Saturday, 11 August 2012

Last Day...

Can't believe that today is the last day of the trip; it's three and a half months since we set off, and here we are, at the opposite edge of the world, wondering where the time has gone. In reality of course, we have done so much in that time and covered so much distance, but we have kept moving forward and in doing so, have lost any sense of placement. It is a really weird feeling, because although we  know we are in China, we could actually be anywhere in the world as the usual reference points that serve as spatial boundaries have changed, and no longer mean much.  Maybe that is because we rode here rather than flew, and absorbed the changes gradually the further we went, thus avoiding the culture shocks that often occur when you fly.


Both of us had travelled extensively before this trip, but this time round, we both feel totally displaced. That's not good or bad but it is very definitely an odd feeling, and it is hard to put distance into perspective as a result. Its a bit like money; spend five hundred quid and it's easy to understand but spend five or fifty grand and it sort of starts to loose meaning as the boundaries start to change.

Anyway, enough of the thinking stuff and back to what we did today on our last day in Beijing. Nadine was a lot better this morning, although not totally recovered, but was well enough to go out, albeit that she was very tired. So we tubed it to Tienanmen Square (we would normally have walked) and went to a nearby market where we found all sorts of interesting toot. Why is it that foreign toot is so much more intriguing than the toot back home, especially as it's all made in China anyway?   So we spent a couple of hours wandering around, being shown all sorts of things we didn't want to buy like knives and suitcases, haggling with stall holders over things that we did, and picking up several small bits and pieces to take back home for people.

Then we wandered back via the city gates to the tube station, where the melon man was doing his thing, the same man tried to sell us the same kite that he has done every day this week – we're not sure if he really doesn't recognise us because we all look the same or he is just pushing his luck. Either way, we didn't buy it because we already have one.

The same people were asleep in the tunnel under the gate, in the shade, just as they were when we passed by earlier in the week. I'm assuming that they have moved in the meantime, but you see so many people asleep in public places, that it's entirely possible that they have stayed put.

We also watched a wedding party arrive as we left the hotel; the car was parked right outside and all done up with flowers. It really struck me how western the bride looked too – white dress, bouquet, hair all done up etc. There was no signs of any Chineseness about any of it - apart from her features and the car rego.  It was clearly quite a posh wedding and I wondered why she'd gone for that look as opposed to something more traditional. It  was the same with the wedding that we accidentally gatecrashed last week in the Legation Quarter; the whole wedding party – bride, groom, guests, cars, flowers, clothes - looked like they belonged in Central London or down town Sydney.

There is clearly a thing here about mirroring western styles in just about everything, but the Chinese are so clever in the way that they go about it. They don't copy but adopt, assimilate and then tweak to fit in with Chinese ways, a sort of imitate and infiltrate approach. And it works because everybody does it - it's not just a big city thing. They seem to have total confidence in themselves as a nation, and they have no qualms about nicking ideas and repackaging them as their own but they do it subtly; western clothes, western haircuts, goods, bands, sports, goods, TV etc – they' re familiar to us on the surface but all have a Chinese touch about them, and it is very impressive.

So now we're back in the hotel, our bags are packed – except for the carry on stuff - we've checked in, got our seats, and we're ready to head back to London. I'm a bit concerned about our additional luggage though – we've paid for one extra check in bag and are allowed one piece of hand luggage each, but there is the small matter of our bike helmets. They are too big to go in the carry on, and I'm not paying for another bag, so it could be that we have to wear them. Watch this space.......

Just a little bit more from this evening...
Raining in Beijing tonight. Ventured out for a some local scoff which was OK but not great, then stopped off to get this guy to put a protective screen on Nads's camera. Bless him; it took about 15 mins, he did a great job and charged us just two quid!!