We took the high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing. Let me just say--it is AWESOME. Amazingly clean station, beautiful train, easy trip. At 300 km/hr, the trip takes about five hours. We got the benefit of watching the countryside roll past as we spent the morning on the train. I think I will quote from my notebook here:
"Past unbelievable number of cities, cranes everywhere, building. Every place has 8+ cranes, never just one. Complexes of apartments, not single buildings, but...
"Where does the food come from? The construction materials? Where do they work?
"Also passed thousands of acres of fields--rice paddies in the south, corn further north. All hand-harvested. We saw one (ox? yak?) farm animal, a herd of goats in a field, one dairy farm with no apparent pasture.
"The scale is mind-boggling. Enormous poverty, dirt roads, brand new multi-lane highways that seem to lead to nowhere [and, I might note, were completely empty]. A country out of thin air, made of instant cities."
Over Charlie's shoulder you can see the speed: 304 km/h!
So there you have it. We didn't see small towns, or even big towns. Just irregular, hand-tended fields or enormous cities that you have never heard of.
Once we arrived in Beijing, I finally had that "A HA! I'm in China" feeling I missed in Shanghai. It was only accentuated when we walked down Wangfujing Street, a main shopping district that happened to be right around the corner from our hotel. Check out what one of the street vendors was selling:
|Not exactly McDonald's...|
We ate lunch nearby, but had dumplings instead of seahorses and starfish in a pretty typical dumpling shop:
|Not exactly McDonald's, either...|
|Can you find all the security cameras?|
This is Tiananmen, the heart of communist China. I have many thoughts about this place, but for now, I will share what I wrote that night:
"Walked through [a] city park (Jinshan) and around through park to entrance to Forbidden City, walked through Tiananmen. Awful--in that it feels oppressive, just being there. Cops, soldiers, plainclothes officers everywhere, and cameras. Charlie [Bill's business partner] was visibly uncomfortable. The disconnect with American freedom is profound. The worst place I've ever been."
|One of the People's Buildings. They look exactly alike.|
|Mao's mausoleum, which stands directly opposite Mao's portrait at the Forbidden City.|