Beijing, China (Asia, 2015)

WOW, just WOW. I did not expect this. Imagine Times Square, Manhattan, during rush hour. You got the image in your head? Well, this entire city is like this. Jam-packed with riffraff, scoundrels, noble, and mothers with their babes, this city is overfilling with life. I was here less than 24 hours: fly in, without even showering run to the closest sites, eat, “nap” for five hours, and rush to the airport. Still, 53 clips on my GoPro and a little over 200 photos—there is just that much to see there :-). Same as everywhere else I’ve visited on this trip, Beijing definitely deserves more than a day, more like 3-4 days (but I think I’d get bored of this city if I stay there longer).

I have to confess, this is the only city I forgot I am traveling to and read nothing about it beforehand, had no expectations, and was in for a pleasant surprise. From the day/night market, to the absolutely insane street vendors, to everyone else like that in the area… I love it! I did get suckered into buying “original art” for $50 [they were asking $750 to begin with but, in all honesty, I don’t think the piece is worth more than $10; I just paid $50 cause (1) I could not stop laughing at the way they were haggling with me; and (2) I actually kinda like the piece and my memories associated with it].

Of all the cities I have visited on this trip, I think Beijing is most full of life. You just have to come here, walk through the night market, go by the palace and the forbidden city, and just enjoy the smells [some are actually pleasant].

Video of the flight to Beijing and a little of the airport.

Walking around Beijing, the Forbidden City, and more.

Now let’s take a look at this place, see if we like it.

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Here, if I told you I was nearby Philadelphia in some business suburb… doesn’t it look like it?  I think it so very much totally does!  Except the heavy fog, right?

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These buildings, except the ugly air conditioners, look just like something you’d find anywhere else on the planet, right?

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Oh, look, it’s a hotel of some sort.  And all the cars are Chinese, too.  Gosh, this place is nothing like I has imagined China to be before I had visited here.

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Red Roof Inn, right?

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Here’s the American version for you for comparison [image from here]:

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Well, you’d have to disregard the heavy fog which is ever-present here and all the Chinese writing on this red roof.

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Some interesting modern architecture here, too.

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But not too terribly creative.

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Interesting, yes, but I would not go calling it creative.  I think some of my friends who are more versed in architectural advancements might disagree with me.  Let them!  This is only my opinion and I am far from impressed.  To clarify: I’m flabbergasted by the magnificent power emanating from the earth here but I am not as much taken by the creativity.

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There is something interesting but, again, this is not something I’d commission.  Not like anyone is asking me to, anyway.

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Interesting color choice.  I say that with as much sarcasm as I can master, mind you.

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See, some folks are wearing masks.

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And even all this greenery cannot handle the filtering requirements of the industry here.

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Nice archway.  Reminds me somehow of Chicago’s Gayborhood.

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Cops on mopeds.

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Taxis and an occasional Audi.

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More police, strolling around. FYI, I cannot tell the difference between police and military so I just use these terms interchangeably.

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Interesting flavors are waiting for me at the hotel.

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As is the view from my hotel window: impressively unimpressive, for downtown of a major city like Beijing.

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Nice art on the walls, though.  I think I’ll make something like this.  Simple and yet somehow pleasing to me.  I think it’s a good contrast to the lack of creativity in the modern outside world here.

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A must-do elevator selfie.  I’m no good at those.  Kind of makes me happy that I have no idea how to take selfies since, apparently, those make you insane somehow.

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They like to sell ancient-looking fakes here.  All over the place, including the airport.  I suppose this is what tourists are here for.  OK.

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By the way, I see mostly Asians here and very few folk that look like me.  You’d think Beijing would be fuller of foreigners…

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Ah, how cute—they still have phone “booths” here.

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And I see these gates randomly all over the place.  This happens to be a back entrance to a hotel.  Mind you, this is not the main entrance for some reason.

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Blue-white-blue-green cops here.

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I see where they get their color scheme from.

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Turning around from the creek we can see the side street here.  A typical side street for this place.

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With girls selling handmade pendants.

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Many many small stores here.  By the way, see all the African and European people?  Me neither.

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Typical tourists traps.  So this is definitely a tourist city.  I suppose Chinese travel here from more remote areas in China?  I’m not sure I get the point.

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The whole city, a block away from “main” street, looks like this, seemingly.

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And I’m yet to see a dog on a leash.

