Beijing

March 31, 2010 - Fukuoka, Japan

Well (Bei)jings, crivvens, help ma boab!

So...like...Beijing is the current capital of China. The capital was relocated tae Beijing fae Xi'an by Kublai Khan in the 13th century. At aboot that time, Marco Polo established his famous mint sweetie business here writing in his 'The Travels' - 'Mamma Mia...Beijinga very busy-a...lotsa peeps a-kicking aboot-a the place-a....is a-crazy'. Later, Ming the Merciless lived in Beijing and Flash Gordon and him used tae chase each other aroond Tian'anmen Square. Re-supply of Flash's costumes lead directly to the creation of the silk road. Flash Gordon built The Great Wall of China, himself, one Saturday afternoon when he was feeling a bit fidgety, starting just North of Beijing. The Qing Dynasty wound down the last days of Empire here, holed up in the Forbidden City, culminating in the reign of The Last Emperor whose name wis Henry and who occupied the Imperial throne for at least half an hour. Latterly, notorious dictator and hat designer, Mao Zedong, proclaimed the establishment of The People's Republic of China in Tian'anmen Square announcing that the flag and national favourite colour of China would be red in honour of Flash Gordon and his achievements. Flash famously wore red underpants. Protests about the complusory wearing of red underpants infamously erupted into violence in 1989 when the army drove tanks over people sleeping in tents in Tian'anmen Square...over young people, mainly students, sleeping in tents. Thousands died. The international community feigned disgust but China escaped meaningful censure. Red underpants are big business. The Olympics were held here in 2008 amid much unfurling of ribbons and exploding of fireworks. Flash Gordon invented fireworks. Some of the preceding statements are actually true.

 

Jacs and I get here early on a Tuesday morning and are plunged intae the madness o rush hour, train station people traffic. Eftir pacing aboot a bit and deflecting the attentions of the locals who might be either trying tae help or rob us, we loup in a cab a get whisked tae the hotel where we stay put all day. We're both now choked wi the cold and cannae be arsed daen anything.

Wednesday we're feeling funky and decide tae get tae grips wi the subway system, making oor way tae Qianmen at the Southern entrance tae Tian'anmen Square. Through security and we are ontae the square which is...a big public square, fenced off and ringed wi sodjers. Theres a big fancy gate at one end, Mao's mausoleum, some pillar and a lot o red flags in the middle, a museum on one side, the Great Hall of the People on the other and the entrance tae The Forbidden City at the far end. Spitting on or littering Tian'anmen Square will get you shot. Jacs and I wander aboot for a bit, soaking up the atmosphere, and then I decide tae fire in and hae a look at the pickled corpse of the deid Chairman. Jacs disny fancy it so I hand over my camera and phone and charge in. After a thorough frisking in the security room, they make ye take yer hat off and yer warned tae shut the hell up and then ye are free tae enter the mausoleum. An entrance hall wi loads o flowers and a big white statue o the boy greets ye and then ye slowly file intae the viewing chamber. There's Mao, very deid, very pasty, draped in a red flag in a coffin in a glass case in the middle o the room. Ye get aboot 5 seconds tae look at him afore yer oot the other end and back wi the living. I dinny ken enough aboot him tae pass judgement on the boy, likes. Just a wee, deid man noo though.

We head over and intae The Forbidden City. Above the entrace there is a picture of Mao in happier days. Forbidden City is cool. Gets pretty same-ey pretty quickly though. Ye just fire through one gate eftir another tae be presented wi 'The Great Hall of Preserving Harmony' and 'The Palace of Heavenly Purity' wi various statues and thrones and the likes in them afore ye hit some weeish buildings at the back just full of vases and bowls, presumably 'The Wee Hooses of Accumulated Bullshit'. A couple of hours and we've seen enough and are spat oot the other end ontae a main road, across fae which there is a park wi some temples on hills from which ye get a braw view back owr tae The Forbidden City and can get an idea o the size o the place. It's massive. We come oot the other end of the park and take a walk north-east slightly where we find a fancy wee street wi nice shops and restaurants and even a few pubs. We get some scran and then walk up tae a subway station and head back to the hotel.

