So we already discussed the hotels, lets just take a holistic view of the atmosphere we were part of.
China no glitz-just plain old non hyped up China is what I wanted to do on this trip. I wanted to walk in the neighborhoods and just observe.
Public bathrooms- I applaud them. They could be found in most places from the mall to the subway and just in a neighborhood. They were always being cleaned. The regular public bathrooms are usually small so there is never any lingering in the stall, just relieving oneself and running. I just had a flash of their port a potty–kind of semi permanent looking canal bathrooms and I cannot even bring myself to visualize it. We saw some really out of this world ones and I would not wish it upon even my worst acquaintance. –TP everywhere and stuff everywhere and we would just imagine the smell.
We did the train and as before it was modern and now there were more lines and stops. What is familiar to me is the electronic train system. The doors just shut–human interaction is minimal so if you get caught in it, it hurts and then you have like 1 second to get on. It is a double door system like in Singapore.
I felt at ease on this trip as we used some free self walk pre-defined walking tours from the internet and some books. Though they were not always spot on, we kind of muddled through. We went to a neighborhood north of the Forbidden City. We just entered the area and proceeded to make our way through. We saw a beautiful river, some craftsmen, a new cafe, a hotel and repair shops. The literal maze we fun to walk around in–no glitz, just regular people living and some people, the way they have lived for a long time. We ducked into a few walkways and dwellings (si he yuan) and just took it all in. Some were better than others but it was just interesting to see how one large square in a sense was then subdivided into little homes and there were the meters and electrical wires so you can just imagine. It was nice at times because it was so quiet.
Other things we saw was a barber doing his thing right in the town square with his cell phone close by. He was legit, with his overcoat, supplies and chair. you will not see this on regular tour. We even saw kids on a field trip. We ate at a Western chain (Domino’s) but got a non-western combination. That was fun and so much fun that we ate that for breakfast the next day.
We walked along the road to the train and saw the mix of old and new stores. There are some places that gentrification missed and we were glad. My family was able to experience the raw Chinese experience. We even took the regular bus and that was an experience. I had taken the bus a few times over ten years ago. I remembered how it was but when I lived it this time, I really remembered. We did not even know how to pay and when I went to pay, the driver just waved us on, either because of frustration that we were holding up the line or because we did not know what was going on. Oh well. We watched people gather and then hustle to get the bus and we only knew our stop from looking at the buildings. Luckily we could see it before we came up on it so we had time to press the button.
We only did a few things on this trip, so we have to go back. We did not really explore the BUND area and also there was a cool hotel outside of the city that would have been fun to see.
here are some pictures from our trip