Jumping to the other side of the world for the first time is a fantastic and exotic experience. It all begins with the length of the trip: about two days between airports and long Air China flights to arrive in Beijing.
A company supplier invited me to another express business trip, as usual – but I managed to have some fun, at least. Being in China has always been like traveling to another planet, because everything is different: language, culture, food and alphabet. But nowadays it is even more interesting, because it means witnessing the rise and growth of a superpower nation.
Arriving in Beijing impresses a lot. The airport is huge with a giant conveyor belt where hundreds of people wait to get their luggage at the same time. My business partner sent a taxi driver to pick me up. He spoke only Chinese, so I struggled to make him understand that I wanted to see the stadiums where the Olympics were going to take place in July that year, and I did it! I saw them from far and they were covered with pollution. I could see both the nest and the bubble stadiums. They are fantastic examples of modern architecture.
Curious and excited as I always am, even after this very long flight and with a 12-time-zone jet lag, I could not just go to the hotel and relax. I arrived early in the morning, I checked in at the hotel and after a short nap and a bath at an excellent suite of the Intercontinental Beijing, I decided to go for a walk on my own.
This first day, I was amazed with China 2008. The next day, my business partner Xie also took me to visit the wonderful TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, with its millenary history.
The most curious thing in this tour was when Asian girls started to take photographs of me. Out of nowhere, the girls began to take pictures. It was very unusual to be attacked by the paparazzi, probably because I am tall, I had a leather jacket and sunglasses on, not to mention my Western features.
It happened a couple more times, and later I was told that in these capitals, especially in tourist spots, many teens come from small towns in the countryside and several of them have never seen a Westerner. So, I became a tourist attraction in the middle of China!
This day ended with me looking at a map of Beijing, all written in Chinese, which I could not understand anything. We got inside Xie’s beautiful black BMW and drove to a small town some hours away. Looking back, there was the image of this great metropolis with its giant new skyscrapers, freezing cold weather, much less poverty than I imagined, but much more pollution than what I expected. It's scary. Apart from the smokestacks of coal burning in the center of Beijing, you realize that pollution does not decrease when you get away from the city as it usually happens in other places of the world. That is the price they are paying for this tremendous development...