Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beijing - it's my thing

The pollution continues to be a problem here.

Today it was maybe 200m visibility, and every now and then there’d be a strange smell in the air. For the most part you don’t notice a thing other than the smog. But sometimes the smell just kicks you in the face and it’s all you can do to control the gag reflex. The Chinese would tell you that the level is well below the ‘dangerous’ levels as indicated by the US pollution scale. The US has a scale that measures pollution between 1 and 300 (300 being as bad as it gets in the US). According to the live twitter feed from the US embassy in Beijing, the pollution in Beijing is consistently over 400 (on the scale that tops out at 300). This is what I’m breathing in.

Yesterday I discovered the Beijing night markets, but during the day. It was exciting and bustling and crowded and everything I expected Beijing markets to be. I met a couple of lads from the mother country (Britain), and we wandered through the throng to stumble across a half-dozen food stalls. At first I didn’t realize what I was looking at, but soon I discovered that I am not the intrepid traveler I thought I would be. I had stumbled on a vendor selling live scorpions on a stick. To eat. Live scorpions.

I watched as the ‘chef’ grabbed live scorpions from a bowl and planted several on each skewer. I’ll admit, part of me was tempted to try one. But another part of me managed to overpower the other, and so I walked on. Not without feeling considerable unease at the thought of a live scorpion crawling over my tongue as I bit down…

Tomorrow I am going to the Great Wall. My friend who I am staying with has recommended a driver to take me and one other to the wall and to see Ming’s Tomb. I’m rather looking forward to it, and it’s going to be a rather full on day.

Possibly with cake.

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