Tag Archives: Chinawithkids

The contrasts of Beijing

We decided to go into town the first day and visit Tiananmen Square. We went 5 days after the 25th anniversary of the massacre.   Took the airport train.  Quite impressed by how easy and modern it all was, thanks mostly to the Olympics.  Then took the subway. Ridiculously cheap and crowded.  Airport style security checks each time you enter. People pushing you everywhere. Only stroller in sight, only foreigners in sight and only children in sight.  Hmm… feeling we probably should have taken a taxi.

We arrive at the station and head to Tiananmen square.  Massive!  One of the biggest squares in the world (880 m by 500 m). No western tourists anywhere, no shops, no hotels, just a big open space. Huge image of Chairman Mao and screen showing images of China.  Security checks to enter by very serious soldiers. In fact, soldiers everywhere watching you.  Very intimidating atmosphere. Should we even be here? Google is blocked so no reassurance.  The sun is beaming and the only shade comes from an ice cream van and we head there as Dylan is asleep.  Within seconds we have hoards of Chinese women and some men surrounding us. They speak among themselves, point at us, take pics of the kids, keep speaking to me despite the fact I am absolutely clueless!  A man tries to sell Mark a Chairman Mao watch and gets annoyed as we didn’t want it, and even more annoyed when he takes a photo of it.

We head off to Silk Street. This is where they sell the knock-offs sold in the China towns around the world.  Gucci, Rolex, Ralph Lauren, etc. We had no energy to negotiate for anything so just had a look around.  Went back to the Golden Phoenix for some chicken and rice and off to bed confused and humbled by this country. Completely underestimated the culture shock.

After this experience I was intrigued to see modern China.  Everyone talks of the new rich Chinese taking over the world. Who are they and where do they go then?  We ended up at Sanlitun Village which is the “it” place in Beijing. This time the train had quite a few foreigners and ex-pats. Relief. Still got bustled around a fair bit.  Very trendy; all the Chinese covered head to toe in designer wear. They all speak English, they wine and dine. Very polite. Had a fantastic lunch paying western prices though. Dylan had a blast running through the fountains with the locals. Mark said this could have been anywhere but I disagree. For me this could have been anywhere in a capitalist country but not the communist China in my mind.. Pleased we have seen this side.

On reflection, for me, Tiananmen Square is a metaphor for what China stands for: Grand, intimidating, strict and no smiles going around,.Who needs English or tourists? People are busy at work reaching world domination and making money to spend at Sanlitun Village.  Better learn Mandarin for the future!


A day in Shanghai

After a turbulent flight to Shanghai we arrived as the sun set and the neon lights were coming on. Took the fastest train in the world – the Maglev – reaching speeds of 430 kph (250 mph) so 8 minutes we were in the city. Taxi was another story as they had no clue where we were trying to go. You say “Hyatt?” they look at you, say “Hi?”, complain and drive off. After about 15 failed attempts of being understood I stopped some girls and had a few attempts at pronouncing the street name. It’s all about the intonations. First time they went “ahhh yes that is about an hour away” – Hmm I knew we were close so had a second go of pronouncing the same word and this time “yes that is 15min away”. Result! We finally got a taxi to take us to the right place.

Next day our heads were spinning from so many crazy and different things happening. So much to do and very little time so we just walked around a where a decent sidewalk would take us. Have to say the sidewalks were pretty good for prams so walked miles.

Headed to the Bund – the main tourist strip with great views of Shanghai’s iconic city skyline. Shame about the smog. It really is so bad that most pictures end up completely overexposed. A guy asked me to take a pic for him and it was just white background. He wasn’t happy. Many tourists preferred taking pictures of Jonas and Dylan again.


We then went to old street and passed a few random places as we couldn’t really make ourselves understood – best part ever watching daily life unfold, people eating and spitting – oh how they spit, cough, snort, spit again etc.

Many weird, wonderful and cheap things but we were too overwhelmed. We only bought a purple lizard you put in water and grows. Not the latest invention but its what Dylan wanted and cost around 10p.

Fortunately we will be back in China in a few days. I am sure Japan is even crazier.