Beijing/China – Busan/South-Korea

Finally I am in the city centre of Beijing. Like always it’s not that easy to enter such a huge city by bike. The street widens up, becomes a big square, surrounded by barrier fences. To the left tribunes and the Tian’anmen gate with a big portrait of Mao Zedong, behind it the emperors palace and the Forbidden City. To the right the Tian’anmen Square, the biggest of its kind worldwide (total area of 440.000 m² and a capacity of 1 Million people), framed by the National Theatre, the Great Hall of the People, the Mao Zedong Mausoleum and the Monument to the People’s Heroes. I stop to take a picture and immediately I have a policeman in civil on my side – it’s not allowed to stop here. Now I see, that there is a lot of security staff around along the barrier fences. In Tibet I have heard a story, how they recently stopped a trial of a demonstration. They hardly had unrolled a banner, when they were surrounded by the security guys and the square was cleared. 3 days later my second visit and when I arrived, the army was just clearing the square. A Chinese tells me, that it might be a training, because today begins the Congress of the Communist Party, for the following days the dominating event in the media. Afterwards a visit of the Forbidden City.
Beijing has many parks to offer and as already seen in the city of Xi’an, it’s a pleasure to come there on weekends. Then they turn into public theatre stages for everybody. People meet here and play traditional chinese instruments, present operas, play board- or card plays, exercise Tai chi chuan, with swords or acrobatic dances and the Seniors give a lesson to the juniors playing the Diabolo. The attraction is a big, well singing chorus. Who ever wants can join them. They mostly sing songs from the “good old times”. The majority of the active people here are Seniors. It’s nice to see, how they enjoy their social live, at least on weekends.
But beside that, my first impression of Beijing is not too positive. On the first day the confrontation with the strict security rules at the Tian’anmen Square. Then this capital-modernity with luxus hotels, shopping malls with the latest fashion in clothes, sports, watches, cameras, shoes. The popular US-american fast-food places in great numbers, sometimes two in one block. Nothing for me. Furthermore everything costs a multitude of what I was used to pay so far on my way through China. The search for a budget hotel takes time and finally I end up in a tower, at least centrally located, but in a cell without window. Not very nice. Well, I thought, if that’s the way it is with the cheaper rooms in the inner part of the building. But other things seem also strange. Much later on I realize, that I sleep 3 floors underneath street-level.
Today expires my China-Visa. A long queue awaits me in the consulate. “You have to present a proof of residence from your Hotel!” Back to the Hotel, back to the consulate. “An extension is not possible.” In the last city, where I went to the same institution and asked, they told me: “No problem at all, but first, when the actual Visa has expired.” With the Tibet-permit and Visa here in China it just seems to be always like that. Everybody has different information, even government officials don’t agree. But everything is said to be so restrictive. However you do it, you get in trouble. If you stay longer than your Visa allows, you pay about 50 Euros per day. It feels like, as if a police man at a check point says, “everything fine, go ahead” and his colleague shoots you in the back. Back at the hotel it takes some time to convince them, not to drop me on the street, because they are all not allowed to host guests without Visa. So far on my journey, they didn’t care much. My last option is to present a departure ticket until tomorrow, because then I offer me an ultimate extension of 10 days to leave the country. I want to take the ferry boat to South-Korea, but to get a ticket here in Beijing, on a weekend, where they keep saying, that the tickets are only sold at the harbour, some 200km away, keeps me busy for two days. Meanwhile I met some people who were very friendly and helpful. Finally I get these 10 days. While they need 5 work days out of them to process. For me just enough time, to cycle to the Chinese Wall and back to Beijing, to pick up my passport, to reach the harbour in Tianjin and to leave China on the last possible day.
After a quick visit of the site of the new Olympic Stadium for the Games 2008, I am on the way to the Great Wall, at Simatai. The biggest man-made structure of the world (which despite all rumours is impossible to see from space – see Wikipedia) is a system of many single wall sections, not continuously connected and not in one line, erected in different eras and in also in appearance and size very different. The place, where I visit the Wall, it’s winding impressionable over the back of a mountain with steep flanks, equipped with many watchtowers. But because of the difficult terrain there was no need of a huge wall. In some parts it’s only 1m high, and serves mainly as a path. Only a few sections of the original wall are still there or have been re-erected.
More or less without problems I leave China at the end of October by ferry boat to Incheon, near Seoul in South Korea. The option to cycle through North-Korea, doesn’t exist, at least as a German national. Most of the days it’s still sunny and warm enough to ride in T-Shirt, but when the sun sets, it’s already almost frosty. My permanently used sleeping bag doesn’t help much any more. In Korea my first stop is the capital Seoul. Everything seems perfectly organised and easy to find. Immediately I note, that, for a long time, nobody is spitting any more in front of my feet. While in India they were mostly chewing herbal stuff and spitting it around, in China they spit permanently and soundly Sputum (snot) out of nose and mouth.

In Seoul I have an appointment with Tae Hyun. Funny to meet her here, after she had lived for 8 months of my absence together with Denise in my flat in Berlin. We go out to have some diner – Hanjungsik, a traditional Korean dish. Along with rice and a soup go 21 cups of side bites. Obligatory in Korean Cuisine is Kimchi, cabbage.

Korea is one of the most mountainous countries in the World I read in one of the guide books. That’s something, I don’t really wanted any more right now. Against my hope, that I just have to cross the mountain range once, in order to go down south easily along the east coast, the steep hills reach down into the water. So I collect altitude meters like in high mountains. But there are nice encounters with the local people. I am often invited, which helps to get a better insight into the Korean way of life and I receive presents. Furthermore there some nice sights, but similar ones I saw already in China. New are the uncountable Christian churches, sometimes present in high density, with numerous variations of their architecture. The rest is a modern industrial nation. Somehow I miss the exotic factor. The often beautiful landscape is interrupted by noise barrier walls, paved hill slopes or aerial masts. Also when it might be a bit unfair with this country, with me stays the impression, “well, so I have seen that too”.
I arrive in Busan at the South East coast, from where I, after 12 days in South Korea, take a ferry boat to Shimonoseki, in the South West of the Japanese main Island Honshu.


translated by Maik

pictures to this article: Peking/China – Seoul/Südkorea : Fotos and Seoul/Südkorea – Busan/Südkorea : Fotos

16. Januar 2008 - Tom & Maik | english texts | Kommentare :: comments :: comentarios | Inhalt drucken

One Response to “Beijing/China – Busan/South-Korea”

  1. 1 Yaz Okulu 22 März 2008 @ 16:24

    does anyone knows if there is any other information about this subject in other languages?

Leave a Reply


deutsch :: english :: español

Rubrik :: category :: categoría

Archiv :: archive :: archivo