Recently, I had the pleasure of getting to spend four beautiful, perfect days in Beijing — which enabled me to get some experience with china’s transportation system as well as check off some must-sees on my travel bucket list.
First off, there was the train ride TO Beijing. My travel partner, Jeani, and I made the mistake of taking the slow train to Beijing. Though a fourteen hour trip on any mode of transportation would be grueling, we also had to spend it with street beggars. We had to take turns sleeping, because if we both slept, we would have woken up with no belongings. Smoking is also allowed inside the slow trains, so we were breathing in extremely filthy air.
Finally we arrived in Beijing and it is breathtaking. We are so excited to be in a new city for a change. We navigate through the train station, where we are greeted by the bluest, clearest sky I’ve seen in months. People told me horror stories about Beijing — that there’s so many people you’ll never get anywhere, that the pollution is so bad you won’t be able to breathe at all, the people are rude, there’s hardly anything to see… They were wrong.
Albeit, I haven’t seen much of China, but I feel confident that I can deem Beijing to be the Paris of China. I love the diversity in the people, the neighborhoods, the food. Instead of castles, Beijing has palaces; in lieu of cathedrals, they have temples. Beijing has both historical and modernized districts. People are sophisticated, they don’t stare at you, they care about their city and don’t litter all over the place. Beijing is an extraordinarily safe city and the police officers seem to really enjoy their job.
Now, I will admit that I came to Beijing in the perfect circumstances (by accident actually!) –> there was no pollution because they just cleansed the air after some big delegate meetings, it was right before high season started so I got all the low season prices for the same weather and circumstances, and there were less people because it was the week before a Chinese holiday.But all that aside, there were still some simply basic things I liked more about Beijing:
- Based on the numbers recorded over the past few years, Beijing’s pollution isn’t much worse than Changsha, despite what people seem to tell me. And Beijing acknowledges that pollution exists, whereas Changsharen refuse to see it as anything other than “fog”. The first step in recovery is seeing the problem, so I appreciated that Beijing was taking that first step in moving forward.
- Beijing follows more western rules: no smoking inside, no littering, etc. And because tourists are common, they don’t stare at you as much.
- Beijing is the same pricing if not cheaper than Changsha. When you’re shopping, the prices are listed about the same, but in Beijing, they barter with foreigners, and they throw stuff at you for free if you’re a foreigner who speaks Chinese… 😉
- More variety. Western food, better coffee, neighborhood styles. Whatever you want, it’s there.
- THEY UNDERSTAND ME WHEN I SPEAK CHINESE. (exception: taxi drivers).