I'm absolutely loving solo travel. I love not having to worry about what someone else wants to do, what they want to eat, how cold/uncomfortable they are, what kind of mood they're in, etc. I can't even remember why I was so hesitant before. The way people talk, you get to thinking that travelling solo means you're constantly in mortal peril. From what I've seen, China is probably safer than Canada in terms of violent crime. The police presence here - especially in Beijing - is formidable. The only times I ever feel unsafe here are when I have to cross a street or walk along a narrow road alongside all the swerving, speeding cars, with all the motorcycles weaving in and out of them. That
is scary. It's just complete anarchy on the roads here. Nobody enforces anything. People don't signal, brake or even slow down; they just honk. And they drive on the sidewalk and run red lights all the time.
Anyway, I went to the Dashanzi 798 Art District
yesterday and it was awesome. Any Busties going to Beijing take note: that place is a must-see
. The setting alone, a bunch of abandoned warehouses and factory buildings, was almost too good to be true. It was an entire village of small art galleries, lovely (albeit shockingly overpriced) cafes, and boutique shops selling specialty clothing, accessories, art prints and stuff (which is actually really hard to find here - everything
in China is mass produced and all the stores sell the exact same things). There's a huge variety of art by contemporary Chinese artists, both famous and unknown. There were a few foreigners there, but it seemed to be mostly young Chinese students. I was also really pleased to find that there was a significant amount of graffiti art on the buildings - that's one of the things I'm really interested in in China. I hadn't anticipated how easy it would be to get lost there and didn't try very hard to keep track of my location or my starting point, so the end of the day did not go smoothly. I ended up wandering around looking for the entrance I came in for nearly an hour before giving up and leaving through a different one. Unable to find any of my pre-planned bus stops, I ended up busing home blind to my friends' place on the other side of Beijing, in the dark, in -10 C weather, during rush hour. So that was an adventure. But I made it home. Beijing's many traffic overpasses, with all their different lanes, roundabouts, entrances and exits, make for extremely confusing traffic. Not user-friendly at all. Transferring buses on one of these overpasses, you have no idea where to catch your next bus, and you can quickly become disoriented. I ended up just boarding a random bus and asking them how to get to the right one. Bus drivers are a lifesaver that way. They're knowledgeable, they can't cheat you like a cab driver can, and the worst thing they can do is drop you off at the wrong bus stop, where you'll at least know your location and have access to other buses that can take you where you need to go.
I've still got another 2 1/2 days in Beijing and there are a few historical sites I haven't seen. I think I've overdosed on historical sites for now; they all look the same to me, and the history is all starting to blur together. All I wanna do now is sit in cafes, drink tea and people watch. The older couple I'm staying with can't understand this. I think they think cafes are a frivolous indulgence for westerners who want to pretend they're still in the west, but in fact they're actually a lot cheaper than the traditional teahouses here, where you can pay 10 or 15 dollars for a pot of tea. And although there are always westerners in the cafes, Chinese people go to them too. Especially young people. And cafes have wireless and people are less likely to stare at you and talk about you like you can't understand them. It's not traditional, but that doesn't make it any less authentic. I'm back at that lovely Starbucks again and I'm not sorry! There are definitely way worse ways to spend your money here.