» China: By Journalists Eyes V: China: Life In The Streets Of Beijing
China: By Journalists Eyes V: China: Life In The Streets Of Beijing
From the bus window, we could see Beijing crisscross, authentic atmosphere of the streets and alleys and hundreds of thousands of people in them, but we sucked up in the role of hikers and then of course after "bedtime" is ended with an official dinner with selected potent and our tired guide disappeared behind hotel room door.
Beijing has basically only four kind of main streets, which is incredibly long, but if you hold the same direction, there is no risk that you would be lost. Certainly you can get lost in the clutter of the hutong in a old district or under the roofs of skyscrapers, but that we carefully avoided knowing, that the chances of any assistance in the absence of a local English language is almost zero.
The first free walk on the footpath of Beijing's boulevards it is not far from wickedly prepared obstacle courses. We avoid stands with all sorts of goods, and plastic chairs and little tables of mini refreshments, and on each corner the group of Chinese who have reduced free time playing cards, dice and other board games. Find free bench to rest too short is not easy - many are occupied by people sleeping contentedly under the head with a bag or a newspaper over his face. But beware - it's certainly not homeless! Although the Chinese are almost unaware of rest and work night and day, sleep after lunch but almost always, and where it is most feasible - as we learn later, they even ordered the low.
Intertwined among dozens of cyclists, shout at us business wonted drivers of rickshaw, our way is sometimes crossed by a clothesline, stretched across the pavement. We avoid workers who busily exchanging damaged paving stones and when I count them, it seems that there is one repairman for one die. Police patrols in care about security on each 50 meters, but mostly in companionable conversation they are smoking, sitting but don’t create an impression of alertness.
When we pass one of the adjacent park, stop and observe a group of people of retirement age who exercise and dance in sync to the rhythm of Chinese pleasant melodies. The park is equipped with a crazy metal structures, which we first recall the children's jungle gym, but soon we see that it's strength and stretching machines. The Chinese government is committed to the health of its people, and similar phenomena we will see later many times.
Walk cross Beijing is also an endless parade of the most amazing umbrellas. Ladies and girls underneath protects your face from harsh sun, pale skin is because the local criterion of beauty. Therefore fairer sex without a parasol you can´t meet, I regret that we, here in Europe, are without this nice habit. It is a beautiful fashion accessory - umbrellas about Chinese women changes as we handbags or shoes - must tune colour, themes and material for clothing.
Expect the umbrellas we notice also the ubiquitous bottles, what the walkers hold in their hands, cyclists in a basket or suspended on the handlebars, street vendors always somewhere close at hand. They are indispensable in their home and most popular drink - tea. When you blow into your favourite cans poured during the day and mix it with hot water the only water that is available for free almost everywhere. The Chinese get our sympathy but rather that in their list of favourite drinks is a beer on the second place.
And it is well chilled fluid is gold to our next walk - this time in a night. Beer is available in every shop, which seems to be the spitting image of our Vietnamese night shops. But we are experiencing repeated disappointment - cold drinks are available. So we sit down on a bench, drink beer on the incredible Beijing air temperature in June and enjoy a carefree mood of the night city.
Business tourism is not very different from that in a day, the streets are but apart from the crowded of workers who went as an army to repair what is spoiled during the day. Nearby, on a green patch we can see a bunch of teenagers, which is equipped monster tape-deck and speakers, sprawls from Madonna's voice. Everyone laughs and dances. That does not disturb a group of older women across the street, which is accompanied by slow traditional music with fans waving gently in his hand. Lit by street lamps look like fairies. I feel the beauty of local spontaneity, inner peace and joy of life and I'm sorry that none of it can´t buy, take away, donate ....
Text/photo: Andrea Fantová
I wish I could see the Great Wall of China once in my life at least! Have you ever had this thought? When I was little and listed through encyclopedias over the pictures of an infinitely long wall that was dragging the Chinese mountains like a snake. A few years later, my wish was fulfilled. And believe that going through this magical wall is nothing unattainable!
To leave the province of Qinghai and thus few days of life in the past, sometimes the century before, it was the more sensitive nature really hard. Local on many places the virgin nature, proud mountain ranges, deep green valleys, vast dry plains, miniature boxes, herds of yaks and colourful mix of nationalities, often pristine civilizations us captivated, amazed, left imprint on the hearts.