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This, to me, sums up the typical lifestyle here.  Of a person who is not driving an Audi that is.

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All over the place here I see photographers advertising wedding photography, like these folks here.

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Next to lamp-and-plant store [get the movie reference?].

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It’s sunny and humid but the fog diffuses the light nicely.

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Historical buildings are quite a bit different, see?

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And, of course, you get the “best” prices from the girl in the alley.  I’ve already been warner not to “buy tea”.  Apparently here whores offer you tea—like a keyword, or a password.

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Here we go!

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Gorgeous view, if not for the air conditioners.  By the way, the residents here have the view of the forbidden city!!  How come these are not multi-million-dollar houses?!

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Well, I mean, your view would be a moat and a wall…  Not too terribly appetizing, I suppose.

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Speaking of appetites, would you like a watermelon?  Freshly cut.  Notice gloves, a hand-washing station, etc?  Yep.  My point precisely.

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Government makes the tourist traps pretty, though.  I think it’s important to do that when most of the population is, seemingly, below the poverty line.

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Statue of a military guy.  Well, it’s a breathing statue.

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So many different forms of transportation here!

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Ah, let’s check out the Forbidden City!

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Except have to get tickets, first.  Now, a reminder for a weary traveler: bring you passport everywhere!  They do ask for it at all big places like this, hotels, once even on a street.  I think my camera freaked them out a little.  Always writing my passport number down… Sigh…

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Even the fake decorations here are pretty nice.  See the Evil Eye?  In my ignorance I though it a Turkish tradition but apparently it is far bigger than that.

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Great place for a collector of plastic bottles to hang out: next to a recycling bin (which I didn’t notice anyone use).

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So, this is what I paid for?!  I mean… this place is empty.  I do remember that everything that was here was stolen by the invading armies; what I did not realize was the extent of the word everything: here there is nothing left but the stone work and shit that was molded into the ground.  Sad.  But you can see lost of this stuff on display at, for example, the Philadelphia Art Museum (very impressive Asian collection there, by the way).

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This whole castle in on the water.  Still standing!

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I bet these are original stones, too.

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Things that the government could restore they seem to have done.

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This place would have looked absolutely stunning, I bet, during its glory days.

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Ancient fire extinguisher.  Very efficient, too.  Just add rain water.

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This is how bit the castle is.  And what you see here is only about 1/3 of it.  If not even less.

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I’ve always admired in Asian culture the great attention to detail.

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See the little dragons?

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I wanna look, too!  Just… There’s really nothing there, just the other side.

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Now, that’s a door stop!

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Gorgeous stone work.

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Some of the sculptures are there but I am not sure if these are originals.  I am assuming these were brought here later.  Or was this too heavy to steal?

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Here we go.  The sign of the traveling sun, forever desecrated by one man.

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Nice views the Emperor had, right?

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And nice halls.

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And impressive windows.

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And big fire protection jars worth looking into.

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And amazing staircases.  Just imagine walking on these…

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Emperors sure knew how to live!

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Cool, huh?

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And all the street repairs are done by hand, seemingly.  I’m not sure if this is because they don’t want to bring heavy equipment into here or simply because the labor is dirt-cheap.  Perhaps a combination of both.

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I mean, given the modern tools there have here…

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And the rain trenches, too.

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Oh, this is pretty awesome!  This is a piece of rock which looks like one of the Asian watercolors.  Stunning!

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I wonder, too, how old some of these structures are.  Can they be original?  Does the climate allow for that?

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So, this is funny.  I see some structure with some thing there.  Of course I run up to take a picture.

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Take a few steps back…  Hmm… What is this?!  Too small for a water well…  I don’t get it.

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And why is it outside and surrounded by three walls… oh… are you seeing what I’m seeing?  I just took a photo of the way down into the toilet… touched it, too, eww.

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OK, back to looking at building decorations.

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And the streets.

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And the modern manhole covers.

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And the inner garden of the palace.

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This is pretty cool.

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Stone work inside the stone structures.  Very cool!

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How would you like this view, existing out of your house?

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These guys seem really happy about it.

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It is a nice view.  Any building structure with a moat is just simply impressive.  I need to buy a house with a moat.

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Like this.  Wonder how much this could go for.

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I mean they can’t even afford to fix the fence here, you know.

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The further I move from the palace the more trash I see.  Thinking back now, just a few hundred meters back, the streets were pristinely clean.  The cleaning services around here are lightning-fast; owing, most likely, to the high number of cleaning crew employees.

