I have just come back from a three week holiday exploring parts of China. While I was there I was too overwhelmed to blog, but since I have been back I have been reflecting on some of what I experienced.
An overwhelming experience of any Chinese city is the noise. Everything and everybody seems to want to make their presence felt by making noise. Every vehicle honks its horn to warn other traffic and pedestrians that it is about to manoeuvre. This is particularly disconcerting when the manoeuvring is behind you on the pavement, or you are in the taxi squeezing itself between a bus and contesting taxi. In Beijing we needed earplugs in our hotel because the building site beside the hotel was busiest over night. That was when the concrete lorries made their deliveries and the concrete was pumped and laid. The lorries get stuck in the Beijing traffic in daytime.
You escape the street noise by travelling on very fast and clean trains and metros. There you are assailed by people noise. On short journeys everyone uses their mobile phones to shout at their friends and family, often with the speaker turned on so you listen to the other party shouting back. Or they play games on their phones and iPads. A five hour journey 5 on the Shanghai – Beijing express with the people in the seats in front of playing arcade games with the sound turned on felt like a long slow ride despite the carriage indicator screen showing a constant speed of over 300 kph.
from phot by Wang Fuchun – ministryoftofu.com
In three weeks I spotted only one Chinese person reading a book while travelling on public transport and two reading newspapers. The only Kindle users were clearly western visitors: on planes. I understand the Chinese government don’t – yet – allow Kindles to be sold in China- although iPad and iPad clones are sold.
Maybe people get home, draw their blinds, switch on their illegal Kindles and read in blissful silence each evening- but I doubt it.