China: An Imperfect Utopia

I have always enjoyed travelling. That sublime mix of trepidation and excitement when one first steps off the plane in a foreign country is a feeling that is utterly unique and it has slowly become one that I crave above all others.  However, it was not until my very first experience of the jungle we refer to as China, that I fully understood wanderlust.

I have always been a little dubious when confronted with people who like to express themselves using definitive statements and bold exclamations, it is all slightly melodramatic for my taste. Nonetheless, in this particular case, I do believe I am able to understand where these theatrical individuals are coming from.

Put simply, Beijing is the city that I fell in love with. I am aware that this proclamation sounds almost painfully trite and I am trying awfully hard to resist wincing at it’s cliché nature, yet frankly, it seems it is the only fitting description.

 

The Temple of Heaven

 

First, let me clarify what it is exactly I mean. I am most definitely not referring to love at first sight. In fact, I have become quite opposed to this sentiment entirely, to claim that you love a country before even experiencing it, is in my opinion, quite ignorant. I am referring to a much more gradual development of attachment. With each day that passed, each smile that I shared and each meal that I ate, my enamour grew. I’ve even begun to ponder the possibility that perhaps, just maybe, there is a place out there for everybody. Somewhere so inexplicably magical that you never want to come home, and for me, that spellbinding location, is China.

 

The Summer Palace

 

Just a few days into our trip, we decided it was necessary to embark on another little adventure, so with fans in hand and enough water to hydrate a small army, we set off for the Great Wall of China. Whilst there were numerous tours on offer and even transport available from our hotel, we opted for a slightly more authentic method, and I am so very thankful that we did. Sitting on a rickety bus, surrounded by thirty snoring Chinese men whizzing through the streets of Beijing, was an experience so surreal that I sometimes doubt my recollections.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by stalls selling fake Ray Ban sunglasses, a Subway and a donkey. Whilst clearly unconventional, I can honestly assure you that odd little things things only added to the charm. Following a cable car ride up to the top of the wall (during which there were moments when, I must admit, the threat of losing my lunch was fairly tangible) we had finally made it. It’s so difficult to capture the essence of such an iconic location in words and actually, this is a fairly fitting hurdle. From the moment I stepped onto the wall, I was utterly struck by the pure, uninterrupted silence stretching in almost every direction. The stillness, the air of serenity so foreign and unexpected that I experienced, remains one of the strangest and most tangible moments of my travels to date.

 

Cable Cars- Great Wall of China

 

Tobagganing down the Great Wall

 

From there, things only got better. I sampled fried ice cream in the Olympic village and ate noodles in the depths of the Forbidden City, a place where whispers of history float by on the wind. At night, we danced with a group of smiling Chinese women on a tiny forgotten street and each morning, I was met with a bigger and brighter selection of creatures on every road I passed.

I stepped in the remnants of goodness knows what, was blinded by the flash of a tourist’s camera, deafened by the screeching and shouting of one scorpion vendor to another and left with nostrils burnt by the poignant smells of grilled dog on a stick.

 

 

 

Forget New York, Beijing is a concrete jungle like no other I have ever encountered, where sleek skyscrapers can coexist in beautiful harmony with minuscule temples, their existence only discovered by those few who catch a whiff of the incense in the air.

The contrasts continued as I passed businessmen on the subway rushing to their place of work, briefcases and coffee in hand, and later stumbled across a blind woman sweeping leaves, her child weeing on the street corner, barefoot and grinning.

 

 

 

With the humidity like a blanket, air conditioning slowly becomes a drug that you just can’t help but become addicted to, and my personal favourite dealer? 7/11. The blast of recycled air is such a relief that you will do almost anything to elongate the experience, including browsing the aisles of strange and wonderful foods, buying everything that looks cheap and tasty.

Imagine ants. Thousands and thousands of ants enclosed in a tiny matchbox. Each one is struggling to move, eager to continue on their paths and go about their business, but there is simply no space, there is no air. They push and they shove and they shout and they struggle, a teeming mess of bodies. This, is Tiananmen Square Station, but in this case, the ants in question are much, much louder.

 

Us being photographed by Chinese tourists

 

This cannot be happening. The thought that crossed my mind as I felt my shoe slip between the platform and the floor of the subway train, disappearing onto the dark tracks below. Looking back, I probably should have realised that it was unlikely I was going to come across any pretty size seven shoes in a random Beijing underground station. Ah well, I’m sure that traipsing around a busy zoo in sweltering heat wearing a pair of men shoes didn’t draw too much attention to the British tourist.

Now, I can probably guess what you’re thinking. I am aware that this account is slightly untraditional in its layout. There’s no structure or ordered sequence of events, no illusion of logic or chronological exploration of description. But, what you must understand, is that’s the point.

Beijing is a city that simply refuses to conform to rationale and chooses instead to sidestep coherence with a wild and wonderful grace. It is, an imperfect utopia, where even faults have the ability to become the greatest of assets if considered by the right person, with the right attitude. In China, you have to be willing to, for lack of a better expression, go with the flow, because I can guarantee it will take you places you never even imagined existed.

