5 Shit Things About Beijing – To Go Or Not To Go
Beijing isn’t your typical holiday destination. With its lack of gorgeous beaches, great weather and scenic walks (the Great Wall being the obvious exception), it’s hardly people’s choice.
Nonetheless, there’s always been something mysterious about china in my mind. A world super power, home to the worlds largest population, with a recent history of communism, mass famine and two civil wars, why wouldn’t anyone want to pay a visit?
Ok ok, it’s not all that appealing I know. But in some weird and twisted way, it’s those very things that make it worth while. Sometimes you just have to leave your comfort zone at home. After all, that’s what travel is all about, right?
It’s all good hearing about a place, but the best education is to see it for yourself. Besides, Beijing receives some 4 million tourists a year, a figure that has grown by 15% since 2004. Even more reason to check it out!
While China’s capital city is worth a visit, it really is a world of its own. Here are 5 shit things about Beijing…
1. Pollution Is Literally Sickening!
The most noticeable thing when arriving into Beijing’s PEK international airport is how bad the infamous pollution problem is. As my flight descended into the capital city’s airspace, I quickly came to the realisation that the thick grey mist surrounding the aeroplane wasn’t cloud. To my disgust, our severely hindered visibility was caused by an abundance of pollution.
We’re all familiar with China’s environmental conundrum, it’s no secret. And as it turned out, according to a BBC report during my stay, the smog was at its worst in many years. It was so bad in fact, that domestic flights were being cancelled as I arrived!
Why So Bad?
Today, most products we purchase are made in China, largely owing to cheap labour costs (around 1 million people in china live on less than $1 a day). What a lot of people don’t realise however, is that the packaging in which our products are housed is shipped back to china for “recycling”.
Essentially what this means, is that China is a global rubbish dump. Roughly one third of Chinese cities are surrounded by rubbish tips.
According to the Guardian, over one third of waste collected by British local authorities is shipped back to China. And while the majority of waste is recycled, polluting rivers in the process, around 20% cannot be recycled and is burned, contaminating the air.
It is estimated that there were over 2 million premature deaths in China attributed to poor air quality in 2013. It’s no surprise then that the retirement age of blue collar women is only 50!
The pollution is so bad that after a few days in beijing, you’ll likely develop a cough and even feel quite sick!
2. The Great Firewall Of China. YouTube, Facebook & Google Are Banned.
With some 3,000 websites and online platforms banned in China (with the exception of Hong Kong and Macau), Social media and websites familiar to most of us living in uncensored societies are unavailable.
China have their own versions of social platforms (such as WeChat and Renren). These are however no good to those of us that want to connect with our extensive list of Facebook friends while temporarily passing through China.
While such platforms are blocked by China’s great firewall, it is still possible to gain access to such online platforms as you would at home! All you need to do is download a VPN on your device, and your good to go! See A Brief Guide To Beijing for more on this.
3. Security, Security, Security
With a huge portrait of Mao Zedong overlooking China’s Tiananamen square, it’s no secret that China is far from a democracy. Censorship and control remains a firm relic of China’s recent communist past. While internet censorship plays a major part in the control of information, a simple ride on the subway serves as a constant reminder that the government are in absolute control.
Let’s be clear, security is not only important but necessary. However, I somehow couldn’t imagine London or New York getting away with an airport security set up at their subway stations. But that’s exactly what happens in Beijing. Entering a subway station begins by placing your bag into an X-ray machine before walking through a metal detector, followed by a final pat down!
China is a global super power, it’s government are incredibly wealthy. That being said, there are still around 100 million people living on less than $1 a day in China. Naturally, this means that the daily hustle is always on, and we all know what that means for tourists!
Admittedly, scams aren’t to be found on every corner, but it is important to have your wits about you. See our Brief Guide to Beijing for more information.
5. You’re An Alien
Believe it or not, your literally considered an alien in China. If you think this is a joke, here’s the reverse side of a Chinese landing card.
You may be thinking this is just a case of poor English on behalf of the Chinese, and to an extent, you’d be right. However, while roaming the streets of Beijing, you’ll certainly feel alienated. While in Beijing, be prepared to be photographed and filmed by locals. Personally, I experienced both while simultaneously being constantly stared at. On one instant, several locals on a passing bus gathered around a window to watch me cross a road. I wish I could tell you this sort of thing is rare, but being made to feel like an alien is widely reported by those who visit!
If you are travelling to Beijing, check our Brief Guide To Beijing