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January 3, 2009

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 14:56


The following are some random observations from a November 2008 visit to Beijing, China. I hope you find them of interest.

  • On average, drivers in Beijing have had a driver’s license for three years.
  • Twenty percent of the cars in Beijing cannot be driven during the week. If your car’s license plate number ends in 1 or 6, for example, you cannot drive on Mondays. This rule does not apply to the weekends.
  • The skies above Beijing were much clearer than I remember them from previous trips in 1998 and 2002.
  • You see bicycles in Beijing, and in some places, many. But compared to 10 years ago, there are few. They’ve been pushed out by cars from Volkswagen, Audi, Shanghai-GM, Peugeot, and others.
  • The highways in Beijing, especially the major ones, such as the one to/from the airport, are in perfect condition. No expense was spared on bridges, overpasses, signs, etc.
  • When walking or running on the sidewalks and streets of Beijing, you really need to be careful. If you don’t, you’ll get mowed over by a car or bus, or worse, a three-wheel bike hauling a load of lumber or something else.
  • The French often meet for dinner at 9:00 pm, get served at 10:00 and wrap up at mid-night. The Chinese are at the other extreme. They meet for dinner early, begin eating almost immediately, and wrap up in a surprisingly short amount of time.
  • Relatively few Chinese can speak or read English. A Chinese friend created written instructions for my cab drivers.
  • Prices have gone up dramatically, yet much of what you buy is still 2-4 times less than in the U.S. That’s how inexpensive it was before. A can of Chinese beer at the hotel is $1.50, compared to about $.25 ten years ago. A 20-25 minute cab ride is about $7.

Beijing is a fascinating city. The Summer Games brought about significant improvements to its infrastructure. If you plan to go to Beijing in the future, be sure to visit Olympic Park to see the Bird’s Nest, Water Cube, and other striking architectural structures. The new terminal at the airport is the most impressive I’ve seen anywhere. Click here to see a few images from the trip.