September 16, 2009


VIEW FROM THE PLANE. Smog. All smog. But the tourist guide who picked us up in the airport said it was….fog. Now how is it possible to have fog on a hot day like that? Somebody explain this to me.

PEOPLE. Charming. Wonderful. Sometimes, the sight of half-naked old men on the streets, in the bus, and even in reverential tourist spots, can jar you. But otherwise, I find them Chinese friendly and beautiful.

FOOD. Peking duck was of course the piece-de-resistance. But the rest of the food we ate was just as divine. You can really taste the difference between the real Chinese cuisine and the so-called authentic Chinese restaurants here in the Philippines. And the food is unbelievably fresh. The restaurants we went to- from the neighborhood hole–in-the-wall to the mall-based fastfood restaurant to the exotic Chinese restaurant- all rated 5-stars to me. To think I’m not even a big fan of Chinese food.

TRAFFIC. Makati-ish. On a payday Friday. Prepare for long walks.

TOUR DESTINATIONS: FORBIDDEN CITY. Magnificent. Although I can’t believe the emperors will go through all the trouble of moving from one building to another for office work, socials, rest, etc. when the distance between buildings is hundreds of steps long!

Don’t go there without a tour guide or a tour bus. Never ever.

GREAT WALL. It is so long you wont be able to appreciate it in its entirety. So the pictures that show the breadth and depth of its scope will always look better than the real thing.

TIANANMEN SQUARE. I just collapsed and settled myself comfortably under a tree in Tiananmen as we went there straight from several hours of traversing the Forbidden City. So I never got to appreciate this much.

THE BIRDS NEST AND THE WATER CUBE. My jaw just dropped at these modern architectural wonders. It’s a shame we have no pictures drooling beside it.

MUSEUMS. We went to the jar museum, jade museum and the silk museum, all showcasing the impossibly meticulous way by which the Chinese do their craft. I left the museums amazed at their handiwork and their tremendous patience.

LAST WORDS. I tremendously enjoyed Beijing because of the rich food and the rich culture. But don’t go there during the summertime. Spring is probably the best time to visit. And brace yourself for the long walks and the steep climbs. You should probably train for it as if you’d be training for your first marathon. Or you’d end up like me, wrecked by a vicious flu strain for two whole weeks after my visit. But all in all, it was a magnificent experience.

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