 

Spotted: Olympic Village

 

Spotted: Beijing Zoo

 

So, armed with a tacky waving cat and enough photographs of myself imitating everyone’s favourite Karate Kid to last a lifetime, I returned home, the same cannot be said however, for my heart.

globetrottingteen

 

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62 thoughts on “China: An Imperfect Utopia

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my blog ☺️ Honestly, I really don’t think I can choose a favourite, everything about my trip was incredible! However, tobogganing down the Great Wall truly was a once in a lifetime kind of experience that I absolutely reccomend if you ever visit China.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Everything you said about China is so spot on. I lived there for a couple of months and it really is like no other place on Earth. You really feel like you’re in an entirely different world. I think you would absolutely adore Shanghai. It has a totally different vibe!

    xx
    Meilin

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I can’t imagine how incredible living in China must have been, what made you want to live there? Shanghai sounds amazing, I hope that I’ll get the chance to visit in the future!

      Like

      • I actually went over to improve on my Mandarin! It was such an experience; especially once you leave the big cities and head to the less populated providences like Inner Mongolia. I would highly recommend it!

        x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. great read! You mention “us” several times but do not say who “us” is. Are you traveling with your family? What took you to Beijin? I am always curious about the hows and whys people travel. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! ‘Us’ does indeed refer to my family, for the most part I travel with my parents and younger brother. Travel has always been important to us and we have become particularly fond of Asia, Beijing seemed like a must!

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      • Growing up my family never really traveled except locally. I love traveling with my husband and sons. This trip we are taking to the UK is for our youngest sons high school graduation. We are very excited!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to travel as a child and I can only hope that I’ll get to continue doing it as I get older. Enjoy your trip to the UK, I’m sure you’ll love it and I can’t wait to read all about your adventures!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I know exactly what you mean! I fell in love with a city, Toronto, and even though it is not an entire country, when your heart feels at home somewhere, it doesn’t matter. China (and Beijing!) looks and sounds amazing. The way you write about it makes me want to start planning an “Asia” trip! Loved this post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I’ve never been to Toronto but it’s somewhere that I’d definitely like to visit. As for your Asia trip, I cannot recommend it enough, if you do get the chance it is absolutely a continent that cannot be missed.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post – I have to say Beijing was my least favourite of the Chinese cities I visited so far, I much preferred Shanghai and Chengdu. Beijing subways in rush hour are like nothing else. But I enjoyed reading your blog! I would just apply the sentiments to Shanghai…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much 😊 I can guarantee that my writing doesn’t even begin to do these places justice, you absolutely have to visit them to get a real taste of the place! As for fried ice cream it was something of a mystery to me as well (and one that I would definitely not recommend), the combination of batter and melted vanilla really isn’t a winner!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can believe that and I will definitely do that, hopefully soon. They seem like great places! It seems you love Asia, have you been elsewhere? 😛
        Yeah, somehow it doesn’t sound like a great combination to me.. :s

        Liked by 1 person

      • Asia definitely captured my imagination and interest in a way the other continents I have visited didn’t. I know it sounds cliché but everything about it is just so vibrant and alive, it’s incredible 😊 I’ve visited quite a few places in this area but if you do get the chance to go I would really encourage you to visit Beijing (if you hadn’t already guessed I’m quite a fan!), Rishikesh in India and Ubud in Bali. If you’ve never been to Asia is there anyone else you would recommend?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Asia always seemed appealing to me in a way other continents can’t possibly reach. If possible I would love to visit them even this year, yet I think it unlikely. Rishikesh perhaps though. What do you mean with the last part? If I would recommend Asia to anyone..?

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      • I have been to South-Africa, which has been my only destination I can actually remember. I did really enjoy my time, the nature was diverse, the people are extremely friendly and it’s a heck of an experience. But in all honesty, I look with admiration to the whole world, so it is not my job to recommend a country.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Great post, so glad you linked to it on my blog! How long were you in Beijing? I was only there 3/4 days so didn’t get to experience it’s full charm as much as I’d hoped 😦

    Jealous that you tobogganed down the wall – I didn’t even know you could do that!

    ‘Chinglish’ is never not funny haha! Fried enema was a personal favourite find of mine on my China travels, though I wasn’t brave enough to order it. Please tell me you tried the pissing beef balls

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    • Thank you!
      We were there for about 2 weeks, though that wasn’t nearly long enough in my opinion. Tobogganing was pretty incredible but I have to admit, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to sample the pissing beef balls (dog meat skewers and fried ice cream were more than enough experimentation!)
      I hope that you do get to visit Beijing again and I look forward to reading about your adventures in the country ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am so excited for you, and more than a little bit jealous! I absolutely cannot recommend another place more than this. It’s authenticity, architecture and food (but seriously, watch out for that ice cream) is unrivalled. I can’t wait to read about your adventures!

      Liked by 1 person

      • 😀 I am incredibly excited! China is only a small part of this long trip. I have nothing planned yet, but I know some countries and that I will stay long. It sounds wonderful! Thing is.. the ice cream, I can believe it’s disgusting, but my curiosity.. I don’t know

        Liked by 1 person

      • Anywhere else on your list? I’ve yet to experience a ‘long’ trip but it’s something I’d love to do. I’ll be travelling around some of south-east Asia for a month this summer but it’s still not enough! As for the ice cream, I suppose you should give it a go (you never know if you don’t try), just don’t expect too much! 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Many on the list. Such as Laos and Myanmar, Taiwan and Thailand, New Zealand and Australia, Vietnam and Malaysia. But nothing is certain and everything can change. Yeah, I’ll keep my expectations low 😂

        Liked by 1 person

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