China – Day of Contrasts

Today was a definitely a day of contrasts.

We started the day off at a medical clinic where we learned a little about the principles of Chinese Medicine. Minutes later, a group of doctors and medical students made their way around our group. While the doctors free advice to the tour group about a range of ailments, the medical students massaged our feet and legs.

I was more than happy with the student’s work and so gave him a reasonable tip. I wasn’t as convinced about the value of a five to ten minute consultation with a doctor I’ve never met before, and who hadn’t come with the recommendation of a friend or family member.

A lot of people in the room were diagnosed with a range of ailments, and were recommended medications in the range of hundreds and thousands of dollars. The doctor who sat down next to me shot me a stern look when I told him I wasn’t interested in a diagnosis, and then, after he asked me to poke out my tongue, he simply said added I should “exercise more”.

From there, we headed to the Giant Panda display at Beijing Zoo. Although I was anticipating we might have been deeply disappointed – these great animal attractions often have a habit of being asleep and in caves most of the time – we were delighted with seeing the pandas, even if they were rather slothful.

After lunch, we paid a visit to one of the Hutongs. Ironically enough, the Hutongs (many of which were destroyed in the years leading to the Beijing Olympics) have become major tourist draw-cards as evidence of “Old Beijing”. There were several other tour buses in the area of the one we visited. Although there was a real sense of tourism about the place (not quite The Rocks, but close), I really enjoyed our wander through the area. A young man whose family lived in the area came in, chatted to us for a while about traditional Hutong life, and then told us some of the rooms were now available to hire. “A French couple got married here and had their wedding night in the room over there” he told us.

In contrast, we ended the day visiting the main up-market shopping centre of the city. Prada. Zahra. Apple. H&M. You care to name just about any major brand name, and you’ll find them in this part of Beijing. All of that said, we still saw some homeless, shoeless people walking around this part of the city, as evidence there’s a growing divide in China between the super-rich and the super-poor.

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