It’s three hours to midnight, and 2009. Today I’m in Beijing, yesterday it was Xi’an, and three days ago it was Shanghai, with a brief day in Singapore. In just four days I will be back in Singapore and then almost immediately back on a plane to Shanghai. What a difference a year makes. I can barely recall where I was last new year’s eve, other than at Zen’s house party, followed by a fun trip to The Butter Factory. I had just finished up a long project in Malaysia, and would be staffed on a Vietnam case within weeks.
The food here in China is very good, we had roast duck tonight, at what is apparently the most famous restaurant for the delicacy in Beijing (tracing roots back to 1864).
Weather-wise we’ve been pretty blessed with sunshine and not overly blustery or icy days. Nonetheless at the end of today’s walking tour of the Forbidden City I was grateful for the warm car and the chance to thaw my frozen feet.
Beijing is completely different from the memories I have of the city from over a decade ago. My half-memories (mixed liberally with scenes from various movies and TV serials) of an ancient Chinese city crowded with bicycles have had to readjust to the shockingly wide streets (filled with Audis and VWs), striking skyscrapers and bright lights. I suppose I should have expected all this, given the many mournful and/or nostalgic articles and programs on Beijing (and a mythic Old Beijing) I’d previously seen on National Geographic Magazine, Discovery Channel and even CCTV. Yet the reality is still a little jarring.
I also realise that many of the memories I had of my last visit to Beijing as a young boy are simply false. For example, I had the strongest impression that the Temple of Heaven was in fact an annex to the Forbidden City. It is not.
It’s been a good year, I trust. May 2009 be an even better year, the best year yet.