“kuai kuai kaui!” is the mantra you hear along the streets of Beijing, where there is not a market: Beijing is a market.
Luxury market at Xidan Square, Wang Fu Jing or the Village in San Li Tun; antique market at Liu Li Chang; fake market at the Ya Shou or at the Silk Market in Guo Mao; farmers’ market through the secondary streets full of villagers that come at night riding their horses and run away every time the police arrives; sex market inside the red light massages parlors.
I detailed the Chinese Railways system in a previous post. The trains connect all China (even Lhasa, the capital of Tibet), they are cheap and always on time. All main towns have modern subway systems and where this is not true, as in Hangzhou, they are building it.
At night my favorite way to travel is by taxi. You find them everywhere and the price are quite affordable (about ten euros for an hour). Also, during my (almost) two years in China I never met a taxi driver that tried to scam me. You only need to pay attention to the “black taxis” but they are usually quite easy to spot as they do not have “official” badges.
I’ve traveled around this country, often alone; I’ve crossed the back alleys of Shanghai, Pechino, Chengdu, Nanjing and Gunagzhou at four a.m.; I’ve argued in several clubs for “women matters” with quite annoying (AKA jealous) Chinese guys; and so on… I know these are not really “dangerous” actions, I’m not trying to appear as Indiana Jones. My point is that I’ve been around for a while and I NEVER had any problems: I never saw a bag snatch, nobody never tried to intimidate me for a dime (if you have ever been near The Central Station of Milan you know what I’m talking about, just to name a place). Even the fights in the clubs are quite rare, when compared with the ones you see in the West.
Now do not think China is the Fairy Kingdom, you need to be careful as everywhere else. However, the mainly risks here seem to be the classic scams for tourists that you can avoid with a bit of common sense.
What I want to say is that nowadays I feel much more safer in China that in any Western metropolis, no matters if the reason is the massive presence of the police in the streets, the harsh sentences for any crimes (especially the ones against foreigners that make lose face to the whole country) or the fairness almost naïve (from the point of view of an Italian, at least) of many Chinese.
“Police man” in Chengdu, the capital of pandas.
The big Chinese mess
Even if I love to go back to Italy for holidays, after two weeks far away from China I start to miss what I call “The big Chinese mess,” which is somehow difficult to describe and would be reductive to define as a “huge crowd.” Nope, you can find a crowd of people also in London, Paris or New York. But a Chinese crowd is unpredictable, chaotic, almost in unstable equilibrium.
It always seems something is going to happen, a fight for a girl, a fire caused by a vendor of roasted potatoes, a riot because of an injustice. And you must always push, claim your space, pay attention to do not be knocked down by a three-wheeler full of giant bottles of water. It always seems there are too many people, too much noise, too much goods on the sidewalks and too many bikes on the streets.
But at the end nothing happens, the traffic regulates by itself, the fights almost never starts, someone switches off the fire before it becomes too big and everyone keeps going on his way.
China, a country that surprises you everyday, makes boil the blood on your arteries and makes you feel part of the world that is changing, part of the history.
Vendors of roasted potatoes.
Dulcis in fundo… The women
Ahhh Chinese women… let’s see the details another time ; – )