A BEIJING WELCOME
I just left Japan where I was wowed by my first international destination experience. I then went to Hong Kong where my familiarity with the New York in your face personalities made me feel right at home. Now off to Beijing, China this was going to be a short trip. You hear so much on tv about other countries from only one perspective. I appreciated the valuable lesson China was to teach me. As I got off the plane I was a little hesitant I felt like I was truly alone. All this stuff you hear on tv between US and China makes you think you want to get in and out of the country. I found out all of this hysteria was far removed from the truth. So I arrived in Beijing hailing a Taxi at once. As I leave the airport in the private car late that evening, it sort of looks misty outside like the MJ thriller video. Signs appeared to be brightly lit but there appears to be a smoke screen over everything. To intensify the settings even the street lights weren’t on each street corner as i’m accustom to, definitely darker in comparison to the US. I definitely was curious but feeling cautious about my chance to explore the world within this country. I get to the hotel the staff greeted me openly and they were extremely friendly. I go to my room and get settled in and do what every American does to get ready for bed, i go to check Facebook. I notice I can’t get in, what has life come to without Facebook. So I go to bed since my social media won’t work. When I wake up I get breakfast at a great buffet in the hotel and just observe my surroundings. The staff was very courteous and respectful. So I head out still no social media available to use, but this was definitely a blessing as I was able to really observe my surroundings in greater detail. I see billboards of basketball stars and notable places like KFC, and Nike. Surprisingly if you really look around Beijing has a lot in english. While I was staring at the signs I could not help but feel the stares on me. Everyone would look, but they weren’t mean about it, they glanced in a way as to say they have never seen something like me before. I definitely feel like a foreigner but I smile, they smile and then I continue to my destination.
On the way I took out some cash so that I can visit the Forbidden City. On my journey there, this young lady stops me and ask me if i’m lost. As a tourist I have prided myself of always looking like I know where I’m going. I told her yes, (haha) I’m looking for the Forbidden City. She says “I can show you where it is” (all in english). She ask me where I’m from, I tell her I’m from the US. She then explained more about her culture and said she was a teacher at an art school and gives me a tour of her building and her art. You can’t get in the building unless she badges you in. She lets me ask a lot of questions and she gave me some art for free. It wasn’t just any art it was the art where they paint images inside a bottle. I felt honored to be given such a gift. To make things more interesting she took me to the Forbidding City paid half my ticket and gave me a tour while explaining the Forbidden City in detail. She also acted as my interpreter to take pictures with the locals as they would tap me for a picture. I swear I took about 20 pictures with people, I felt famous for the day. She finally left to go home and we agreed to meet later that day. My next experience was with an Iranian in China, we strolled the city and he talked about his challenges, concerns and what he likes about China. Then we dived into more stereotypical comments about each culture. Which was interesting because here I was eliminating thoughts from the media about China, while being educated by someone from Iran about his country. This wasn’t planned this was all random through Couchsurfing hangout app I use to hang out with fellow travelers in each country. Last but not least the night came and before you know it I was triple booked for the night. I had plans to meet up with the art teacher, plans for a cooking presentation dinner and plans for dinner with two new friends that also came up and met me at random. I took the plans with the two friends to tour the city with locals. We did everything we drank wine, they treated me for dinner we did karaoke and ended the night with a foot massage place. In fact i had so much fun and was out so late that I missed my tour of the great wall, which is why I went to China in the first place. The trade off was I had a chance to experience and interact with the people more. My consensus of China after all 18 of the countries I’ve traveled is that it is the friendliest country or rather Beijing is the friendliest city out of all the places I’ve been to. No country was even close in comparison I can’t wait to go back and visit all of my new friends.
Stay tuned for more of my travels!