My couple of days in BEIJING have been a great start of this two-week adventure in China. With only a planned two and a half days here, I have been pushing to see whatever I could since landing. At the same time, it has been a challenge getting used to China-time as my body has only been getting five or so hours the first nights here. I have gone to bed around 10 or 11 here and would wake up around 4 or 5 in the morning. To make up for some extra hours of sleep, I have been taking couple of hour naps to regenerate.
With the limited time I have had here, I feel that I have seen most of the things that I wanted to see. From the Forbidden City to the Great Wall, China has given me an everlasting impression of the long history of this country. However, I found that getting lost has been the best way to see my favorite parts: intricate-local Beijing. The people, the small shops, and the cuisine seem so much more appealing away from the traffic and the gigantic crowds. It is in these small parts where one could easily sense the friendliness of the locals.
I have been so impressed by this city since day one. The SUBWAY SYSTEM is so convenient here, and I wish we had something similar in Minnesota. There are so many different lines that one would be able to go anywhere. Moreover, Beijing has made it so easy for English-speaking foreigners to navigate it. With announcements and signs made with English translations, it’s definitely possible to get around Beijing without knowing much mandarin.
With that being said, it’s been really great to be surrounded by mandarin speakers and being able to practice speaking the language. From ordering food to buying a SIM card, it has been amazing to see practical use of the language. So far, people have asked me if my parents are from China or if I’m from Singapore. That’s a sign that my pronunciation is getting good right? Hopefully!
I also have been impressed with the SECURITY. One could find a policeman or security officer anywhere! Therefore, I have felt very safe. Maybe a little too safe…. (Being Asian could also be part of it because I can blend in easily. However, you should be pretty safe as well even if you are a non-asian foreigner. You will be stared at, but what can you expect? You’re kind of like a commodity here.)
Obviously, the POLLUTION is not something that I am really fond of. Right when I landed, the smog was obvious right away. It’s not as serious as what I had thought, but it’s still visible. I wasn’t affected so much the first day, but in the afternoon during my second day here, I started to cough a little bit from time to time. I could feel my lungs being bothered. I would recommend staying for no more than two to three days because this smog because definitely affects one’s health, especially if you’re a newcomer.
For me, two and a half days here has been enough! I’m currently in a city called JINAN济南 that’s a two hour bullet train ride south of Beijing. One of my good friends is showing me around his college town here. I’ll be sure to update in a couple of days!