I’m happy to say that my first impressions of China are all very positive. I really did not know what to expect coming over here, and when people asked me what I thought this first leg of the trip would be like, my normal description was that it would be “an experience.” So far this statement has proved true, all in the best ways possible.
Almost everyone we’ve interacted with thus far has been helpful, friendly and generally quite polite. Granted, the concept of personal space is much more claustrophobic compared to back home, but it has not been an issue. In terms of friendliness, Kyle and I had a few difficulties finding the hostel upon arrival, and an extremely helpful concierge from another hotel led us half the way to our destination to avoid us getting lost. I’ve also noticed most Chinese people are friendly partly due to fascination with the pasty white colour of my skin (never thought that would be a plus), and the lightness of my hair. I was stopped a total of three times today to pose with various groups of Asians, including a man in his twenties, a group of women who looked like they had just spotted Brad Pitt, and even a three-year-old boy being pushed into the frame by his mom. Apparently I’m a celebrity in Beijing and didn’t even know it.
Man is it ever cheap over here! Canadian money can go a long way if you know where to go (we’ve been using our Lonely Planet guide quite a bit). The subway costs approximately 30 cents per ride, Kyle and I had a full meal of dumplings today for only $3.80 each including a beer, and entrance to most attractions is a few dollars at most. Our total spending for a full day of sightseeing was just over $10. Not bad at all.
Beijing is a massive city, and while most attractions are quite centralized, it does take a while to walk from place to place. That being said, each place we visited today was completely worth it. Top of the list, however, would be the “hutongs” to the north of the Forbidden City. These are basically a series of winding alleyways complete with quaint shops and cafes.
In short, so far so good. One thing I will never get used to is seeing someone hork up a snot ball and spit it out in public, but as long as you steer clear of the line of fire, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.