Okay, there’s a couple of things about Beijing that intellectually I already knew, but didn’t really register until I experienced them.
First of all, 16 hours on planes is a bitch. There’s just no good way to spend that long in cramped quarters, especially when you’re being subjected to what I like to call ‘Chinese Crying Baby Torture.’ If you are ever boarding a 12 hour long flight, and there is a baby in the seat in front of you, AND in the seat behind you, just get back off the damn plane and go have another drink at the airport bar. It’s not worth it. Enough said on that subject.
The other thing that is mind bending about this place is just how BIG it is. And not just big, but both poor and rich, old and new, slow and fast. Like I said, intellectually I knew this to be the case, but that knowledge still completely failed to prepare me for the reality. These people are building things here, and the new things are just kind of being squeezed in between all the old things. There are over 3000 building cranes at work just in this city alone right now, and that number is growing just as fast as they can get new ones into town. It’s very busy, very loud, very dirty, very new, very clean, very foriegn, and very familiar all at the same time. It really does make your head spin on your first day here.
Okay, so all goes well the first evening (thanks to a few beers after the hell flights), and after a good night’s rest at Uncle Swede’s apartment, we were brought to Hong Qiao Pearl Market for a day of insano shopping. Seriously, you have to check out the photo gallery on Flickr that I set up. Neither words nor pictures can adequately do justice to the madness that goes on here. Knock-offs of ALL kinds are for sale here, from purses to watches to clothing to saddlebags to shoes to jewelry to electronics to…. well, you get the point. And it’s CHEAP. Really, really CHEAP. With constant bombardment from the young local girls begging you to buy their cheap knock-off goods. It really makes your head swim.
So, yeah. I now have a couple of nice watches and a new shirt. I’ll be going back for more, too.
I was going to write a little about what it’s like on the freaking roads in this town (you have NEVER seen driving like this before. Not even on TV.), but I’m growing weary, and must replenish myself with beer. But I will describe that aspect of life in Beijing a different day in more detail, because it really shouldn’t be left out. Because they’re crazy. And they like horns.