Tired of China yet? I’ll be honest – by the time we landed in Beijing, I sure as hell was. Let’s count ’em up: a pilot who almost kills us coming out of Hong Kong, a Shanghai guide who doesn’t want to guide, the source of all humidity on earth in the Yangtze River, altitude sickness and food poisoning in Tibet and…oh yeah…someone trying to get me put into a bribery scandal in Xi’an.
Pretty great right? (Yes, that pun was totally necessary). Moving on…
You ever see The Last Emperor? Big-time movie that came out in the 80s? So apparently the kid emperor’s mother was the empress before-hand – she was called The Dragon Lady. She had a deal with the Germans to buy a bunch of boats for the Chinese navy at a rough cost of $24 million. But then she decided to re-do the royal summer palace with the money instead, and basically told the Germans where to stick the boats. So the Germans sold the boats to the Japanese instead – who used them to depose The Last Emperor of China.
Funny how shit works sometimes. But the summer palace looks nice anyway…
On our last day in China, we visited Tiananmen Square. Given its history, I’m pretty surprised that the Chinese push this as a major tourist destination. I was even more surprised when our tour guide shared with us that Chinese people don’t go to Tianamen Square – they view it as a bad place. Yet it was packed with people when we were there.
Finally, the Forbidden City – home of the Chinese emperor. For a thousand years, no one but those the emperor deemed worthy were allowed to enter the city. Now everyone can. In a lot of ways, wandering around the city – even missing out on most of the 9,999 rooms – was like touring a graveyard.
I seriously pissed off a hawker coming out of the City – he grabbed my arm, I shook him off, he dropped his stuff and told me to go fuck myself. Made me smile. Yeah, I have a strange sense of humor.
One last note about Beijing – the traffic is unbelievable. There’s 23 million people living in the city. The government limits the cars, so only there’s only 6 million cars on the road. In order to get a car, you have to have a driver’s license, then enter a lottery to get a license plate for your car. If you don’t have your number pulled, that’s okay – you can buy a registration for $15,000 USD.
But it gets better. Once you’ve jumped through all the hoops and actually HAVE your car, you can only drive it three of the five business days of the week. Two days of each week, it’s illegal to drive your car if your plate ends in a specific number. So, for example, if your plate ends in a 1 or a 6, you currently can’t drive on Mondays and (I think?) Thursdays.
Yet, despite all of this, the traffic is still so awful that you don’t even want to leave your hotel to go to dinner. And coming from the guy who got sick at the hotel buffet in Tibet – that’s saying something.
I don’t really have much of an ending for all of these China adventures, but if you’ve stuck with me for all six posts, I really appreciate it, and I hope you enjoyed yourself. Thanks, and we’re back to our regularly scheduled rants about stupid shit next week!