just pause for a moment to let it pass and then resume the walk. You will be able to get to the middle of the road this way hopefully without getting a couple of limbs severed. Then you change the attention to the right side of the road and resume the walk again barring in mind the 5 meter rule. Now repeat the steps you followed to get to the middle of the road until you reach the other end of the road. Of course this is much easier said than done and I was VERY confused for a few minutes. It was life and death business. But it is in our Sri Lankan blood to handle any type of chaos so I quickly formulated a method to cross the road; whenever I wanted to cross the road I would just wait behind a Chinese who's about to cross the road and follow in his footsteps - literally, not figuratively - when he (or preferably she) crosses the road. They are so good at it never did I have to worry about getting killed on the road since then.

Anyhow, after some more such dramatic road crossings I finally arrived at the said supermarket and quickly did my shopping; a pair of Bata-like slippers, some kind of fancy sweet and a few local beers that I thought I should try and lined up at the counter. Now, several times friends of mine have told me that Chinese people have absolutely no sense of personal space but this is when I really got to see it. This is no exaggeration, but when I was lined up at the counter, there were no less than five people in the space between the entrance to the counter and the other end of it, which must not have been more than a four or five feet. Yes, there were FIVE people, and when I looked back over my shoulder, the next guy was right behind me. What the fuck, really? So I waited till everyone in front of me cleared, then paid the money and got the hell out of it. To shorten the rest of it; I headed back to hotel, grabbed my camera and wandered around a bit more and photographed some night views before heading to the hotel to have the beers I bought. They were crappy.

Damn, I'm through four paragraphs and I'm still not into day 3 proceedings though this is supposed to be about day 3. Okay let us move on then.

I had asked the tour guide company for a guide for the next day as well, and this time it wasn't Yan but a Lynda! I got to know that her real name was Linlan, but she insisted that I stick to Lynda so, well, who am I to argue then. Since I wanted to go by train and also taxis I hadn't asked for a car that day, we both headed to the subway station nearby to go to this Ancient Observatory that I had heard about. However it seemed like it wasn't really a tourist hot spot as even my tour guide didn't know about it and hadn't been there before. Unfortunately, upon arrival we got to know that it was closed on Mondays so we proceeded to our next place, Tiananmen Square. Lonely Planet and other travel guides might say it's a must visit, but to be honest you wouldn't miss much if you skipped it. I took a couple of pics and then we went to see the much adored and world famous Forbidden City. I had heard so much about it, I was sure it was going to be freaking awesome. But again I was in for more disappointment. It was huge, it was impressive but it was also boring. Forbidden City in a nutshell is copies of one building in different sizes. So we spent some more time there, then had a brief fast food lunch before heading to see a silk factory. It was, however, not a disappointment but I don't want to go into details of silk making. Just take my word for it. After buying a supposedly awesome quilt that can be used in both summer as well as winter alike (since then I have come to realize that it is indeed awesome) we left the place and headed for the Old Summer Palace. Let me just say that it was okay there, nothing spectacular except for one thing there that I enjoyed very much and also has a funny history. It was a maze. A real life-size maze made of stone where you can navigate through to the center at which there was a small structure. The funny history being this was built by an emperor (more like built for) back in the day and apparently he had held 'competitions' among his many wives - letting them start from outside the maze and find their way into the center - and the winner would get a prize. Wonder what the prize was. I too found my way into the center - wasn't as easy as I thought it would be - but nobody gave me a prize. Maybe because I wasn't a queen.

On our way back, I asked Lynda whether there are any cool places to hangout like bars or clubs nearby my hotel and found out that there was a 'bar street' nearby. So again that evening, after a shower I went out at night intending to check out the so called bar street. It was a nice place, and there were more than just bars, like shopping malls and the like, also there were more foreigners there than anywhere else in Beijing I visited and was in general kind of a 'posh' area. After window shopping in a few designer stores I got bored so headed towards the bars wondering where to go. While I was browsing the streets I saw a line of dodgy Chinese bars where people really stare at you, some more way too posh restaurants and, I kid you not, a sex shop named BJ HOT. I passed them all and walked some more distance till I found the perfect bar one would ever find in Beijing.

More about that later...

Part Four


  1. Ahhhh. the suspense is killing me....

  2. Are you for real or are you being sarcastic? I really can't tell.

  3. I am going to build myself a maze! Thank you for the posts, enjoyed much.

  4. So you can find your way to the center and give yourself a prize?
    Oh and thanks mate!

  5. That sex shops name contradicts it self. A BJ by nature is very hot. Although I guess there is such a thing as a hot BJ.

  6. No arguments there, Damith, it can really be hot if it is good.