Greetings from the Mainland!
So far, Beijing stands out as the most internally well-connected city I have ever lived in. I say 'internally', because I have no idea how it connects with other cities in China. But within the Ring Roads, it is really quite amazing how easily a body can get from Point A to Point B.
Of course, whenever you have some 16-million-plus humans (and their cars, buses, motorcycles, scooters and even horse-drawn carts) in one spot, the traffic is going to get bad. We were hung up on one section of highway for a while the other day, crawling along. But if we take that as an unavoidable side-effect of massive population density, and set it aside, then Beijing is doing pretty well. Alternately stated, if half the population of Canada lived in one city, what do you think traffic would be like?
We've already become fairly comfortable taking the bus to various destinations. It's amazing how we're now able to determine where we are along a route, when only a week ago, it seemed impossible to distinguish a single landmark. It was all massive intersections with enormous high-rise buildings and red flags flying everywhere. But now I look up from my book to see the hospital, or the newsstand that sells copies of "Dogs" magazine (this month's issue has a special feature on bull terriers).
And now the subway. It's fast and affordable. We paid about 40 cents each to get from our subway stop (TaiYangGong) to downtown.
Kathi took us downtown, not for a major sightseeing expedition, but rather to give us a sense of where things are, and how to get there in the future. We ended up just a few blocks from Tiananmen Square, in a major shopping area.
This street is apparently considered to be the oldest shopping street in Beijing. Most of the shops are very modern and rather pricey, but some are old indeed.
Some of the shops begged to be entered, but we didn't really have time to browse. More than that, a 150-year-old silk store is not exactly the place you bring two over-tired children under the age of 4.
I don't know about you, but there's something intriguing about tea that costs $50 for 100 grams. I'm sure that the tea connoisseurs of the world feel very good about spending that kind of money. But us bourgeois mongrels must be satisfied with Red Rose. At least it comes with an animal figurine.
And lastly, we have a shop that devotes itself solely to the purveyance of chopsticks. And why not? Perhaps they offer them in a variety of woods. Teak, mahogany, ironwood and koa. Stainless steel for the germ-freaks of the world. Narwhal ivory for the big spenders? Or perhaps there is a selection for the big-n-tall folks? Miniatures for midgets? Needle-nose tips for those inclined to eat especially small food? Rubber tips for those inclined to eat especially slippery food?
Oh the possibilities are endless!