Maybe it’s because I’ve been here before or maybe it’s because China is awesome in general but I am going to be sad to leave Beijing.
Getting here was a breeze! Hardly any waits at the borders. Only crossing China took a bit but that’s because they had to change the wheels on our train as the tracks are a different size than Russia and Mongolia. Hands down the most deluxe train I’ve ever been on (had a flushing toilet) and I had a nice cabin of English people (from London via Australia and New Zealand).
In Beijing, the chaos of the people and traffic disappears once you head down the neigbourhood streets that are made up of brick/cement compounds where 100s of people live. You need a haircut? It’s done on the street. You want to by a rabbit and a goldfish? It’s done on the street. Family dinner? It’s done on the street. The mix of old and new is crazy. Tiananmen Square now has 2 big screen TVs playing a movie promoting China - which gave me lots of new travel ideas. There is a tea shop run by a lady from Vancouver just two doors down from my hostel (in an ancient building). It’s a good thing I found this place at the end of the trip when I’ve run out of money! We had a good chat.
The number of bicycles has decreased. The amount of scooters and electric bicycles (and cars) has increased. The city has definely been cleaned up (possibly due to the Olympics) and when the smog gets too bad the government shoots something into the atmosphere to cause some rain/cloud and the next day the burning in your throat has disappeared and it’s clear skies!
At the cooking class today I learned how to make Szechwan beef, spicy green beans, tofu, 3- Cup chicken (awesome and “easy”) and fried lettuce. Possibly the best part of the lesson was the market tour. Bottom floor all types of vegetables, spices, fruit. Top floor allllllll types of meat. My guide laughed when I jumped and turned away from a lady who had just grabbed a live fish out of the “tank” and beat it to death with a mallet. Let’s just say the sheep slaughter was a good introduction and I managed not to get sick and! take lots of photos to share with everyone. And now I know that the prickly rag-looking things are in fact stomachs and not rags.