June 12, 2018, Tuesday
As we entrusted the children to grandparents and set out on a long Chinese journey, we realized how comfortable we were even on the plane. Unfortunately, we would have had a lot of trouble if we had been on this long trip with three little kids. However, this situation has forced us to make many preparations in advance. For example, we had to download VPN and WeChat beforehand, so we would able to see the kids every day as many social media platforms are blocked in China.
Thanks to a new airport built for the Olympics and even the smoothness and order in the visa office beforehand, the first impression that China leaves is that it is quite clean and very comfortable for tourists. The first impressions of the enormous and widespread capital city of Beijing were very different from my expectations. Of course I knew that China had developed, built and grew at such an incredible speed, but I was not expecting so many skyscrapers, top-end luxury cars, haute couture fashion houses . Luxury cars have taken the place of bicycles. Capitalism is everywhere. Wangfujing Street is an example of this situation.
Nevertheless, the street food buffets where they serve unexpected creatures such as scorpions and octopuses can be interesting for local and foreign tourists. The scorpions, which are fried alive are still moving on the skewers. I did not see anyone eating them. It is simply animal torture.
Our guide tells us that everyday 1 million people come to work to Beijing and return to their home outside the city or to the rooms they share with others (travelling for hours). The children are looked after by grandparents in the villages, and parents in big cities see their children once a year during the Chinese New Year.
Following recommendation for dinner, we went to a restaurant called Dadong on the 5th floor of Jinbao Palace. As I do not eat meat products, there was not much choice for me, but my husband ate the famous Peking duck and he quite liked it. As for me, for the first time in my life, I've had jasmine ice cream. The taste was very light and at the same time magnificent. I would definitely recommend it. But I must say that prices are equivalent to London. In fact, I found everything in Beijing to be more expensive than I expected. All kinds of souvenirs, craftworks and food are on par with London. The health system is among the most expensive in the world.
June 13, 2018, Wednesday
As people who suffered from great difficulties, poverty and injustice, the Chinese attach great importance to money. Making and saving money is at the core of everything. On top of that, they have superstitions. For example, they try to put the figures they believe to be lucky in every aspect of their lives (car plates are an example). They do not even use the number 4 in the lifts as they believe it to be unlucky.
They respect the history of the empire and the works they left behind and protect them with great care. But now they are more proud of being a people's republic. They claim that the power is now in the hands of the people, even though it is a system in which the rulers and governors are not elected by the people through any type of voting system.
Of course we could see how the emperors had showed off their power after visiting the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace built by the Dragon Lady (Empress). Nevertheless, the layout of these constructions are unique in architecture, craftsmanship and ornamentation. I was very impressed as a teenager by the film the Last Emperor, and it really excited me and made me happy to see where the real story took place. But I can not help but mention the tourist crowd. It's almost impossible to take a nice photo.
In fact, the communist regime is blowing the trumpet like the empire. All the state-owned buildings are huge. With Tiananmen Square being the largest square in the world, one million people can be accommodated at the same time.
Everywhere we go, we see that Chinese people are constantly eating and snacking. According to our guide, there is no systematic health insurance and pension in the country. In marriage, the boy has to pay for the girl. The bride then has to look after her parents-in-law when they are old, and to meet all their financial needs and desires. The children are not looked after by parents, but grandparents. Meanwhile, parents work long hours in big cities and live in single windowless rooms, and use common toilet and bathroom with others. As soon as leaving the Beijing city center, ugly, highly reinforced concrete and residential buildings emerge. They are very similar to Istanbul actually.
We had dinner at a restaurant called Huang Tin in The Peninsula Hotel. The atmosphere was very nice and authentic, and the food was good too. Prices were again equivalent to luxury restaurants in London. The Peninsula Hotel was filled with brand stores such as Chanel, Valentino, Versace and more. It is difficult to grasp the type of communism in China.
June 14, 2018, Thursday
Finally, thanks to the rain yesterday, clouds and air pollution left their place to a blue sky in Beijing, but at the same time to a burning sun and a sweltering temperature. However, it was better to go to the Great Wall in these conditions than any other.
It is impossible not to be impressed by this magnificent structure and to remember it for life. Besides, the beauty of the mountains and the greenery near Beijing make this region even more impressive and unforgettable. It is not surprising that it is really considered as one of the seven wonders in the new world.
When we stepped out of the Great Wall and went to the Olympic Village, we could understand better that China has had so many deep and powerful periods in history, culture, technology topped with hard work and strength for thousands of years and that it continues today. It's almost impossible to hear noise or see garbage and pollution on the streets and roads of this 23 million people city, full of cars and buildings. After our traumatic experiences in India, I was not very hopeful of China, but China has been quite different. Much cleaner than European cities like London and Paris, Beijing is much quieter than South Asia and other major cities like Istanbul. It's amazing what they have achieved despite this huge population.
Hutong’s are narrow, old streets and neighbourhoods and it is a pleasant experience to go around them in rickshaws. There are still big and rich families living here (the property values are very high in Beijing), but the majority still have no toilet. People use the public toilets and bathrooms in Hutongs. Young people do not like this lifestyle anymore and are trying to get out to newly built living quarters, but the elderly are staying put.
June 15, 2018, Friday
Beijing Xi Railway Station
We spent the last day in Beijing visiting the Temple of Heaven and Earth, which was established over an area precisely four times wider than the Forbidden City. The temple, which is really beautiful and architecturally wonderful, was built only for the use of the emperors. It is a very educational place to thoroughly understand Taoism and the place of women and even animals in Chinese culture at the time. It is also easier to understand that in the history of mankind all belief systems and rituals are likely to have been intertwined with each other, as we can even see similarities to single Godly religions, even in Taoism.
We are going to make a 5-hour journey towards Xi’an now. I must state that the business class on the train is very comfortable. It was also nice to see that the outside of the trains and platforms were cleaned with great care. Even in the streets, street cleaners do their job with great care and pride, frequently emptying the rubbish bins and constantly washing the streets with water. Toilets are usually clean, but they do not keep toilet paper or soap. It would be handy to be prepared.
I think Beijing is an easy city for tourists probably thanks to the Olympics. There are English signs everywhere. Travelling is made easy.
Another point I should mention is that Pekin is the colonial name of this city. Beijing means the North Capital and the Chinese prefer this name. Unfortunately, the name of Pekin is used in Turkish.