When I landed in Beijing in November, there was a uniformed man waiting for me as I got down the stairs exiting the plane from Taiwan. The uniforms were basically long maroon coats; a style I hadn’t seen in Taiwan. He greeted me and led me through the airport to a guy who would take me and a group of others to the hotel. As we were riding the escalator, he asked me:
“Is this your first time in Beijing?” So I responded:
“Yes, this is the….eighth country I’ve been to, and the second Asian country.”
“Second Asian country….” he repeated, chewing over my response. I didn’t even realize my faux pas until days later (Repeat after me: Taiwan is China! Taiwan is China! Almost as bad a thought crime as mocking Mao, talking about Tibet, or waving your flag on TV).
My first impression of Beijing as I rode in a taxi from the hotel, was the size of the buildings and streets. Beijing, a city with almost as many people as Australia, is big.
The view from above was fascinating to me; both because the mountains appeared more “Western” than those of Taiwan (perhaps because Beijing is so far north), and because everything was covered in snow. Beijing has, as I learned on the airplane on my outbound flight, not had such low November temperatures since 1970. Cold it was.
Tourists, presumably from other Chinese provinces, explored Tienanmen Square taking photos with selfie sticks. The architecture is vastly different from Taiwan. Everything is widely spread out, and the buildings look much more traditional. As I walked down Imperial Avenue, I noticed that the music coming from the shops (selling everything from candy to Western style clothing) fit my idea of traditional Chinese music, rather than the American pop music and “old people” Taiwanese music I’m more accustomed to hearing.
I was interested in the statues (below). I suppose they’re supposed to depict the Mao’s proletariat in a dignified manner. I think they succeed in that…but only because they are aristocratic. They seek perfection.