Now we are in Beijing, the political and cultural capital of the world's most populated country. We hear so much about China's emerging economy, and 1.3 billion people, that we did not know just what to expect-and we were happily surprised! The city is very clean and efficient, with big (USA style) freeways, good public transport and everything you could possibly need (and more). The culture is very interesting and you get a real sense of the national pride of the people. This pride was really evident during our visit since China had it's own astronauts in space for only the second time, and preaparations are well under way for Beijing to host the 2008 Olympics- the whole country is excited about both.
This is the first place on our Asia tour where tourists were not given a second glance. The economy here does just fine without tourism, and the people were all busy with their own things. It was a refreshing change for us to be anonymous. But, if we needed any help, the people were very friendly and did their best to communicate despite the language barrier.
Other than some of the top sights, we enjoyed the markets. The variety of goods, foods, and other different things was really fun for us. One market, a five story mall of small stalls called "Silk Street", was where all the bargains were. You could get any brand name- Rolex, Levis, Guess etc for a fraction of the normal reatil price. Of course, these were the famous pirated (knock-offs) goods, but the quality was so high that you couldn't tell the difference. Thanks top these great deals, we were able to get a nice new brand-mname wardrobe for a very cheap price!!
We are not very political people, but you could not help to notice that the Chinese government is targeting the US for just about everything. The only English speaking TV station was government controlled, and the news was primarily about US/China relations. Every time we watched, we would hear comments like "Yet another unfullfilled promise from Washington", and "the US continues to try to stunt China's growth." But when we met people on an individual basis they didn't seem to share these views. I guess there are lots of countries where the government doesn't always represent the people!
China is a huge country, and we barely scratched the surface. There are beautiful mountains, bustling modern cities like Shanghai, and huge swaths of unpopulated land. And at the rate China is growing it will probably look a lot different by the time we get a chance to come back in the future!