Friday, May 8, 2009

Things I'll Miss About Beijing

Since there was no clear runner up in the voter's choice contest, I'm tossing up a quick post about things I will miss about China, specifically Beijing, when I return to the states.

1: Cheap Food
This shouldn't come as a surprise to ANYone reading this. I love that I can get a delicious, filling, multi course meal for between three to five dollars. Nothing beats taking your girlfriend to a restaurant for a classy, upscale dining experience and spending ten to twenty dollars.

2: No Lines Anywhere!
This may sound counterintuitive, but since I've been here, the only queues I've seen are in locations where queuing protocol is STRICTLY enforced (read: where people are actually herded by physical obstacles). Everywhere else, it's every man for himself. At first, I found it annoying when I'd be standing right in front of a ticket counter, money in hand, only to be jostled out of the way by someone who wanted their ticket a little more than I did. Once I embraced the Zen of "no lines", I started to LOVE it. No more waiting in line at airports, ticket counters, etc. All you have to do is rush to the front and push your way through. This applies for buses, subways, taxis, ticket counters, airline boarding gates and food stalls.

3: Not having to listen to everyone's asinine conversations all the time
This isn't unique to China. It really applies to any place I visit that has a non-romance or germanic language. There is something freeing about not having a damn clue what anyone is saying around you. When a language resembles one I am familiar with, I find myself listening to conversations instead of taking in my surroundings. I don't have to worry about that here. Also, it's great when two masseuses talking about neighborhood gossip isn't annoying and turns into a kind of soothing white noise instead of shrill harpy calls.

4: Cheap Public Transport
Again, not culture related, but man do I love taking the 30 cent subway and 15 cent buses here. Splurging for cab means a base of $1.30 with most rides clocking in at around $3.00.

5: Street Food (and street vendors)
While similar to cheap food, I'm putting street food in its own category. This is simply because it is a completely different breed of street food than the food carts in Philly or New York. In my neighborhood, you can create a whole meal by stopping off at a few carts or store fronts. Get your dumplings at one place, kabob veggies at another, a drink at a third, some pastries for desert and you have the best of all worlds. When it gets warm out, tiny chairs and tables are set up on the street and people eat and drink with their friends. I would LOVE if there were places with free outdoor seating that didn't care if you brought food from other restaurants back in the states.

6: The Variety
Beijing is a gigantic city. In the few months we've lived in this apartment, multiple businesses have closed and opened on our block. New restaurants, new stores, etc. I literally have the choice of four supermarkets within close walking distance. I have the option to go to about eight salons/barber shops. There must be a dozen or more "Tea, Wine and Cigarette" stores within a kilometer radius of our building and probably just as many fruit stands on the street. We've got a KTV (Karaoke) within a few minutes of our front door and probably a few dozen restaurants. I know this is indicative of any large city, but Beijing feels particularly varied. Oh and its surprisingly clean too. I haven't had to deal with any doggy landmines of the caliber you'd find in the art museum area in Philly.

Is that really it? When I started writing, I thought that list would be longer...