Thursday we fancy The Summer Palace which is North of the city centre a bit. An oot o date guide book combined wi confusing subway station naming conventions mean that we take longer than we should have tae get here. Also we wanted tae get a boat through the city up tae here but when we got tae the terminus the lassie just said no deal. Presumably because nae another living soul in the entire city fancied the boat option. That tells it's own tale probably. Anyway we get there eventually and how very pleasant it is all temples stuck up on a hill around a big lake with bridges here and there. There is a boat made oot o marble. Story is - back in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century - China wis being run by a woman. Emperor Qing Xianfeng had croaked in 1861 and Cixi, his favourite bit of tail, had borne him a son who was installed as Emperor despite being a mere nipper at the time. Cixi wis effectively in charge and for the 25 years o the laddies' life she was effectively pulling the Imperial strings. When her son died o syphillis she installed her nephew as the new Emperor, chucked the poor fella in jail (for some reason), and continued tae rule. Cixi was quite the lover of the extravagant gesture and she had the Summer Palace restored since it had been burned doon by the British during the Opium Wars (talk aboot a guilt trip as yer walking aroond the place - wee signs saying 'This building was once the most beautiful in all China...until the British burned it to the ground'). In the course of the restoration, Cixi, had commissioned the building of a boat made entirely oot o marble that would just sit in the water looking all boatey and marbley. What wisny appreciated at the time wis that the dosh she was spending on all this stuff was coming directly from the funds intended for the Imperial Navy. Consequently the navy was skint and when it came tae defending China fae the invading Japanese in the 1930s - they were a bit short and roundly beaten. Did a marble boat alter the course of Chinese history? Possibly. Anyway it's still there - and very nice it is too. As we're wandering aroond the palace this Chinese fella comes up and asks if we can help him with his English? We agree and he says he has discovered a phrase in English that he can make no sense of and can we help, at which he hands us a piece o paper on which is written 'I'm a nice guy...but I'm no Mother Theresa'. Jesus what a hard thing to explain tae somebody. Fella didny even ken who Mother Theresa wis or what a Saint wis which didny help. Quite funny oor efforts at translating. We think he got it...on the other hand we might hae confused him further. Och well. At night we find a nice restaurant doon the road fae oor hotel and finally get roond tae trying the 'Crispy Peking Duck'. Fantastic.

Friday we have tae take care o a wee logistical matter. Namely organising an exchange voucher for a Japan Rail Pass. Bit of a crazy arrangement but ye cannae buy these things in Japan. Ye have tae buy an exchange order in a foreign country which ye then...well...exchange for the actual pass once ye get tae Japan. Ye have tae buy the order fae the airline that ye are travelling tae Japan wi aswell so we have tae try and track doon the Japan Airlines office, which is way out on the East side o town, and head there. We actually find it fairly easily and get the order. Dancer. This pass, though a bit pricey, should save us a few bob on the trains when we get tae Japan and gie us quite a bit o freedom. Since they are all super-duper, fancy-shmancy trains in Japan, individual journeys can cost a tidy packet. But once ye have the pass ye can jump on and off as much as ye like and ye can also use it on some buses and ferries. We are quite chuffed we managed tae sort it oot sae easily. We get oor timings a bit goosed though and end up trying tae make oor way back to our hotel during rush-hour. Man, I thought rush-hour Shanghai wis mean. Beijing is meaner. Standing on the subway platform we have to let five trains go past before we can even manage to squeeze ontae one. Man they are packed oot. Unbelievable. Ye just cannae contemplate having tae dae that everyday.

So Saturday we get up early and make oor way up tae the bus station tae get bus 919. Bus 919 heads oot tae Badaling aboot 90km North o Beijing where there is a section o the Great Wall of China ye can climb up. Bit confusing initially where tae get the bus and some dude tries tae tell us we've missed them all and he'll take us in a car for a decent price. He is of course talking bullshit and the buses are leaving fae just aroond the corner. Man, ye gotty take yer hat off tae the Chinese for trying tae scam and rip off tourist at every possible opportunity. Onyway we get the bus and an hour journey takes us tae the wa'. About 10 minutes before ye get tae Badaling ye hit the mountains and can see some sections of the wall fae the road. What a thrill it is first clapping eyes on the thing. Badaling is a bit o a tourist circus but 40 rmb gets ye up on the wa', thats aboot 4 quid, and ye can walk a section aboot 3km long. Christ, it's steep. It goes shooting up the side o a mountain - some of it stairs, some o it just a steep path - and it's a pretty knackering hike. But man, once yer up there....it's incredible. We seem tae go past a point that most folks stop at and end up having aboot half a kilometer o wall nearly tae oorselves. There is another white couple and two Chinese guys and that's it on this whole stretch. It's no a bad day and ye can see for a fair distance (though it is a bit parky up there mind) and...jingseroonie...it's just goes on and on. Noo ye hear things putting this wall down. Like - it's a myth that ye can see it from space and that most of the tourist sections have been rebuilt in the last fifty years. Who cares, man? I couldny care if it wis only finished last week...it's outstanding. What an achievement...a wall like this along 6000km of mountain ridge. Naw...the naysayers can go and boil their heids like...The Great Wall of China is without doubt one of the smartest things I've ever seen. While we're up on the top bit I remember that I've got my Scotland top on under my jumper (my last clean T-shirt) so get Jacs tae take a photae o McP on the Great Wall in the navy blue. Quality. When we start tae get a bit on the cauld side...it's time tae scurry back doon the wall which disny take that long and then we buzz in for a KFC, hae a quick look roond the museum and then back on the bus tae Beijing. At night I have tae wash some clothes in the sink. What a day eh? Great Wall of China in the afternoon...washing yer scants in the evening.

