In any country it’s true: the big city doesn’t represent the whole country. California is way more and way different than San Francisco and Los Angeles alone. New York is not America.
In China this is important to remember. How many tourists have visited Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai, and then report back home on “China”? Really, they saw Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. Not China.
Yesterday, we drove four hours north of Beijing to a small village admittedly ready to accept tourists but still pretty basic. It was beautiful countryside. Less polluted, more breathable than Beijing proper. We hiked around the village, around water, up a mountain of sorts, and took in all the natural beauty. And it was beautiful, the rolling hills, sun off the lake, the grass and trees. I’ll post pictures later to make the point.
At night some of us lay on the top of the castle and watched the stars, to the play-by-play astronomy commentary by a budding astrophysicist. I haven’t done that in awhile — stargazing. I should do it more often. On a clear night, in a non-urban place, with meteor-showers in the sky: this is quite a tranquil experience. If you ever want to feel unimportant and small, just spend a night looking at the stars (lying down — on your back — do it right for the full experience).
The following morning we went to the less touristy part of the Great Wall. I was at the Great Wall three years ago, but the section closest to Beijing, and so packed with tourists (and thus, touts). The section we went to this time around was remarkably uncrowded and therefore more pleasant. What to say about the Wall? The great Richard Nixon put it best, perhaps, when it said something to the effect of, “It is, indeed, a very great wall.”
I appreciated the beauty of the non-cityscape, but found myself itching to return to Beijing, oddly enough. I think this was for the high speed internet connection and showers that awaited me; I’m guessing if I had those amenities in the village, I would have wanted to stay a great while longer.