The taxi moved unhindered through the suburbs of Beijing with me in the back, half asleep and clueless to where I was in relation to the hostel. One thing I don't like when arriving in a new city is the not knowing where you are or how much a taxi 'should' cost you. I always surrender to the unfortunate fact that you will get ripped off. The taxi took a sharp right turn and I was confronted with my first sight of the walls surrounding the Forbidden City and soon after the taxi turned left and passed by the world's largest public square, namely the infamous Tienanmen Square. Leo Hostel, where we were bound, is in the Qianmen district just South of the square and even though they said it was in a good location, I was pleasantly surprised how good it was. Qianmen literally means Front Gate in Chinese and is in fact just that. The building housing the gate still remains and the gate itself sits directly on the central North-South axis of Beijing. The car passed the right side of Qianmen gate and headed South for a few hundred yards before hooking a right down a small pedestrianised street and pulled up outside the hostel. I woke the night attendant up and wearily registered and paid for a few nights. He showed me up to my room and I finally collapsed into a bed, the likes of which I hadn't seen for a couple of days. Even though I got a lot of sleep of the bus, it wasn't good enough for my body to recover the trauma of the luggage rack and I was constantly being woken up by the lady beside me shouting down her mobile phone which she really didn't need as I'm sure the pandas could have heard her in Chengdu!
After a couple of hours sleep, I woke up had a shower and headed downstairs to explore the hostel. I walked down the steps to find Justine and Eric, whom I had met in Mongolia, enjoying a nice pot of jasmine tea. This wasn't a surprise as we all planned to meet up in the hostel for Christmas celebrations. We were soon joined by June and Karin who were accompanied by Sam, a London girl teaching English in a small village outside of Guangzhou in Southern China near Hong Kong. Although it had only been a day since we last saw each other, it was really nice to see them again and I looked forward to sharing Christmas with them.
***As I write this blog there are series of protests and uprisings across countries North Africa including Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Libya. I was surprised that the news of these uprisings were shown on the news around China as I thought it may provoke the same thing here. This morning my thoughts became a reality when a number of protests were thwarted around major cities in China. The protests were organised via the internet and called for people to gather in specific locations around China and protest for jobs, housing and fairness, it was called 'The Jasmine Revolution' mirroring the Tunisian protests which overthrew their government under the same name. President Hu Jintao today spoke out against the protests and stated that there needs to be tighter control on the internet “to guide public opinion” and “sole prominent problems which might harm the harmony and stability of the society”. It was reported that people had been arrested before the protests took place and a number of people were forcefully removed with them claiming they have done nothing wrong. China today have implemented their controls on the internet and have blocked searches for the word 'jasmine'. China had previously blocked social websites like Facebook, Twitter and blogging websites like Blogger because the websites had been used to spread revolutionary ideas and organise protests. It is know as 'The Great Firewall of China'. I have spoken with young Chinese people who have told me that they need to be very careful about what they say online because everything is filtered.***
|Screens with propoganda and Mao's Mausoleum|
|The NCPA Building|
|Inside the NCPA|