Saturday, July 04, 2009

An exciting experience in Beijing

This article is published under "Asia Pacific Perspective: China +" column with Sunday Chronicle, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
..............

By Mathew Yakai in Beijing

WHEN you are in a new place, it is natural that you want to know more about your surrounding. So you go discovering as much as possible.

Since I left my host Changchun City on June 5, by June 18 it was my second week in Beijing. I keep steering the map prepared for me by Guo Shuai, a female student intern with Ramu NiCo Management (MCC) Ltd, the company managing Ramu Nickel Project in Madang.

I kept looking at the map and realized the Beijing Global Trade Center where the Ramu NiCo Beijing Office is located, and try to follow the Xiaohuangzhuang road towards Qingniangou Road to Beijing Jian Ke Hotel where I stay.

I apologise for the mouthful name of the road. Definitely you will have trouble pronouncing them, correctly unless you are able to speak some Chinese and relax your pronunciations.

Qingniangou Road is where action happens every morning at 7am when I am on my way to office. People gather there every morning selling vegetables at a very cheap price. Actually food and most of the commodities are pretty cheap in China.

So I would spend an ample 10 to 15 minutes watching them calling out prices and exchange cash for goods.

At dusk, the afternoon part of the business gets rolling. Normally I leave my office at 10 pm and would arrive there at around 10:30pm and see people sitting around small tables and buying what is prepared on a barbecue stand and have with beer.

People of all ages gather after the days work. You find such along streets in Beijing. Last time I went there and spent 5 Yuan (K1.90) for a delicious beef. In PNG, this would cost K20. at the most.

Yes, back to discovery! June 8, I was in the office and had an idea to get on one of those subways after 5pm and try out how it is like after working hours in metropolitan Beijing.

When I say subway, you may not have some ideas. It is not like one flying in from Mt Hagen and stranded at Jacksons Airport not knowing which bus to take to Morata.

The situation in Beijing is completely different. Most foreigners get lost in this subway and keep moving around until finally making their final destinations.

I wanted to give a try. I told the staff at the Ramu NiCo Corporate Office that I am taking an adventure ride to Beijing Railway Station which is the central station. They may though that it was a strange idea during that foggy afternoon.

When I looked at the Beijing subway map, I was at Hepingxiqiao station and from there I would take subway line 5 to Chongwenmen, and change the line to line 2 heading for Beijing Railway Station.

Now, at Hepingxiqiao station, I bought a subway ticket for only 2 Yuan (K0.77). You can use this ticket within all the subway routes or lines until you want to exit at a station.

This means that you can change lines within the subways.

I successfully got on the subway from Hepingxiqiao station to Chongwenmen and then changed to subway line 2 for Beijing Railway Station.

According to the map I had, it would be the first stop heading east from Chongwenmen but instead the train headed westward and I have to go through 16 stops. Though it is within Beijing alone, the distance is too far. Besides, every afternoon in Beijing is jammed with people.

On the way through 11 stations, I was so tired so decided to get off at Yonghegong Lama Temple, which is an exchange station and return back to Hepingxiqiao station few walks away from the Ramu NiCo office.

By the way, I was only following the map without asking anybody. And this is my first time to try out in this Giant Beijing City.

Finally, I made to Hepingxiqiao station which is close to the office. But before I exit the station, I made a silly mistake. There are four exit terminals, A, B, C and D. I should take the A but instead I took D.

I ended up at the opposite side of the office separated by Third Ring Road, busy streets, jungle of buildings and congested pedestrians.

As soon as I got out of the station, I was so surprised that I ended up at a strange location. I could not even recognize the road and the buildings.

To make it worse, the afternoon was foggy and people did not take note of strangers as they were all heading for their respective afternoon commitments.

I can not go back and take the A exit because that will make me pay extra money. So I kept walking towards an unrecognized street.

I realized that I was heading towards the wrong direction so I turned back and walked the opposite direction.

Chinese people are kind and if asked any body, they would help. But I wanted to try out my confidence for a new discovery. I kept walking until I could see the D building of the exit terminal, right on the other side of the busy Third Ring Road.

Finally I discovered my way back to the Global Trade Center for a good dinner and got rest of the day’s assignments done.

The following day, June 19 Friday I decided for another exciting subway ride to Tiananmen Square. You all know that famous square in Chinas’ history, right?

The weather was fine with a beautiful sunset. I got a novel I bought the day with 10 Yuan (K3.86) titled “The Magic of Think Big: Set Your Goals high… then Exceed Them” by David J. Schwartz and set off for Hepingxiqiao station, few strolls along the Third Ring Road.

At the subway station, I took careful note of exit A so that I don’t repeat the same mistake the previous day.

I bought the subway ticket and proceed to line 5 and further towards Dongdan exchange station. From there, I got on line 1 passed three stations and got off at Tiananmen West Gate.

As soon as I got out, I could see the tall brown wall as high as 20 meters running as far as my eyes could see. That was the wall which is part of the Forbidden City.

I took a few walk up against the setting heat of the sun, bought myself a bottle of coke to quench my thirst while carefully observing the wall to imagine those great art of architecture during those days in the history of China.

I walked further up and enter an entrance to the Garden of Flowers. The gate fee was as cheap as 1.5 Yuan (59t). I was tempted to go in but the time was not on my side as I have to rush back to my hotel.

But a few walk further up was the facial frame of Mao Zedong. I saw lots of people in front of the entrance trying to capture their experience through the camera.

Many foreigners were there too. Given its popularity, it is one of those must visited areas by both foreign and domestic tourists. I did not have a camera to get myself a picture.

The Great Halls of the People where great Chinese leaders meet to decide the destiny of China was just across the road.

I was looking at the brick lying of the wall, the historical houses and the image of Chairman Mao and thought of those great minds and intellectuals with aggressive leadership aptitude to move China forward to what it is today.

I chip the remaining Coke, the drink that is associated with Americanism, but eventually nodded my head and realized the fact that I was visiting one of the historical sites which is famous in China and made this great nation to what it is today.

Slowly I walked back to the subway station and took the same route back to my office and completed this article to share my experience.

By the way, at the Hepingxiqiao station, I made sure I used exit A and I safely arrived at the office. Along the street to my office, I read the “The Magic of Thinking Big”, an interesting line went like this.

“Think Big and you’ll live big. You will live big in happiness. You will live big in accomplishment. Big in income. Big in friends. Big in respect. Enough for the promise.”

“Start now, right now, to discover how to make your thinking make magic for you. Start out with this thought of the great philosopher Disraeli, “Life is too short to be little.”

“Believe in yourself and good things do start happening.”

Then I reflected back to my experiences of those two days on the subway and visiting those exciting places.

“China thought BIG, through its leadership, through the hard works of individuals they reap the benefit today.”

“If PNG do the same today then we can progress in many aspects, Think Big and aim for first Class.” That’s something for us to think about for our country.

And from Beijing I should remind you. If you are in Beijing anytime, Tiananmen Square is a must visit place, also the Great Wall. Otherwise, you are not in Beijing and China.

Note: For comments or inquiry email the writer on m_yakai@hotmail.com or call 15116988560 or post your comments here!

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