Thoughts: Getting lost in Beijing, China.

Thursday, 27 May 2010
11.07 pm, Beijing


I’ve got House on in the background. It’s hilarious, true, but I’ve never warmed to the show. Then again, give me the DVDs and some free time, I’ll probably be hooked on it in no time.

It’s just past 11 pm and I’m in Beijing, wondering what on earth to do with my restlessness and insomnia. I’m in a hotel – I love hotels, especially when everything’s paid for and I have unlimited internet. Still, I’m getting slightly stir crazy. I spent most of today indoors because it was rainy and gloomy. The few times I did pop out, it drizzled all over me, which I hate.

This city is confusing. I kind of love it. I kind of hate it. I love it because it’s new and for that reason, exciting, fun to explore and observe. I hate it because even though I’ve been here long enough to feel familiar with my little part of it, I still haven’t really warmed to it. I feel sort of like a comfortable alien. Funnily, that’s what they call foreigners on the arrival card: “Aliens”. As in, “Aliens must keep their passports with them at all times”.

House is acting gay. Funny. Damn, I think I’m liking it.

Beijing is vast. It really is. Everything about it is huge… Well. Except the people. But even they are not as small statured as I thought they would be. It is as if they are trying to catch up with their environment. You travel the city on massive wide open roads that are pock marked with fancy cars and lined with monumental buildings. Alleyways hide smaller shops and ugly apartment blocks, but on the main roads, there are only these immense, impressive structures. Some of them are post-modernistic masterpieces; yet others look British and colonial; and yet others are just big.

House is talking about ‘jumping’ someone. Ick.

Anyway. Getting back to the city. So Beijing is kind of beautiful. But despite its aesthetics, it never hits that point where it strikes you as warm or inviting or protective. Everything seems to have a scale and measurement to it – like the endless avenues of trees, which have been planted, grown and trimmed so that they are exactly the same height and branch out at exactly the same point. The people seem really expressive with each other – you see young lovers everywhere, holding hands, cuddling and with their hands in each other’s back pockets as they walk down the streets. It’s nice, but I still don’t feel part of it. I still feel alien. I’ve never quite felt that way before, even in a new city.

I think it’s because it all feels so… man-made to me. I guess one could argue that beautiful cities of Europe are just as man-made, but the buildings of Italian cities like Genoa (the only part of Italy that I’ve visited, unfortunately) are ancient and radiate warmth and beauty. Beijing is impressive, but new, cold, hard and tough. You can get lost in the artistry and beauty of an Italian city. You can’t get lost in Beijing, unless literally. You can stand in awe like I did – take a thousand pictures just to get the scale of the place to show your friends, you can admire. But you can’t get lost.

…I’ve more to write, but that’ll have to come later. I’m still not tired, but House is distracting me and I’m going to have to give in.

Oh, in two days I’ll be 25. Scary.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Gehan says:

    House is a very good show actually, the character development and Hugh Laurie’s performances are brilliant!

    Also, wow Beijing? I have heard similar stories from my friends who have been there. I always assumed that the tales of it being an ‘artificial’ city with as you say ‘man-made’ beauty were just stererotypical western views. Perhaps I was wrong.

    Enjoy your stay, and happy bday in advance!

  2. magerata says:

    Beijing never really caught my heart except the old structures. If you have time escape to north where Ming Tomb and of course the great wall is.
    It will be nice to say, (when your are forty, Gasp :) that you climbed the great wall and bicycled Hutong, the old city, before you were 25 or just about then.
    Throw the house crap in the garbage ‘n get out, Beijing is super plastic and concrete with neon added during the nights.
    Happy 25th milestone, I will get there someday! :)

  3. Jack Point says:

    I can’t stand House, it seems completely unreal.

    Can any doctor in the US (or anywhere else) get away with even 10% of the cheek HOuse shows his patients? I

  4. thebohemiangypsy says:

    Thanks JP :)

    As for House, I don’t know. There’s something there to love about such a cranky old guy. It’s the fact that he does get away with it that makes us slightly in awe and jealous of him! That being said, it is still not one of my favourite shows.

    Have you seen Nurse Jackie though? Now she is a much more believable character. She’s this fantastic nurse who is better than most of the doctors and is the lynchpin of the entire hospital – but she is also addicted to drugs and cheating on her husband. It’s a brilliant show. You should check it out.

  5. Belated Happy Birthday Gyp. I guess Beijing feels cold and distant due to the “disciplined” upbringing of communist generations. Beijing is much better than interior China where you feel as if you are being tracked every minute of the day. There is no romance or emotion in the air like Europe – people are too busy going about their life, not many people have any time for a park-bench-romance unless it’s a festive-eve, I guess. But, but, but, I luurrrve the food…

  6. thebohemiangypsy says:

    There were couples *everywhere* in Beijing, which I thought was really nice. I don’t really know what I expected but I didn’t expect such a free environment. What you described the rest of China to be like is more how I thought it would be. I didn’t enjoy the food too much to be honest but I have to admit, I wasn’t too adventurous for fear of being served dog or cat :P But from what I did have, I much, much, MUCH prefer Sri Lankan Chinese food!!

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