The Flag of a Billion People

Kinda like the chinese way of writing 北京. Quite a harrowing experience to go to 北京 for work. Yeah I just gotta love using that word. Partly because pinyin is not installed on this laptop so I can’t type in chinese. As sucky as my mandarin is, I’m pretty surprised that I managed to get by decently, at work even. I could speak to hotel staff and cab drivers. One cab driver said my 普通话 is not bad. I also really prefer to speak in proper mandarin instead of singlish. I dunno. I guess it’s less confusing to speak properly in one single language instead of being all jumbled up and not expressing yourself accurately. So yeah, I conclude that I can live with proper chinese, even the kinda official sounding chinese that they use (official compared to SG colloqualism).


What is 北京 like? It is like a big place with lots of cars and tall buildings. Big wide buildings that look out of the 80s, if you can image singapore in the 80s. Well, it is after all the capital, and very historical and cultural, unlike the money-ed shanghai. It is smoggy as its geography dictates. It has very few bicycles. It has a fair amount of young trendy people, iphone-totting and dressed up (kinda). Tons of american brands, fashion brands. Still very foreign influenced.

The dinner, as you can see from the few photos, was surprisingly modernist, fusion, and really nice. I mean, nicely fusion done. Not bizarre tasting, not too traditional tasting, and really yummy. I don’t often like chinese style cooking. The peking duck was elaborate and special. I was astounded my colleague had not tried it yet, and that the two locals have not tried this version too. Well, thanks for bringing us to such a nice restaurant (frankly it looked no better than Crystal Jade, but service was good). The sea cucumber was bizarre but not bad, I don’t usually eat it.

I didn’t put up photos of the company and lab. But well, it’s pretty decent. I mean, it’s china, but decent enough.

I had a harrowing time getting cabs. Oh how I dislike taking cabs in a foreign country. It makes me wonder if it is similarly agonizing in Singapore. I kinda commiserate more with foreigners now. To someone who is unfamiliar with local customs, it is tiring to have to figure out what is an appropriate fare, whether the driver is leading you somewhere else, where to flag down a cab if there isn’t a taxi stand, how many damn surcharges, whether the idiot knows where your hotel is, and whether any cab will even come down this road, plus avoiding touts at touristy areas. I think having a good reliable trustworthy system in place will go a long long way towards attracting tourists. Serious. Having a difficult to use transport system will really discourage me from leaving the hotel to spend my money. I wouldn’t mind paying slightly more to have a peace of mind. I propose having literate cab drivers who speak decently, clear fare structure with integrated surcharges and receipt system, clear taxi stands with bouncers if necessary and plentiful taxis. It’s worth it. Or else have premium tourist taxis and you can dump the cheap crazy ones for locals. It was so crazy that even local-sounding chinese had such a difficulty getting cabs, and resorting to mrt or walking during peak hour, that locals in private cars regularly offer to pick up people for a price. Bad system. This was the most tiring experience of my trip, and I did it alone. Mrt is less scary. I suppose it was made all the more difficult because I took the first one during peak hour and waited an hour inside the hotel instead of going to the street, the second one at closing time and down a side road because I wanted to avoid the touts, and the third one on a busy street. Adventure! I’m still safe, and have not had any problem in all my trips.

Tiananmen Square. What struck me wasn’t the square itself, nor the monuments, nor the significance of the place. I was more intrigued by the crowd – the ton of chinese tour groups around. Wow. 99.9% chinesey people, hardly any foreign looking ones. I mean, I know asians can all look like chinese but I did hear many of them speak China-y chinese, various accents notwithstanding. It’s impressive. It’s impressive how many ‘locals’ come to Beijing for tours, how it can be a new sight for them too, how it is a tourist attraction to them too, how far away their home is from Beijing too. It might be a 6 hour flight for me, but some of them probably took longer train or bus rides to get here. Isn’t it? I marvelled at how many of them queued to view the Mao Ze Dong memorial, at how they bought little PRC flags, at how they viewed the flag, the memorial, the square, the Forbidden City. I was just a not very appreciative young man and to them it meant much more. There were some folks who were more country, who held small simple cameras, there were those modern ones with big cameras, there were idiotic ppl offering photographer services using a small point and shoot camera, there were school groups, families, people in tour group uniforms, caps, flags, stickers. It seemed like something no respectable singaporean would care for anymore, unless you were going to like somewhere incomprehensible like Korea. Crazy. There was a lot of security, but things were generally orderly. I believe I’ve seen too much India, China seems okay now. China is way better than India. I respect that. I am glad I am chinese and not indian, or american. The entrance to the Forbidden City was guarded by a few uniformed guards, and a few other plain clothes younsters who looked unarmed other than with their fists. Bizarre. China was also about young couples, about spoilt brat childs (seriously crazy one), about young families, about old grandparents. very intriguing. One child was like trying to get the attention of the parent, like beating the parent, or something. I heard another like “why are you ignoring me (what i said), why aren’t you caring for me”. crazy kids. ridiculous even. reminds of something i heard at Far East Shopping Centre.

I wish China were more majestic. It has the potential to be. It has a history and culture that it could wave in people’s faces and be bombastic about. Singapore doesn’t. It’s something that has to be earned. China is now mired in a cesspool of fervent hurriedness and imitation and desperation that lacks quality. It lacks quality like how it could be, how the Forbidden City could be exquisitely built and designed, like how it doesn’t need to try so hard to be cool, like how my hotel room furnishings looked great in idea, less so in reality and usage. You look at China and you can think to yourself, this place has potential, it could be better, it could be It. When I look at India, all I see is, how messed up and hopeless these people are.

I think Beijing has this majestic feel, like it is the tip of the iceberg. Something that Taiwan or Taipei wouldn’t have I think.

It was a good trip.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.