I think the only efficient and effective way to talk about my huge long trip is basically to summarize everything in one post about each place.  I'm going to start with Beijing because 1) I feel like it and 2) I have a cool movie that I took to post and 3) I haven't loaded my HK pictures yet.

First, the movie:

I took this inside the Summer Palace.  There were a couple of old Chinese guys using huge brushes to write poetry/sayings/essays on the grounds of the palace.  Since the grounds are so clean, flat, and of the right kind of stone, they were able to "write" on it with water, which dried up and disappeared as they wrote.  Very beautiful.  My favorite part of the movie?  Where some asshole steps into the frame and I have to walk around

his fat belly to get the rest of the line.  Silly person.

So, here's a summary of my thoughts/experience in Beijing.  Let's start with the bad stuff, then move onto the good stuff:

1. Mainland Chinese people hate HK people and vice versa
It's true.  Mainlanders feel that HK people are spoiled, rich, rude, Westernized brats.  This view is essentially true.  HK people view mainlanders as backwards, dirty, rude, uncouth Neanderthals.  This is also kind of true.  You're talking about either side of a huge spectrum.  HK on the one hand looks and is like a place straight out of Minority Report.  Many places in China don't really seem that different from the poorest parts of Africa.  You're taking about the gateway to the East for England and therefore the Western world–one of the most modern cities on this Earth versus a country that closed itself off to the

world after WWII.  Anyway, the bottom line is that if they find out you are from HK, you can forget about politeness and good service.  They hate your guts.

2. As a result, the service in China SUCKS
I think the waiters and waitresses would FAIL even a McDonald's test for courtesy and service.  I mean, I recognized that I was part of a tour from HK, and people from HK are the devil, but really.  A little smile or even acknowledgment that I asked you for a clean teacup would be nice.  Instead there is sooooo much 'tude that you can feel it on your face.  Also, when you ask for even a clean place setting or for another tea pot you are greeted with a complete blank stare.  Niiiice.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), I don't think they would treat white/Euro/American tourists like that.  Also, everyone smokes and I hated it, but that's my own issue.  I mean, they have ashtrays in the bathroom stall.

3. It looks like Capitalism, and it tastes like Capitalism, but is it freedom?
The answer is: No.  I'm serious.  I mean, yes, you can buy everything from a Big Mac to a

Da Man
Tiananmen Square

Canon camera in China, but let's not forget that this is a country who's government just recently allowed it's citizens to own PETS.  Can you imagine if the leader of your country dictated to you how many children you can have and whether or not you can own a dog or a cat?  It's difficult to see these details as a tourist, but really it's apparent if you look a little closer.  Those kids you see in the streets have to go to a required course benignly called "Government" which is where they are told that Communism is the best thing since sliced bread and that capitalism and democracy are bad.  Basically a brainwashing class.  And freedom of speech?  Yeah.  There ain't none of that.

4. Face.
Chinese people really care about "face" and "saving face" and basically showing off. 

Beibei and Jingjing
Fufu, Yingying, Nini

With the up and coming 2008 Beijing Olympics, all efforts have been put to cleaning up the city, restoring all the ancient sites for tourists, and making people change their bad habits so that Chinese people don't look bad in front of the international audience that is quickly approaching.  There are fines for spitting (a very common bad habit for Chinese men) and there are many many street workers constantly picking up garbage.  The city is VERY clean and there are a pittance of beggars and unseemly folks.  There are also army personnel everywhere.  You do the math.  My mom's friends were in Beijing before they were bidding for the games and the toilets in the Beijing airport were still essentially holes in the ground and you didn't have to ask where the bathrooms were because you could just let your nose guide you to the stench.

5. What are you afraid of?
I know everyone is "afraid" that China is going to take over the world,

but after visiting Beijing thusly making huge sweeping judgements about the entire country, I'm going to go ahead and say China has a LONG LONG LONG way to go if they are going to become a "world power" and stay a world power.  Perhaps they will become a power soon, since they have such a trade surplus and they are buying economical power.  But it will collapse astoundingly if changes aren't made to improve the conditions of the rural towns and for the poor people.  And entire country can't survive on just 4 big cities.  Nobody wants another USSR trauma.

Whew, okay.  That stuff was harsh, and political, but that's how I feel.  I realize that it's unfair to judge an entire government and country through a 5 day visit to it's capital city, but I am influenced what I know from history and other personal stories from friends and family members.  Other bad things include: the insane pollution and smog, the amount of people there is psychotic.  I mean, talk about a busy city. Although seeing as I flew there after being in HK for 5 days, it was comparable if not less crowded.  Anyway, let's move onto good stuff:

Man.  Chinese food is good.  Which is good.  Seeing as I eat "Chinese" food practically everyday, and I have done this for basically my entire life.  (If you leave out the time in boarding school and college where I was subjected to salads and scrod.)  I mean, it's funny when people ask me, "So….do you eat Chinese food EVERY DAY?"  "Uh…yes."  I mean, yes I am American and yes I live in the USA.  But that's just the thing.  I live in the USA where it is multicultural and ingredients for Chinese cuisine are available.  Also, my parents are Chinese.  And duh, from the age of 0-16 I ate what they cooked, which is the food that they are used to eating and used to cooking–food.  The food of China.  But yeah, the food in Beijing was pretty good.

No soup for youFreshwater fish, steamedHand pulled noodles

2. Ancient Chinese art/relics/site are AMAZING
I mean, the pictures speak for themselves.  It was so educational and fullfilling to see

history right there under your

feet and in your camera lens.  I took over 300 pictures and movies.  It was beautiful.  Completely mind blowing to think of how people could have created art/structures like that over 600 years ago.   The Great Wall was completely and utterly off-the-hook.  And we went EVERYWHERE.  I mean, basically every single touristy vaguely historical thing that may be/is worth seeing, we SAW.  For sure.  It was 5 days of 7am to 11pm touring of complete exhaustion, but it was awesome and worth it.  Luckily, the traffic in Beijing is so bad that we got to take little 30min naps inbetween sites.  Yay…traffic.

3. Clean city = nice
I realize the cleanliness of Beijing is a direct result of the Olympics, but hey, at least it was clean!  I mean, it was nice that it wasn't competely and utterly

dirty and disgusting.

4. Chinese men are exercise more contol/are repressed

One of the things that came to my attention, when comparing this trip to the times I was able to travel around Europe, it that European guys have no qualms about whistling at you, cat-calling you, etc. but Chinese men do not.  All they do is just stare at you with sometimes a creepy expression on their faces, but it's not overt and if you didn't look in that direction, you would never know.  I guess this is a positive thing?  Whistling/cat-calling seems like an objectification of women directly to their face.  Not a fan of that, I have to say.

5.  I saw a kitty in the Forbidden City
Yes.  I did.  And I look pictures:

Kinda dirtyBye kitty!Kitty in the Forbidden City!

Yeah.  So…ancient Chinese history = good.  Communist/tyrannical oppression = bad.

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