Sunday and McP's bum goes on the blink. Scoots I'm afraid folks. Noo...we had dinner in the hotel restaurant last night and I don't reckon it was that. I did, however, buy some beer oot a shop up the road and drank two cans o that while listening tae Sportsound's 'Open All Mics' on BBC World Service. Like a damn fool...I drank them straight oot the can and I reckon this was enough to ensure I spend most of Sunday in and oot of the bog. Nightmare. I also harbour a suspicion that the beer might hae been oot o date. Och well...there ye go...nae permanent harm done. That's China for ye. Yer only ever one careless gulp away fae bacterial dysentery. So that wis Sunday goosed.

Monday is oor last day and we jump on the tube out tae the Temple of Heaven which is...a temple. I think we've been here too long, man. There are only so many temples ye can look at. It's cool enough though I suppose. We actually even try and go see another one straight afterwards, the Yonghe Gong Lama Temple in the North East of the City but when we get there at aboot ten past 4...we discover it shuts at 4 despite oor guidebook saying it is open daily until 5. I get a bit annoyed at this as oor guide book has let us down on 2 or 3 things noo. We went tae go tae a restaurant a few nights ago that just didny exist. Or had perhaps been bulldozed. Either way...let this be a warning tae anybody thinking o coming tae China wi an out o date guidebook. The place is changing so fast, even 2 years makes it painfully inaccurate. Tae compensate oorselves for having came oot this way...we go doon tae the Pass By Bar, a funky wee bar/restaurant on Beijings funkiest street, Nan Luo Gu Xiang, which is near where we are, and hae a pizza. Oor last night in China and we're having pizza. Well...tae be fair...Jacs has meatballs.

Onyway that wis that. Taxi whisks us tae the airport at 5am the next morning so we can take oorsels away tae FUK. By this I mean Fukuoka on Japan's Kyushu Island. FUK is it's airport abbreviation which should provide a rich seam of humour for the next blog entry. I know, I know...ye've never heard of it. Me neither but it was the cheapest flight we could get tae Japan.

So...last words on China? It's largely dirty, smelly and totally mobbed. It's also bloody cheap and has some well smart stuff in it. The bustle can be quite exciting sometimes. I must add this though...the spitting! Come on China - is the spitting absolutely necessary? Everybody and anybody does it. Men, women, kids. It's no just a piffling we 'ptoo!' aswell it's a big raking 'AYUCHHHGR....PTOOO!' ontae the pavement, subway platform, Great Wall of China....anywhere is good. How that can be construed as acceptable behaviour in any culture I fail to see.

The staring too. That gets a bit wearing eftir a bit. I understand though that we whiteys must still be a bit of a novelty in China as some people are just blatantly amazed when they see ye. Ye actually do not see many other Westerners at all. Outwith the major tourist spots that is. Ye try yer best tae just ignore it but there are sometimes, if yer in a bit of a mood, being jostled aboot on a packed subway platform, where ye are resisting every urge in yer being tae go 'What the fuck are you looking at?'. Even that old Scottish rebuff...'Wanting a photae?' widny work because, in some cases, they actually do. We've had oor photaes taken a couple o times. Seriously. It's a mad place this. Definitely worth visiting though.

Oh and one final thing. Fair play to Jackie Chan for managing tae advertise everything ye can think of in China. We've seen him selling watches, shoes, hair-dye, fizzy juice. He's everywhere, the Jackie Chan. Must be making a killing. Gaun yersel son.

So. Enough already. I'll write again once I get tae FUK.

Awrabest.


Pictures

Castro on the Wall
Jacs and Mao's Mausoleum
Forward Workers
Gate at Tian'anmen Square
 
 

3 Comments

sab:
April 1, 2010
I enjoyed reading your blog, funny. It made me laugh out loud, brilliant. xx
elliot Mather:
April 2, 2010
Sounds super braw, apart from the dysentry which doesn't sound super braw.

I'm trying hard to think of a FUK pun but failing....hold on.....
May 18, 2010
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