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An elaborate gate and, seemingly, with no real purpose.  There’s no entrance or exit, just a gate standing there.

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This gate is right across from the moat… Hmm.  I think I need to read about the purpose of these gates; I can’t believe that they are purely decorative.

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And I’m back to the civilization.

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I think a good way to ensure your bike is not stollen is just to simply make it as ugly and old as possible.

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By the way, store owners here are rather fond of greenery.  Very nice.

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And I’m in the next palace—only a 15-minute walk from one to the other.  Beijing is cool like that.

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Beautiful plant work here.

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And tourists… there’s a line of like 10 people to take a photo with this one blooming flower.

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Zero takers here.

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I think this is some kind of a prayer-related thing.

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And a jar which people just started using as donation jar.  Never mind the rain water.

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Bamboo-filled paths are also quite welcoming.

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Looks like many of these buildings were cut right into the mountain.  Impressive.

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And the nature here is very real and very beautiful.

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And the views are amazing.  I need to come back here with more time and better cameras.

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Breathtaking views on my descent from the mountain.

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I think these are some kind of prayers nailed to the trees.  Cute but not nice to the tree.

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I was always intrigued by the ancient Asian drawing style—almost comic-like.  Look at the teeth, for example.

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More views.

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And wild flowers some tourist just left behind.  Probably a kid who got bored with them and left some pretty for me to look at.

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All this… and everyone’s taking a pic of the sleeping cat (including me, I suppose).

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Most of the trees have some serious supports which makes me think that the tree falls here are an issue.  I wonder how the Emperor dealt with that in his time.  I wonder if any Emperors were killed or injured by the falling trees…

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Oh, look, I found the source of those wild purple flowers.

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And, first bottle-collector lady.  I wonder how long it would take for the cops to get to her.

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Again, back into the city.  You see the immediate contrast?  I’m only 10 meters away from my previous photo.

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Now maybe 30-50 meters away from that moat photo, just a few pictures above.

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Ha ha ha!  Moped… this is a moped!

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See, main street.

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Interesting concept for a bench, if that was the intention.

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Street cleaning crew.

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And a typical bicycle—I see many like this one.

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And you see what I mean about the side streets, right?

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And the drastic difference with a bigger street.

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And, again, dogs with no leash.

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Um… OK.

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And, Bam!, government building.

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Your typical construction zone—seemingly all over the place in Beijing and Dalian and all over China, I bet.

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Bike paths, please note, are separated from the street but fence.

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Looks like I’m in the rich-people shopping area.

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Yep.  Some stores list prices in dollars and/or euros.  Why?  I see none-like-me here.

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Ha ha ha!  Apparently there are shoppers like me here.  Oba Mao!

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Oh, look, a church.  This is something new.  I don’t believe I’ve seen churches here.

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Apple store.  And, of course, it has to be a three-story one.

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OK, fine, I found one blonde and one brunette; both white, long-legged, and chew gum loudly smacking their lips.  I don’t say hello.  Yeah, cause of the gum.

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Instead, I go shopping.

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Nothing to see here.  Just Windows wanting something.

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Wow.  That’s some serious police car there.

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And buildings covered in greenery.

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And the sun.  Ah, this is the only country where you can stare directly into the sun…  It’s the freaking fog I’ve been telling you about this whole time.  Yes, for-real.

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Shopping streets at night.

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And Geisha performances (played, of course, by a man).

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And Rolex store outside of the make-shift bar I set down at.  Mind you, that’s a real Rolex store with nothing less than $10,000.  Very hard to find fakes here now.  I found, of course, but not of as-good-a-quality as they used to be.

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And I just had to finish my trip to Beijing with a proper pint of Weihenstephaner.

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It’s the World’s Oldest Brewery, you know.

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Nice hotels here, too, for the foreigners.

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You can get a bag of roasted chestnuts from a vendor right outside for about a dollar.

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Sit down and eat them, planning the 6 am flight.

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This was, pretty much, my last day in China this year. I love this country and more so every time that I visit. Superbly impressive to the point where I do not wish to leave but I have to get back to the reality as we all, sometimes, do. Anyway, I greatly enjoyed this trip and I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my “report” (you must have if you’re reading this line). Well, every time I come here I get better vision of what to do during my next visit.

Toodles.

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