“Beijing and adulthood – I have arrived” Post from Kimchi With Eish!’s Donghae correspondent

18 Oct

I am proud to announce that Kimchi With Eish! has spread its wings and is now represented in another corner of kimchiland.  Willemien Jansen is a fellow South African that I met and befriended at our EPIK orientation.  Even though she lives about 3 hours from Daegu in a small town on the east coast of Korea we kept contact.  Willemien went to Beijing the time as I did but unfortunately in a country with no Facebook it proved impossible to meet up.  The difference between our China trips was that Willemien booked it through a Korean tour operator, whereas I went solo.  I was interested in her China experience as we basically saw the same things but our means was completely different.  Willemien told her story to Kimchi with Eish!

 

Beijing and adulthood – I have arrived

by Willemien Jansen – Donghae correspondent.

In September we had Chuseok (추석) here in Korea; Korean Thanksgiving. It’s a little three day holiday, but because it fell in the middle of the week this year, some of us were fortunate enough to get the whole week off from work. I decided to spend my time wisely and go to Beijing.

So on the Monday I made my way to Incheon. I live in the countryside which means this is a bit of a trek. I decided to sleep over in a guest house so that I wouldn’t have to worry about making it to the airport on time. I booked with a tour group of foreigners in Korea. On my own, just because I can. Booked my own room in the hotel and everything, because I’m not really one to share. Anyway, Monday. I open the guesthouse door and immediately start giggling like a twelve year old, because it is pretty and comfortable and fancy and I paid for it myself. I’m actually staying in a gorgeous little guesthouse instead of a crummy backpackers. I had the same feeling the next day when I walked into my 4 star hotel room in Beijing. I walk into this luxurious hotel room in a foreign country on a tour that I paid for with my own money and went on by myself, and I think: I’m officially a grown-up. I have arrived! Never ever will I ever budget travel again. Never. Rather save a little longer, make the trip a little shorter, see fewer things. Because in actual fact that is fine, since everything starts looking the same after a while anyway.

 

Beijing itself was cooler than I ever anticipated. We only had three days, so our programme was crammed and exhausting, but absolutely worth it. We went to all the important, touristy places: Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and of course the Great Wall. It was a beautiful and fascinating, but China also had a public holiday so everywhere we went, it was packed. TOO MANY PEOPLE. I actually laughed on the inside at the Great Wall (after I freaked out of course. Because seriously, I was at the Great Wall of China! ME! WTF?!). There were so many people that we actually had to queue to climb the wall. And then we had to queue on the wall. And I just thought to myself, people are really stupid. Here we are like a herd of sheep (or cattle? Some form of livestock) being chased into a cage, just so we can climb up a bunch of stairs to say that ‘I was there’. If you really think about it, it makes no sense at all. But I also waited and stood in line and climbed so that I too could say ‘I was there’. And I was. And it was awesome. Not as awesome as it could have been, had I gone to a less touristy area, but pretty amazing none the less.

 

We ate the most delicious Chinese food (which is way better than Korean food, by the way) every day and we saw too very cool performances. The first night we saw the Flying Acrobats and the second night The Legend of Kung-fu. The acrobats were better than any circus act I’ve ever seen and The Legend of Kung-fu was a spectacular combination of kung-fu, ballet, singing and other forms of dancing. I absolutely loved it. I was mesmerised by how these people could shape and move their bodies. Talented, these little Chinese. And really little. I couldn’t actually tell if most of them were children or adults.

We also went to a jade factory, pearl factory and a famous shopping market where you can buy anything you can think of. Obviously most of the merchandise is stolen or “fell” off trucks. I treated myself to a beautiful D & G trench coat. Of course, only after the saleswoman grabbed me by the arm and basically violated me and forced me to buy it, but at least she gave it to me for a good price. We had two hours to shop, but I didn’t even last for one. Too many people trying to get more for less or sell less for more, and I can’t do it. I just can’t haggle over prices. It’s not in my DNA. Then I’d rather just buy nothing. I’m probably overreacting a little bit, but there was something very unethical about the place. I actually felt dirty when I stormed out of there (and I really did storm). Salespeople are trying to exploit buyers and buyers are trying to exploit salespeople, while everyone is trading in merchandise that definitely break a handful of laws in every country or are made by children in sweatshops. I know I’m a huge hypocrite, because I bought all kinds of nice things and the reason I had to leave after only an hour was because I had no money left (I do love to shop…), but oh no, never again. Then I’d rather just buy my clothes at Mr. Price.

 

What I liked about going on my own, was that I made a bunch of new, interesting friends. Not that I really tried, being the shy introvert that I am. I was actually sitting in my little corner, thinking that if not a single person talks to me on this tour, that would also be fine. But I’m glad they did decide to talk to me, because I’m pretty sure it would not have been as much fun otherwise. On our last night, we were sitting in the hotel bar, drinking G & Ts to a great tour and great new bonds, chatting like we’ve known each other our entire lives.

 

Beijing turned out to be such a pleasant surprise. It was clean and neat (the areas I saw, anyway) with nice trees and except for the tourist areas that were really busy, the streets looked peaceful and quite. It’s a lovely city and I hope I have the opportunity to go back again someday.

 

Cheers from Kimchiland!

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2 Responses to ““Beijing and adulthood – I have arrived” Post from Kimchi With Eish!’s Donghae correspondent”

  1. Wilhelmina Jansen October 18, 2010 at 22:14 #

    Yay me 😉

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