Russia, as I walked around the Red Square and took in the Russian flare, I quickly learned that I am a bad tourist. I enjoy seeing the rich historical aspects that every country and place has to offer, but I really enjoy getting to know the people and the culture on a more personal level. Spending the three months in Mongolia was exactly the type of experience I needed to grow up and appreciate my life. China had the opposite effect of spoiling me. After leaving the primitive land of Mongolia and stepping into the bustle of the Silk Market and Beijing, I was caught off guard. The buildings had air conditioning and hot water was always available. The streets were well-paved and the food quality was wonderful.
My regret is that I didn’t stay long enough to see more of the Chinese culture. I saw the major attractions, but these landmarks are only monuments to what China used to be. What is the country like today? That question was left unanswered, but to truly get the feel of a country, you need a native of the country to take you around (like Maks in Russia did for me). Plus, you need more time. Everyday I spent in Mongolia revealed another layer of the little-known country. Despite being an insignificant country on the political and global scale, Mongolia was more colorful and vibrant than I first assumed.
I would love to have the opportunity to visit China again, and see more of the country and the culture.
Although my English friend described the driving habits in China as awful, he has never seen Mongolians drive. It wasn’t too bad, a little crazy with all the bicycles because they weave through places they shouldn’t. Mongolian terrain and infrastructure is not good enough for bicycles and vespas so most people were in cars (and if they could afford it a Land Rover). The pipes in China are also open like in Mongolia so the poop-smell easily drafts up onto the streets on blistering days. Beggars haunt the subway system and the sellers still try and rip off foreigners.
The humidity is suffocating, but street vendors sell corn on the cob and ice cream to the milling tourists. The food market was colorful and bustling with double-dog-dare food like scorpion on a stick. The Silk Market sellers could rule the world with their aggressive, selling tactics if ever placed in a government position. The Chinese are not as xenophobic as Mongolians and are generally a lot friendlier to tourists (or they are smiling because of how much they just ripped you off).
The city is very modern with skyscrapers and an organized metro system. The food is delicious while still intriguing. The city has many layers of vibrancy, waiting for tourists to peal it apart.
If only I had more time: