Beijing Visit 2006

Yesterday was Malaysia’s real national day, well, at least one that I wished we could have celebrated together with Singapore citizens. Kinda regret that this is one of the few national day season that I haven’t done anything fun nor significant. Impianku is still running but I haven’t seen any new posts – maybe it’s time to add new features and encourage more activities. Hardly have time or mood on Recom as well, and even PhilWinds’ website enhancements are also too slow. Don’t think it’s the best thing to work on Malaysia Forum yet too. Sigh – what a national day 2006 is.

On the bright side, I’ve already put down my booking fee for the car. Won’t tell you what I got until I get the car as it will take a month or two to get the COE and shipment. Told Weyn that he can use this as the same day to mark his last day at Microsoft Office before moving to work in London.

Well the real reason I’m writing this was to jot down some memories I had in Beijing (19 to 26 Aug). Funny how it took me 3 weeks to write. First week was a scramble week to catchup and complete all my handoff activities so that I can quickly transition, second week was an extremely mentally exhaustive week attending TechEd SEA in KL, and 3rd week was attending a Grid Architect course by Oracle/SMU, a week too interesting to do other stuff…

Ok, here’s the promised short writeup on Beijing:

Beijing 2006 (北京)

Finally, my first trip to China after traveling to like every other city in US and Europe. And a good start for my conquest for Asia too, just as my first landing spot in US is New York, this is Beijing (and not Chengdu which I was scheduled to go within a month’s time but got postponed), and thus the first impression of China, its people and its possibilities.

Although it was organized by one of those extremely cheap tour agency that my father chose and regret, it wasn’t that bad once you think of how much they are supposed to be making. It cost RM700 excluding the flight (I took Garuda from Changi while my parents took the full package with SQ from KLIA via Changi), which translate to around 1500RMB, for 7 nights. A quick survey on the list price for food and board shows that:

  • Standard 3-star hotel 2-bed Rooms per night RMB 500
  • Drinks: bottled water RMB 2, starbucks coffee RMB 30
  • Food: McD upsized meal RMB 30, Peking Duck (just one dish) RMB 168, typical street side restaurant noodles going between RMB 5 to 10

On top of that, tickets for the tourist destinations going around RMB 10 to RMB 50. We went to around 10 places, some rather close to each other, others free, also traveled to Chengde (承德) (man that was 5 hours each way) and Tianjin (天津) (2 hours from the 6th ring road).

But overall, food was bad, went to the wrong spot for great wall (not the famous one, but another smaller place, steeper slope), didn’t manage to see the main city portion for Chengde, too many shopping (in 7 days, we covered various jade, pearl, silk, tea, snack, and at least 5 different bargain clothing bazaar) as the tour guide needs to collect her share of commission from them, and most importantly, as we’re always rushing, there’s no time to completely understand and appreciate what we’re seeing, and missing large parts of any exhibitions.

Fortunately, my parents were adamant on joining the “optional” part of the tour, which the tour guide was about to fold it into our schedule and ask us for another RMB 220. After pestering them to group the optional tour (to the zoo to see panda, wineyard, Hutong i.e. old residencial sections of the town etc.) on to the same day, I manage to

  • go online for a while (RMB 2 per hour! But you need to give IC and be an adult, above 18/21 not sure)
  • have the real peking duck (Name of the Restaurant: QuanJuDe (全聚德 since 1864) – expensive! But it is REALLY different from all I’ve ever tried)
  • visit the national museum and
  • eat what everybody MUST eat – McDonalds 🙂

Most importantly:

不登长城非好汉 – so now I’m a good man. 

Frankly speaking, the great wall wasn’t as grand as I expected. I thought it would be wider, as they say it’s the only visible man-made structure from the moon, it can’t be this scrawny wall… The forbidden palace though was as expected – maybe due to the numerous movies filmed there. Huge portions of it are under renovation (they still put a huge picture in front of the scarfolding for the benefit of tourists like us), and the portions that are renovated or simple available before this went flooded with tourists.

The air was more or less as expected: polluted. Even though the Beijing government have moved all the industries out of the 4th ring road, air quality still sucks, like KL. Some explained it to be a natural phenomena and the pollutant in the air is just yellow sand blown from the mountains.

There was only one night of really really wet weather. It was the night when we came back from Tianjin to Beijing – the thunderstorm slowed the traffic to a crawl, lightning reaching the ground all around the freeway. As I sat in the bus wondering, would I ever come here and stay here in my life? Beijing? The new capital of the world?

On the optional day we also went to pay Joyo‘s office a visit, something that I’m very happy to be able to do so. It was exactly 1 year since I quit (actually, have I left?) and to be able to meet some of the people I haven’t seen for such a long time (a year – gosh!) evoked such kindled memories.. Okay, there was really only one person (John Wu) I met but nevertheless it was good. Images of Perl hashes on developer screens tells me that mason is stll pretty much the frontend of choice, but chats with John reveals lots of system and cultural integration challenges across the Pacific.

I have no idea where they were before, but now they are on the 19th and 20th floor of a building owned by the Red Bull drink company. Kinda cool huh! It’s extremely close to the Yonganli subway station so transport is good. Here’s a picture I took with John at the reception:

Oh yes there are lots more pictures – but as usual it’ll take me forever to shrink them and put it on my website (hmm… now flickr sounds like an alternative for all my pictures… I’ll think about it…)

Gotta get back to work. It is ironic, that now I’m given a chance to try out an evangelist role in SCS‘s new TIC, I loath the fact that the problems are all so abstract and there’s no concrete thing to “solve”; and yet it’s coincidental that my personality is, I think, more of a INTJ kind, which means I’d rather be sitting down thinking and solving problems. Although this 2 week of upgrading has been beneficial to my psyche as I’ve not really learned anything for the past year, I still don’t see how I’m going to do my job well – so better focus more now – until the car comes

Car car car car car! I siao liao…

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