Both my wife and I are from Beijing. I had a chance to stop in Beijing on my business trip to Thailand two years ago, but thanks for the grueling green card process, the last time my wife came back to Beijing was 7 years ago. Oct. 1st was the 60th anniversary of China’s national day and Oct. 3th happened to be the Mid-Autumn Festival. ’60’ is an important number, a full cycle, in Chinese GanZhi (干支) calendar; Mid-Autumn Festival is the most important Chinese traditional holiday only after Spring Festival; plus, Fall is the best season in Beijing for mild weather and clear sky. The timing is ideal to visit Beijing.
I wasn’t surprised by all the new developments happened in Beijing. In fact, this fast-paced evolution has started since 10 years ago. My memory of Beijing in my high-school and undergraduate years, when I rode my bike around the city, has been long gone. In fact, there are much much less bicycles on the street. Subways are really great for commute while streets are packed with cars. I had chances to drive a couple of times. I realized two things: 1. I need GPS to drive; 2. audacity is a necessity when negotiating the road.
I was impressed by so many new constructions of residential buildings two years ago. This time, I was impressed by people, a lot of people. We thought we would avoid travelers by staying at hometown, but Beijing is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China. The most sad thing was that our friends treated us as foreign visitors by inviting us to Quanjude (全聚德) and we treated us as foreign visitors by visiting the Summer Palace (颐和园), both are Beijing’s world-wide famous landmarks.
However, in both trips, two years ago and this time, nothing impressed me more than the confidence demonstrated by ordinary people. Chinese people, especially the new generations, are so confident culturally, politically and financially. The eyes-popping buildings, the ever-rising condo price, the countless shopping malls, the stage shows with dazzling colors and the volunteers in the subway stations are just some signs of it.