Beijing is a cool capital city. The intersection of China’s rich history and modern culture is conspicuous. Couples in his/her matching t-shirts wander alongside historic temples and gardens. When you’re in London, curbsides say, “Look Left” to remind us that we’re in Europe. When you’re in Beijing, just look every-which-way. Many Chinese individuals I connected with were rule followers; I was afraid to fly a kite in the Forbidden City. However, cars come from every direction. Add the motorbikes and the standard bicycles, and we’ve got a hot mess. It was 100 degrees at the height of summer. Not so cool. Please take caution when crossing the street. I guess this is a clear symptom of the 20 million people living in the surroundings of the former Peking.
I was with my friend Kate in Xi’an, famous for the terra cotta warriors. We ventured off of the beaten path and joined a family from Oregon on a day trip to a nearby village. I didn’t want to go where the tourists go, so we encountered pandas, fixed a flat tire, and were invited by a local family to lunch. We even got dysentery… or close to it. It was our own little Asian-Oregon Trail.
Roads were organized in grid-like arrangements when in settled areas. It was easy to navigate and get around. In the city, it was also organized, but chaotic. We relied on taxis and our drivers were kind. I always appreciate a driver who is safe, courteous, and lets you cross in front of them before they drive away. Once you find a taxi driver you like, you know what you need to do: Ask for their contact information and they become your driver for your entire stay. It’s the only way I’d navigate the streets of Beijing. I trust experience. My years of driving in Boston and New York City is no match for China’s overwhelmingly busy streets!