After two weeks in Japan, I left Tokyo for Osaka. I took all Nippon Airways (ANA) flight NH141 from 07:35, one hour long. After another hour of connection in Osaka and three hours of flight, I arrived in Beijing at noon. From the airport to Central Railway Station in downtown, I took a bus for RMB 16 (USD 2) and went straight to the hostel. Before I got a little lost walking through the giant city blocks and dragging the weight of my luggage, which wasted a lot of time. After all, as I did not trust the Chinese, I avoided taking one of the many rickshaws who insistently tried to sell their services by the door of the bus. The taxi from the airport would leave for RMB 100 to RMB 120 (from USD 13 to USD 15).
I confess that I was a little shocked to see so much poverty, beggars and other poor people trying to make a living selling little things at the train station. Even knowing this fact before coming to China, witnessing was somewhat disgusted, after all they were my compatriots, even though they did not have much bond, the origins are the same. In Brazil, Asians aren’t usually that poor.
The hostels and most things in China are cheap. After through research on the internet had chosen the district of Dongcheng (pronounced “don-tchen”, the final “g” is always silent) east of the Forbidden City. The location of the hostel looked good, next to tourist attractions and shops, the accesses were all on foot, eventually subway or bus.
The New Dragon Hostel left for RMB 40 per night (USD 5.13) plus USD 2 reservation. It took a lot of work to choose this hostel.
Compared to Japan everything here was very cheap, and even compared to Brazil. My dollar yielded a lot here, USD 1 was worth almost RMB 8 (called Yuan or Remimbi, the “people’s money”). But unlike Japan, there are thousands of Chinese in the streets, instead of Japanese! Imagine that almost everywhere in China is like walking on the packed Rua 25 de Março in downtown São Paulo.
At night I went for a walk on the famous Wang Fu Jing Avenue, a boardwalk where shops and a night market full of exotic foods, such as scorpion skewers, locusts, seahorses, snakeskin, centipede, sparrow, cocoons, etc. That night I had no courage to eat these things, who knows in another day, after all I had to satisfy my anxiety and curiosity, it was a matter of “tourist honor”.
Beijing, which means “Capital of the North” is the current capital of China, and was for more than 800 years capital of several dynasties, was spelled Peking, but the pronunciation in Chinese-Mandarin is the same. It is one of the former capitals of China, being the second most populous city in China, with 15 millions inhabitants, behind Shanghai, which will host the 2008 Olympics. It is also a city full of history and culture, as well as being the political center of the fastest growing nation in the world today. It is located northeast of China 1 hour from the coast. In Beijing the buildings are modern, tall and beautiful, their architecture mixes concepts from the West with the East.