We arrived in China almost two weeks ago. The country has made a good impression so far. This is actually our second trip to China, our first being five years ago to the south (from Hong Kong to the Yunnan). After five years, this behemoth of a country is advancing in leaps and bounds. Economic growth can be witnessed everywhere. At the same time, ancient culture and personal experiences await around every corner.
After arriving in Beijing late in the evening, we found our hotel down one of Beijing’s many Hutong alleyways. These microcosms of Chinese culture, where locals live in close proximity to one another and share a tight-knit neighborhood, are slowly being torn apart and replaced with towering skyscrapers. Beijing as a whole is impressive. It’s huge and modern in some parts, but ancient and cultural in others. We visited Beihai park, where crowds perform Tai Chi in unison along the shore of an ancient lake with a modern skyline as a backdrop.
Torres del Paine is a national park in Patagonia, Chile. It is known for some of the most spectacular hiking in the world. I met many people as I hiked the park – people doing it on many different budgets. There was Joe from Chicago who camped and lived on porridge for nine days – surely that’s the cheapest it can be done. There were others who stayed at the Refugios with breakfast, dinner and a box lunch included for the trail. In between there was me: I camped, ate one meal at a Refugio, had drinks at the bar during happy hour (when they were half price) and ate a lot of nuts, dried fruit and other easily portable food.
The superpower nation of China is big, not just in land mass, but in population as well. With about 1.4 billion people (that is 4 Chinese for every 1 American), and 12-24 hour train rides between each major city, the country is only recently trying to integrate on the world stage. Even with this recent push, certain traits have not been adapted to the world scale. One of these is the language barrier.