Friday, October 03, 2008

A Sea of Black Heads

Over the course of this past week, tens of millions (more?) of Chinese have traveled around the country. The days around National Day comprise one of China's "Golden Weeks." These are extended vacations where many workplaces shut down, not unlike the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

This year, as always, Beijing is a popular destination. Actually, it's probably more popular than ever before. Tourists have flocked to our new hometown, many wanting to see, of course, major sites like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. (Living so close to the Summer Palace, an A-list attraction, has caused the local bus system to essentially break down under the strain of so many tour buses added to the already congested roads. Ask Desi and the kids. While I worked quietly in my office, they contended with scenes of drivers turning off their buses, getting out, and hanging out in the "parking lot" with their fellow shifus.)

In addition to these familiar scenes, new patterns have emerged this year, in particular Olympic inspired tourism. The Games produced such an outburst of pride here in China that many people have organized their first post-Olympic vacations around seeing and walking through the venues. Tickets to go inside the Bird's Nest and Water Cube were very hot properties, apparently going for serious cash out on the streets. (To my chagrin, the Water Cube is being used to house some "Music, Water Spectacular." No doubt, people will love it...)

On National Day itself, we decided to head down to Tiananmen and watch the soldiers take down the flag. (A big event even under normal circumstances.) Emerging out on to Chang'an Da Jie, we realized that we were not the only ones to have the idea! (In fact, we found out, some folks had spent the night sleeping in the Square so as to get good spots. Beats paying for a hotel, I guess...)

Desi's response to all of this madness? "Remind me, at the next Golden Week, to go grocery shopping and not leave the apartment!"

Hey, at least we didn't actually try to travel...

~Steve

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