I am getting a kick out of the Beijing accent.
I wish I could imitate it over the internet, but I can't. All I can say is that I have been listening to so many imitations and mockeries of the accent that I cannot listen to the actual locals without grinning.
Many aspects of Beijing surprised me. First of all, I did not expect the sheer number of trees that are growing around the city. I expected the city to be dry and dusty, but with exception of the smog, the weather was rather moist. I expected there to be dogs everywhere, but insead there were cats everywhere (I wondered about this until I saw the words "dog meat" on a resturaunt menu).
The city isn't quite as good looking as some of the other cities that I have been to in the past. As we rode around the city, all of the buildings that we saw, with the exception of the historic structures, were nothing more than solely functional gray squares. Even the Mao's tomb was not exempt. Although we did not get to see the chairman lying in his display case, we did visit th building and the plaza that surrounded it.
After we slogged our way through the scores of vendors trying to sell us discount communist memorabilia, we arrived at the no-longer-forbidden city. Being a historic structure, the sprawling palace was not only better on the eyes, but less crowded.
Although I liked the historical area in the center of town, I liked the nearby Wong Fu Jing and hutong areas better. Wong Fu Jing is like the Champs Ellysees of China. With towering billboards and even taller billboards, it is quite an imposing sight. Its a good place to stop for dumplings and pro foot massage after a long walk.
The hutong area was even better. With the trees and the broad sidewalks and the water and people everywhere, it felt much more relaxed and less touristy. It used to be a palace meant solely for the emperor, so the architecture is very beautiful, yet at the same time it seems like one of the most modern areas in Beijing so far. Everything there is cleaner, brighter, and livelier.
While we were at the hutong, I bought a discount Mao Zedong book bag. As I put it on, I imagined: If the chairman himself could see Beijing today with its street vendors and neon lights, with tourists buying communist memorabilia while loudspeakers play strains from Creedence Clearwater Revival...
Well, he would rotate in his glass display case.