Exploring on your own can be fun, but guess what, if you have a ‘partner in crime’ that is just as adventurous as you are, then the search and discover missions will be that much better. Well, I found a kindred spirit, a fellow Jamaican at that, here in China who also waah soak up the culcha.
Kerry-Ann lives near Beijing, so it was the perfect excuse for me to jump on the bullet train (high speed train)…for the first time. What a sweet ride! When you enter the train it feels like you have just walked onto a plane with spacious seats. The seats are cushy and you have nuff leg room. Even stewardesses walk the aisles answering questions or extending help, and offering items for purchase just like duty-free shopping aboard a flight.
I was caught up in the niceties, not really thinking that we could be going at a maximum speed of 205 miles per hour…and next ting yuh know wi reach Beijing. Mih nevvah even feel di movement. I guess it’s like flying, after all the plane a go real faas but yuh wudda tink seh yuh naah move.
Beijing is a real metropolis with nuff tall buildings, shopping, restaurants, and things to do. In fact, there is no shortage of restaurants and food-filled avenues in China. KFC, McDonalds, Sizzlers, Starbucks, as well as Italian, French, German eateries are just a few of the western style establishments here. Of course, Chinese food is plentiful, full of flavour, and inexpensive, so people eat out regularly.
We decided to have lunch before exploring the city. But guess weh wi goh… Pizza Hut. Ok ok, no baddah scold wih for not having Chinese food. You know how it is, sometimes you just crave something familiar. Satiated, we walked down the busy pedestrian shopping area.
Chinese people certainly love to shop! And there are many US/European outlets besides the local shops and stalls. H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Apple, Tag Heuer, and even Walmart are just about in every major city here.
But, walking down the avenue we buck up on part of the ancient Imperial City, a section of Beijing that was ruled by the Ming and Qing Dynasties (starting from the early 15th century). This city surrounded the Forbidden City, or the Imperial Palace. What made the Imperial City so special were the lovely gardens and shrines that still exist today. Surrounded by high walls, visitors would have to go through one of six gates to enter the area that served as the first line of protection for the Imperial Palace.
Walking through parts of the Imperial City was like going back through time. Narrow streets and alleys dotted with tiny traditional courtyard homes harkened back to ancient times. Some of these neighbourhoods, called Hutongs, still exist today with their original buildings still standing, and inhabited by locals. Sadly though, they are fast being destroyed in the name of modern development. But, Kerry-Ann and I had a chance to enter one of these traditional homes.
Calligraphy artist San Yung welcomed us into his space, now a center for displaying his work and that of other artists keeping alive Chinese traditional art. Explaining his love of Chinese ink painting and his efforts to pass on the tradition to young artists, Yung gave us a lesson in Confucian philosophy. And before we left, he served us Chinese tea and wished us safe travels on our journey through life.