To Beijing and Back

A few things intrigue us from our childhood and ‘The Great Wall’ was one such thing for me. It has always been my wish to lay my foot on it one day and so when I got an official travel offer I made up my mind to visit it IMG_2230somehow. But it turned out that my travel had to be for just a few days and so I just had one Sunday (the day of my arrival in China) to make it to the wall. Undeterred I made a plan to visit it as soon as I landed. My flight landed at 8.30 AM in the morning and by the time I reached hotel it was 9.30. The entire journey from Bangalore to Beijing lasted a day as there was a long wait at Singapore. My colleague accepted to accompany me to the Great Wall and we left off at 11.00.

The temperature outside was -4 degrees Centigrade and this was my firstIMG_2233 in a sub zero temperature. And it was further low near the mountain containing the wall. Couple that with huge chilly winds on the top and I
was almost shaking. Lucky that my colleague advised me to get some warm clothes for rent at the base and I was saved.

I liked everything about it, the history, the present state and the 2 hours IMG_2235walk uphill and downhill on the wall. It is not a single wall as what people usually think it is, even after Shankar’s Jeans. It is sort of a solid structure with walls on either side, one of them being higher than the other and facing the enemy territory. There were also place for the soldiers to be grouped and hidden, watch towers too. Another point that is usually missed is that there is enough space for 10 people to stand side by side on top of the wall structure with the walls protruding on the 2 ends.

Yet anther fact that I came to know was that a male is considered ‘Man’ if he is able to walk the entire stretch of the Govt renovated wall up and IMG_2244down and believe me it was not an easy task. What carried me on was the enthusiasm I had for it. The wall is steep with steps in many places and in some cases no steps even and to walk stable on it in a freezing temperature is worse enough. I couldn’t get how someone could fight after all this and why would someone else try to climb over it to capture the other side.

It was 70 kms one way and so the task was much simpler. I might have visited it even if it were far away than that. I got a granite with ‘Kayarvizhy’s’ name engraved on it (in Chinese too with the help of my colleague)

Otherwise I didn’t move around Beijing much. I felt it more like India and liked the place very much than the deserted Irvine (US). It looks like 6-8 years ahead of Bangalore in everything. The apartments were like 40-50 floors high and dense. Land is a scarcity there and there was no new apartments to be had anywhere close to the city. They had ring roads (5-8 levels atleast) running around the city. Too many taxis take care of your transport needs and most of them were Hyundai Elantra. The Bus connectivity also looks good.

Food was my favorite. I ate almost everything that was put forward and since my colleagues weren’t the extreme types they did not go for snakes or scorpions but resisted themselves with Chicken, Mutton, Beaf, Goose, Duck, Octopus, Dog and a few similar items. Everything that I ate was good and far far better than the Chinese restaurants in India and Irvine.

Olympic city was coming up for the 2008 session in Beijing and I still do not understand how they could lay their hands upon such a big area at the heart of the city for constructing such big stadiums.

People were looking good and mostly similar.

US and us

This is my second visit to Andover, Massachusetts, US, but much longer than the earlier one and thus enabling me to look more closely at the people and their customs.

The first thing that strikes anyone from India will have to be the quality of roads and the driving pleasure here that is almost non-existant back in their city. The single most astonishing fact was the adherence to the traffic rules and regulations. I was amazed and it was not just staying behind the line when a RED is flashed in traffic signals, but respecting the STOP signs put everwhere and following a simple but effective protocol on who should move next. Even in the middle of the night and with no one around people still follow these rules almost regularly and as a habit. The roads are damn good and what more, even roads already in excellent condition are being maintained regularly.

The other striking thing that I noticed was the weather report. Not only was it surprising to see so many people interested in the day’s weather, but more so to note that the weather predictions are BANG right on target. When they say, it rains, and winds come and go as predicted with utmost accuracy in their speeds and timing. What more the channel predicts weather for the week ahead. I cannot smile when I think of our weather predictions for the next 24 hours that miserably go wrong.

The way unknown people greet you with ‘Hi, how are you doing today?’ is another unique thing. The first time around, I had a doubt that the person might be familiar to my colleague, but then I learnt to do the same. It felt good.

Work wise, I was in for another surprise as people rarely stay late and by late I mean 8.00 PM. People usually leave around 5.30-6.00 PM and when we go to the car parking at around 10.00 PM (average time that we leave) we find that there are just enough to be counted with our fingers,and the place usually holds close to 250 cars easily in the mornings.

Food was a weak point for me but that is highly subjective. I am not complaining because for the type of food that I expect I will have to bring my wife with me! Every type of Non-Veg was available albeit in a different flavour from Chicken to Lamb, Fish to Shrimp, Turkey to Beef, Pork to what not. I did have a great time in a restaurant called ‘Bollywood Grill’, ‘Mysore Veggie’, the later especially as it was run by a tamilian from Karaikal and had some original ‘Sada Dosai’ and ‘Pongal’ varieties. The surprise in American restaurants was that we have to wait in the entrance while a server/waiter will guide us to the table.

From what I have seen, the americans look a lot more planned, but monotonouly so. We even joked that if we were to upset their planning they might not know exactly what to do then.

Of course, don’t take this post as some measure of my patriotism, it has nothing to do with it. This is a view of an Indian who happened to visit the US and sharing the same.