“…to keep the compartment as quiet as possible!”
I’m sorry if the text seems incoherent, there’s some kind of worker’s march with appropriate trumpet music accompanying it going on beneath my window, and it has been going on for about two hours now. Seems fit, since I paid a visit to the political centre(?) of China, namely the Gugong 故宫, “the Forbidden City”, and Tian’anmen 天安门 today. I also went checking out chairman Mao at his memorial hall, where old ladies were crying in front of his mummified corpse. I felt had to do my tourist duty (“suorittaa matkapalvelusta” in Finnish) and fill my tourism-quota up so I wouldn’t have to do it again for some time. One thing that helped was that there were only three other Western tourists, all men, and an Arabic couple. When they saw me, they felt I’d probably respond well to “Hola, hola! Entschuldigung!!”. 😀 Take heed: this is a very good time to visit the arguably most hectic place in China. At times, I was even alone in the courtyard and there were mainly a few domestic tourists looking around. Such peace! Things learned:
- I’m ignoring the possible consequences of saying this, but for ~3 weeks, I’ve had no bigger dis-eases whatsoever. Not even diarrhea or food poisoning. Nothing. This means that either a) I’m subconsciously a neat freak (hm, shall we say, “bú huì”, unlikely) or b) the lactobacillus juice was some kind of germ-detonating miracle solution or c) the standards of hygiene are actually relatively good overall. And if you’ve been following my journey, you’d know that I’ve eaten quite a bit of suspicious stuff from a Western point of view.
- I feel safer here than in some parts of Europe. The control is not really to be seen in the daily life but it’s strong and underneath the surface all the time, and crimes against Westerners, especially women, give rise to grave consequences, in some cases even a death sentence. I haven’t even been as much as looked at suspiciously. No-one has glanced at my backpack. No one’s even tried to scam me, if you don’t count the regular dark cab driver touts at all big railway stations. (This may have something to do with my tendency to walk heavily and intimidatingly, like a guy. Perhaps they think the “sweet-looking woman” would knock them down? 😀 ) In Gugong and the surrounding areas, however, you need to be careful if someone comes up to you speaking near-perfect English. You should be very suspicious of their almost-native language level. They are usually people involved with organised crime.
- Chinese men have really long fingernails. The white part can be as long as 7 mm. 😀
- When in Beijing, WEAR A MASK. You can tell from the pictures how bad the pollution is. Luckily, this seems to be unique to Beijing. None of the other places I’ve visited had a problem this bad.
I remembered a very nice song composed by Bon Jovi, which I listened to during the train ride here. It fits the situation perfectly, when you’re travelling far from home and don’t necessarily know where you’ll end up tomorrow. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3zcypsjO8o
I was able to upload pictures again!!! Here you are:
The details of the palace architecture are exquisite. Many parts featured phoenixes and dragons. Dragons are seen as protectors in China, and they’re loved and respected, not feared like in the West. I started to wonder where the dragon “myth” originates from. Could it be that in ancient times, dragons were some specific kind of dinosaurs or reptiles that lived alongside humans for some time? Mammoths were too at one point, you know.
Snails are a good omen here.
In Chinese culture, dragons were and are powerful spiritual protector creatures with the ability to control all elements. In the West, only the element of fire has been retained as their protective (or destructive) force.
The Chinese sure know what constitutes “nourishing food”. 😀 😀 😀
Tomorrow I will see my friend who lives in Xidan 西单, and we’ll go see a Chinese movie and have dinner together. This is going to be either absolutely amazing or absolutely challenging (or both), and I’m not entirely sure if I should switch my emotional default setting from “neutral” to “thrilled” or “terrified”. 😀 The switch will probably get jammed somewhere between these two. We’ll see how it goes. Write to you later!