Saturday, 14 July 2012

China tour with Akademiska Kapellet, part 2

Time marches on. Ye gods, four weeks have already passed since I got home. I never got very far with the travel blog, but I made a promise, so here comes at last the continuation!

The friday was dedicated solely to tourism. We started out visiting the great wall, or at least a tiny fraction of it located some miles north of Beijing. Another mind-blowing monstrosity of a monument. Crazy big: more than three friggin' times as long as Sweden. And Sweden is a pretty damn elongated country! Crazy old: they started constructing the thing at about 200 B.C., and then it took 1800 years to finish it. How did they come up with such an idea? Some build a wall around their city, sure, that's reasonable, but who cracked the idea "I know, let's build a wall around our entire country!"? And how many times did they get invaded by the mongols while it was constructed? I am thoroughly baffled. Apart from these musings, or perhaps including them, the visit was a pleasant experience. Escaping the smog for a while, observing sunspots from atop the wall, hiking around in an over-priced silly hat. One day I might even show you a picture.

Back from the wall we had a decent lunch ("udon noodles is the shit!" as they say in... wherever they say that) and then visited Heaven Peace Square. Huge, flat place, occupied by a Mao-soleum (nope, that was not the worst pun of the trip), a flag with a guard, and horrible memories more or less successfully swept under the political rug (student massacre, anyone?). Much to reflect upon, even if my reflection-abilities were somewhat diminished due to a combination of reflecting so much sunlight and still having a fever. That might have been a contributing cause to me managing to get lost on said square. I'm almost proud of it. Not everyone would manage to lose their way in such a tremendously flat and empty place.

The remainder of the day also offered a visit to the once-forbidden city. Once again, much to ponder and marvel at. Just a hundred years ago the emperor lived there, ruled there, was served and worshipped ad absurdum there. An entire palace dedicated to the emperor's changing of clothes before giving an audience (in a separate palace)? Totally! Though the forbidden city itself is ancient, all the buildings were burned down by some European douchebags in the 1600's, so they weren't all that old (which apparently was the reason our guide didn't think the forbidden city wasn't all that much to see for us). Still, I'm glad to have seen a place I've heard such a lot about. History feels more real, somehow.

Continuing in the way of the tourist, we also went souvenir shopping in a quarter that gave the impression of being a movie set. More Chinese than China itself, in a burlesque kind of way. Anyway, I quickly became aware of that I have no skills when it comes to haggling, whatsoever. A scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian springs to mind.

No no no, it's not worth ten, you're supposed to argue! "Ten for that, you must be mad!" 

I'm sure I paid at least ten times the worth of most things I bought, before I started to get the hang of it. Even then I most certainly got fooled as good as every time. I'm far too easily-persuaded and well-mannered to be good at bargaining. Not to mention neurotic: the situation itself puts me ill at ease. I'm sure it's an integral and social part of the culture and all that, but not one I appreciate. I prefer the Swedish way of being fooled by large companies or the government without a choice when shopping to being fooled loudly and stressfully on the street. Hah. Am I brain-washed, or what?

There's another absurdity about China right there. Supposedly a communist country, I think I've never experienced such flourishing capitalism.

With that reflection, I leave this travel-blog for now. To be continued...


1 comment:

  1. Oj, det har verkligen hänt mycket sen jag var där........ Smog...... De enda fordon som for runt i Beijing var bussar och en och annan taxi, samt tusentals cyklar. Vi hyrde cyklar att ta oss runt med....... Det är ändå bara 26 år sedan.....
    Jag kan rekommendera att se filmen "The last emperor", de spelade in den när jag var där. Då förstår man ännu mer, får förklaring till sånt man sett o funderat på......