Archive for April, 2017

Beijing Friday!

April 25, 2017

I can’t believe that this time next week I’ll be back in China. I’ve gone through all the fun and games of re-obtaining a Chinese visa and I have to say, the process has improved incredibly since the first time. No longer is it a case of jumping into a moshpit of middle-aged mainlanders, crammed into a tiny building built alongside the palatial mansion in Toorak. Now there’s an actual centre – similar to getting cashback from medicare – with a good 10+ counters and 2 dedicated to paying. And amazingly – the form you download from the Chinese visa centre’s website matches the form required! The future!

After much indecision, I’ve settled on a cheapish hotel not too far from Wanfujing street – just east of the Forbidden City. It’s in a different part of the city than I was in last time but still in one of the primary hutong (traditional chinese courtyard homes) areas. In fact, I am keen to return to where I stayed last time as that area was also primarily hutong but I read after we left that much of it was earmarked to be bulldozed. This was extremely disappointing to read as they’re beautiful areas, but unfortunately the reality is that the quality of living within the hutongs leaves a lot to be desired.

It reminds me of these large blocks of residences in Shanghai – just a block or two back from the Bund as you head inland. These were wonderful places on the outside – at least 5 stories high and jam-packed with tiny homes. Clothing hung from wires, neon signs extended up their outsides. When you walked past them, you’d see bicyles and old Chinese characters painted on the walls – literally as if plucked from a movie scene. But like those in Beijing, the quality of life in these places was abysmal. The last time I saw these, I remember looking down on them from a neighboring apartment which we had rented for the weekend and could see only a few lights inside. As is typical in China – there’s always a few stubborn residents unwilling to move until the place is literally falling down about their ears. I suppose if you were that person, forced to leave your home of decades only to be moved to  some non-descript highrise far from the city, far from the place you know as home, you’d feel pretty much the same.

This time next week i’ll be in Beijing, and man I cannot wait.

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