It has been more than 2 weeks since I returned to Beijing and to be honest, it already feels like I have never been away. Not really in a good way – not really in a bad way either.
First of all I want to describe the area around my office, because this is where I spent a lot of my time – as many other people too. As I said, the school where I work is, well, right next to the Forbidden City in a place called “Working People’s Cultural Palace”. Wikipedia says: “it is a historic site in the heart of the city, just outside the Forbidden City, where during both the Ming and Qing Dynasties, sacrificial ceremonies were held on the most important festival occasions in honor of the imperial family’s ancestors”. Every time one of my Chinese friends ask me where I work they are usually very surprised to hear my response: You work in a park?? Yes, I do and it is a great place to work in – especially in Beijing. See pictures below:
The park is quite big but the best thing is that somehow not many people find their way there. I guess most people just go to the Forbidden City (to be more precise, around 80.000 a day in summer – they recently started limiting the number to 80000, due to the impact the tourists had on the sites – I guess spit and so forth…).
One word on security… especially around Tiananmen security is very tight. Soldiers everywhere with huge machine guns. You get frequently stopped and asked for your passport. Also entering the subway there is even more of a pain as elsewhere in Beijing. To enter the subway you always have to get your bags x-rayed. The thing is though, that they do xray your bags but you yourself do not have to go through any security check… that means you cannot carry any bombs or knives in your luggage but you can easily just keep them in your jacket… uhmmmm… Anyway, around Tiananmen security is tighter and here you and your bags get checked. When I was on my way to a company meeting I was being told that there was a bullet in my bag!! a bullet?? Well, it turned out it was my USB stick. I also had to drink a sip of my water in front of the policeman’s eyes – just to make sure it was not any sort of liquid explosive – the things I usually carry around…
And this is my new pushbike.
For me riding a bike is the best way of transportation in Beijing. It is fast, you are in charge, you can avoid being stuck in ridiculous traffic jams, no angry taxi driver will shout at you, you do not have to suffocate or being pushed around like in a subway or bus. AND: it is probably the cleanest way to travel around Beijing – apart from walking. However, there are a few things you need to take into consideration:
1. be fully alert when cycling in Beijing. Out of the blue all sorts of vehicles appear from all sorts of directions
2. always keep your hands on the hand breaks… see above
3. try to keep calm even if some &^%* idiot fails to give way – you see I am still struggling with this one
4. always wear sunglasses – even at night – otherwise you get all sorts of stuff in your eyes
One last story I would I would like to mention here is my visit to IKEA. For all of you who have been to IKEA in China (yes, there is IKEA in China and it is VERY popular) you will know what I am about to say…
1) don’t ever go to IKEA at a weekend! I thought a weekend visit to IKEA in Germany would be hell, but this was before my Beijing experience… so yes, be warned
2) and this is the hilarious thing. Don’t think you could test their mattresses and beds because they are already taken by other people who made themselves at home and are fast asleep.