A very Personal Beijing

Our final stop in China was its capital – Beijing. Beside looking forward to the city we were excited to met Roman, Kevin’s cousin, and Hitomi, his girlfriend. They were so kind to let us stay with them for the next week. Once again it was awesome to have local tour guides with all their insight. For sure we also need to mention Xiao their hyperactive but super cute cat (we carry some battle scars as souvenir).

During a first dinner we had plenty of time to catch up. We got a lot of insight about Roman’s job, Hitomi’s business and life in Beijing. One topic was the bad pollution – a common phenomena in China’s capital. Last year it was so bad that the government even needed to increase the PSI index to 800 (Singapore had gone already crazy this year when the PSI reached 300 in Singapore). So yeah, pollution can be super bad in Beijing.

As both of us had visited Beijing before we decided to only visit a few of the common tourist sites. So the next morning we went to the Tiananmen Square, the big central square in Beijing with Mao’s Mausoleum and all its turbulent history. We gave the nearby Forbidden City a miss (mainly due to the amount of people and the heat) and headed directly to the Temple of Heaven. We think that the round temple and its vast garden is one of Beijing’s most beautiful sights. We ended the day with some relaxing drinks at a nice roof top bar.

The next afternoon – after a lazy morning – we all went to Beijing’s art district. Before the 2008 Olympics a lot of old factories were converted to reduce the pollution (obviously with questionable success) and are now home of art galleries and small cafes. It was interesting to see what can happen if there is space were art can develop. We enjoyed a few hours strolling along the galleries, taking pictures and having a coffee.

Unfortunately the next day we had to cancel our planned hike on the Great Wall as the weather forecast we not too gloomy (well, we guess a reason to come back). Instead we spent a lazy day with food and drinks.

The next day Hazel and I spent half a day at the Summer Palace with its big temple and beautiful lake. As you can imagine by now we were once again not the only one with the same intention and so we had another chance to observe all the local tourists and their behavior. As always it was a highly entertaining study.

On our second last day in Beijing we went for some shopping to the Hutongs. The Hutongs are the old quarters of Beijing and many of them have been transformed into small shopping and food lanes. We liked the mix of new and old, food and shops. On our way back we experienced first hand a typical Beijing traffic congestion (the bus took about 15 min for the first kilometer). It’s a bit like in Switzerland when you drive your car to Zurich in the morning and wait in front of the Gubrist Tunnel.

The next day we sent some 17 kg of cloth, German learning books for Hazel (which are so much cheaper in China) and some other nick-nacks to Singapore. Afterwards we went to the Swiss Embassy for a swim as they open their pool to the public ever Wednesday (a hearty thanks to all Swiss tax payers).

That brings us already to the end of our time in China. Our 7 weeks in China were in many aspects highly interesting. We saw a country which is still developing at the speed of light but leaves many people behind in the process of doing so. We saw fantastic landscapes, natural beauty and many historic highlights but also badly polluted cities and crazy traffic. We met a lot of very nice, open and curious people who were very keen to know more about us. We were never alone and missed perhaps sometimes a bit of “peace and quiet” and wished for a bit less of spitting and cursing. We had great food, super cheap beer and weird snacks.

In summary we had a great time in China and sure will be back to see more.

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