We are in Shanghai, in a metropolis shrouded by hundreds of "firsts" that is, in the largest Chinese city. One "the best" there certainly lacks – the historic one. Shanghai, unlike many other Chinese cities has relatively short history, after the Middle Ages, you won´t find any foot mark.
When I looked at the city in evening from promenade of colonial Bund, Oriental Pearl enchanted me with its graceful shapes, and I watched long how at it clothed in new and new colours in regular intervals. I do not know, which one suits her most...
The second day in Shanghai. I slept great, the apartment from Chinese Ministry in one of the most modern hotels in Pchu - tung district, hardly compares to the most luxury holiday model.
Till the start of the World's Expo remains less than 11 months. Here in Shanghai the word Expo is inflected to suffer. Sky blue mascot of Hainan - pao exhibition more than a year before the outbreak this exhibition´s madhouse smiles from windows, posters, winks from light boards, and I decided to bring one teddy home.
The Great Wall of China. The Long Wall. The Endless Wall. There are many names for the same wall, the wall that everybody knows wherever he/she lives. If you are Chinese, it is THE wall. You are proud of it because it is a national symbol. As Mao Zedong once said: “Who never got on the Great Wall of China is no man.” Or Chinese.
The first ever Chinese word that I learned, and it still did not forget, is the "pi-jo". If you seem familiar, you are right - though vastly different languages, for favourite golden-coloured brew has phonetically very similar name as Czech and many other Slavic languages. Drinking beer is a hobby that is definitely common with the Chinese.
In China, people drink really everything you can think of. Everyday drink is inherent tea, whether green or black, fermented or semi-fermented. Water and hundreds of species of non-alcoholic beverages are part of food as well as beer or very popular traditional rice wine. On the tables of local "higher" classes but there are also wine from grapes, until recently marginalized drink.
To move on the other side of Euroasia is nothing easy for those who don’t know how. Especially when they are going to have a personal contact with a Chinese family, business partners, or politicians and officials. For such a stay it is good to make some little preparations, otherwise you will experience more than one faux pas.
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.
We have all this Christmas martyrdom behind us, more or less. New Year’s eve after-effects are the past now and everyday life came back again. Far in the east of our planet the holiday season is getting to its peak.
We had many formal meetings during our journey in China with government officials or top managements of some companies that tried to make themselves more visible through us, European journalists. In a hurry after these precisely scheduled meetings I always gathered prepared business cards and carefully placed them to my notes.
We all got used to all these superlatives surrounding China. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she achieved some primacy every week.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
Profane language and pornography shouldn’t be on the Internet. We would certainly agree with that if only this wasn’t just a cover for endless clutch of the Chinese Internet censorship. Under the cover of a protection of national cultural heritage, and public interest and prosperity the Chinese government tries to hide its rough cleansing.
I have written about one of Chinese minorities, the people of Hui (回族) in one of my previous articles. I praised their cuisine and their kindness and knowledge about the place of my origin.
Exploring the China is join with infinite variety of impressions, perceptions, experiences and surprises for Europeans often shrouded under a veil of mystery, many time but just ignorance. I did get out of this country dominating feeling - China is incredibly colourful. Colourful from drab uniform gray to a beautiful rainbow combination.
Classical Chinese carpets have described Marco Polo in his travelogues, but till today in the world are still not too much to seen and know little about them. I look forward to our visit carpet factories in the province of Qinghai, Xining on the outskirts of the city, to widen my horizons. The lives of local workers I try to plug deeply into the subconscious and try to see the beauty around.
We are still in the far northwest of China, in the region, which is interwoven with Tibetan culture and history. After dense doses our Beijing hosts are served us bait to persuade Europeans ignorant about the interest of the central government in the development of local underdeveloped economy, improving people's living standards while maintaining support all the attributes of the original culture
Finally Beijing. Our journalistic team has battled a series of security checks and we find ourselves in an endless airport lounge. The feeling that the local crowd have to absorb us was not correct. Then we see a smiling Chinese lady and in minutes everyone sit in a luxury air-conditioned bus.
The first dining experience in China didn’t impress me too much. Five stars beautiful hotel, a lot of fuss on arrival our journalistic delegation - a bow and waving fans welcomed us beauties in traditional dress, from the table.
