Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Detailed report!

We're having difficulty getting internet in our rooms, as i'm sure you're aware, however we've found a local bar with wi-fi that works for the tiem being - so here is a detailed post and some pictures

Beijing itself has grown both upward and outward since last time. The sprawl of empty high rises now extends almost as far at the airport itself, as well as occupying many of the former low rise districts I once knew. The construction works seems still to be going on, all in a rush for the 2008 Olympics, with ‘unsightly’ old style hutongs* being cleared away. On the plus side, some of the more ugly modern roadside buildings hastily thrown up in the last 20 years are also being pulled down (before they fall apart I suspect)!

Traffic wise few things have changed, and the taxi drivers are still as dangerous as ever, and traffic jams are as certain as the rising of the sun. There are now 5 ring roads circling the city, which now ensnare even the Summer Palace in the NW of the city – the plan is to increase this number up to 7, though why I don’t quite understand, as when you get that far out your are practically in the countryside.

The effects of the traffic are also visible; we’ve not been able to see the mountains from here for 5 days now! And if the article I read in The Times before I left is true, then the extra 1000 new vehicles per day that are coming on to Beijing’s roads might possibly be to blame. However, even in the heat of summer, I have seen vehicles full of coal bricks in the city, supplying houses with fuel to heat their water and food. Sticking with this archaic form of fuelling is not bringing much benefit to Beijing’s atmosphere or public health. If Beijing has made promises to improve its air quality before the Olympics, I really can’t see how the measures taken have come into effect – if anything it is just as bad if not worse than last time I was here.

However, I’m doing my bit by taking the bus and underground instead of taxis, and I’ve also bought a bicycle again, which I’ve already taken out for dinner a few miles away. Three of us, all foreign students from the same building, bought bikes from the same place at the same time, for the princely sum of 130 Yuan (about 9 pounds). Deciding to take them out as transport for dinner in Wu Dao Kou was thought to be a good idea, until when we were almost there. At that time, Melissa’s bike decided that it had had enough and promptly broke down – the shaft connecting the two pedals coming out of its housing. Fortunately, bike-fixing stalls are commonplace and we were soon in dry dock. The repairman discovered that the bike was totally lacking in ball bearings - a testament to Chinese production quality for the domestic market. 5 Yuan later, and with 50 ball bearings installed, we were back on the road and working without problem.


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