Monday, April 28, 2008

Beijing - Olympics and Street Life

Olympic Fever
It seemed like everywhere you turned there was someone or something advertising the Olympics and not just in Beijing. I saw signs on lampposts in Hong Kong and Shanghai as well. The clock counting down the days was on a building outside Tian'amen Square. In preparation for the Olympics Beijing has been spending a lot of time and money beautifying the city - all of the buses are brand new, flowers have been planting everywhere and overall the city looks very clean. In order for blue skies to be seen during the games instead of the normal haze, factories will be closed to reduce the emissions. In preparation for the loads of tourists, press, athletes, etc that will be coming to town a total of 57 new hotels are being built and scheduled to open this summer. The tour guides have already been told that they can have no days off during the games, and possibly for a the week before and after.

Street Life

I was amused by the various types of transportation that were seen on the streets of Beijing. The most popular was definitely the bike but the types of bicycles varied widely. Some were battery powered, some were old, some were new, some were pulling carts. For people with disabilities that can not ride a bicycle you can apply for a license for an enclosed motorized vehicles. As you get further from the city center you quite frequently see donkeys pulling carts. Near my hotel this was unfortunately not to be seen.
Periodically you would see the people that were pulling carts jump off their bike and uncover the cart to reveal food, books, drinks, etc that were then sold on the side of the road for a few minutes. They would then suddenly jump back on their bike and ride off. This type of selling does not appear to be legal. After a few minutes of people watching I realized that there were teams of people that were all working together. The people selling items had a lookout person who would instruct them when to leave and when to return. The woman in the jean jacket in the picture to the right was the lookout.
Of course there are shops along the road where it is perfectly legal to sell items. It is quite common to see grills/deep fryers set up with kebabs. 5 CNY for 2 kebabs - quite a tasty dinner and probably the cheapest meal I've had in quite some time.

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