Beijing is for us concentration of paradoxes. Endless skyscrapers, luxury living residences, shops of all tech brands on one side and then thousands of artifacts, ancient Chinese culture. We are interested in both of it, but the traditional one is but much more interesting.
Visit of Beijing food market and edibles of all kinds, shapes, smells, often of unknown origin and a long life even more dangerously we were really stunned for a moment and quietly wandering Chinese traders staring at the blonde, which move at a rate of marathon runners. Phew. We are off and miraculously in front of us pleasantly familiar signs shucks "Starbucks Coffee".
China's hard work and discipline accompanied us at every step and a visit of Beijing Foreign Studies University just confirmed it. Here we had a chance to appreciate even more characteristic of Chinese - adaptability.
After four days in Beijing we packed suitcases and with our guide got on the plane. Before us is a big unknown - we are moving into one of the poorest provinces of China to west to the Tibetan border. It won´t be surprise just for us, but also our girls will visit Beijing - Ai Qing the first time in their life.
Morning view from hotel window in Xining reveals a breathtaking backdrop. The city is surrounded by high mountains, over which the sun shines and I'm really looking forward for today's trip, which has sometimes copied the former trade artery between Asia and Europe - the Silk Road. The fact that I wet my feet in the Yellow River, it is still like science fiction.
Our bus goes on the perfectly smooth highway, where we ones a time meet some man in a hat, with a scarf over his face and a broom in his hand - he is alone, far from him you can´t see anything of civilization, the high mountains on both sides, and he sweeps the shoulder.
Our bus finally stops at the end of a long, dirt track, in which about an hour ago has changed as if by magic a modern six-lane highway. My worries we will finish up on the roof, fortunately not materialized, we drove past woods and gouged out before us, football pitch right and green has left. Everything was dominated by ground shabby, battered gray building - school.
The third day we devoured spell of western China and the knowledge that we have somewhere "behind" Tibet is our "ugly," said attractive. There, under the auspices of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, certainly can´t go, but Tibetan culture we meet at every step.
Qinghai Province fascinates me at every step, or rather at every kilometre. A mixture of Buddhism and Muslim world humbly exist together is incredibly interesting phenomenon, especially for journalists from far, accelerated, often impersonal and intolerant Europe. This time we are heading into the valley that lies in Rebkong area, the centre of Tibetan art in the province.
Again our bus is going on the new highway, which I'd read that it was probably built for only one reason - to make available the Tibetan Buddhist monastery Ta'er. And really, this time not waiting for us any boneshaker dirt road and conveniently parked outside the gates of a large complex at the foot of greenish mountains.
Ta'er Monastery stands in its place under the mountains near the capital city of Qinghai province since 1560. Main wings shining with colours, teeming with monks, but the buildings with curly roofs that stand up in the hills, doesn’t seem so vividly. In the past, there supposedly lived about 3 thousand monks. Today, there's a fifth of them.
Being in China and not visit the Great Wall is equal to savagery. The official program that the Chinese government has prepared us is this trip only alternative and we have to earn deserve it. From early morning we sit in the Red Hall headquarters of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and pretend to listen to propaganda papers enthusiastic speakers.
World media today proclaims that the Chinese state television CCTV triumphantly finished its job and officially opened a new headquarters in Beijing. The futuristic-looking building that should symbolizes the emergence of China on the world stage, journalists dubbed it - thanks to the remarkable shape for her grace in the world called the Chinese "Great boxers."
We "elect" could see the Chinese megalopolis through largely a luxury air-conditioned bus with a smiling dude behind the wheel. It is also part of local standard, certainly not just for a small group of natives and of course for wealthy tourists.
Ancient city of Xian, or Si-an is about 3000 years old. It is one of the most important places throughout Chinese history, since it is here that housed 11 Chinese imperial dynasties. At the time when Beijing was a mere village, golden Si - an shone by bright colours of temples, wide boulevards and architectural excesses.
If you would like to have a stop in a locality, where the time is passing in another rate of speed, where everyday hunt for activity and stress do not have any chance, so, you arrived to the right spot. It is Yangshuo, small Chinese town, situated in nature karst along Li and Yulong rivers.
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský