Beijing, 2009

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Beijing: Very Modern and Very Ancient All at Once

Beijing is a huge city with nearly 12 million inhabitants. However because of it’s extensive and modern subway system it’s easy, and affordable, to get to most places of interest easily and quickly. It’s also helpful that all the street and traffic signs are in English as well as Chinese.

I made a stop over here on the way to, and coming back from, Thailand. I had never been to Beijing before but having been in a number of cities in the developing world I arrived here with certain expectations about what I would encounter. I had assumed that the city would be dirty. Carefree littering is a hallmark of life in the third world. But Beijing was not dirty at all. Well, the air was definitely not clean. I also thought that street-food carts would be virtually everywhere. There are almost none in Beijing. The only ones I saw were at the Donghuamen Yeshi Night Market near Wangfujing Road, the place to go for high end boutiques and designer labels (not my thing at all, I went for the food). I was also surprised by how much green space there is in the city. Behai Lake and Houhai Lake for example are surrounded by expansive, leafy grounds that provide a soothing escape from the scramble of the metropolis. The grounds of these parks are very well maintained and orderly, and no, there’s no litter in sight.

I was very impressed by some of the modern architecture there. Some of it is really stunning. The CCTV building is very eye catching since it looks like it shouldn’t be able to avoid toppling over. The train station in Terminal 3 of the Capital City airport is one of the most appealing modern constructions I’ve ever seen. It has a massive vaulted ceiling that’s mostly clear glass. The floor of the station is polished stone so it reflects the light coming through the ceiling.

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