Sunday, June 12, 2011


the hutongs

i skipped one of the sessions of a congress i attended last april in beijing and decided to walk the hutongs around liulichang instead. didn't feel guilty about this as the session did not really concern me. i was just an observer afterall. It was one of the last sessions and half of the attendance were nowhere to be seen since the day before. The ones that were present looked bored to death and some of the african nations' representatives were in total stupor since day two of the week long affair.

most of government representatives of all the continents and members of the UN were there. the opening was grand, with some africans looking magnificent in their colorful national attire and the rest choose to be safe and came in dark or black suits. the early sessions were rather formal as to be expected but the sessions quickly degenerated into semi casual affair. what i found remarkable was that this congress generally mirror the state of the world as we live in now. Day one started enthuistically enough. minor african nations clamoured and competed with each other to put their names on record by seconding every motions put up by bigger western countries . we support the recommendation put forward by Germany, said the representative of lesotho or some such country. we agreed and seconded the proposal by the USA , exclaimed burkina faso. Asian nations were quiet except thailand but perhaps understandable as this was a food safety congress and thailand is an important agricultural nation. singapore was alert but keep their peace. japan was very attentive but didnt' say much. malaysia didn't utter a word for whole duration of the congress and maldives slept all the way through. and by the third day the meeting was generally conducted among a few representatives of the western nation and china. the rest took time off to do sight seeing.

and so i too went to the hutongs around the famous tourist area of liulichang. but even the hutongs are now very much geared to tourists and you can wander around anywhere with perfect safety and peer into the homes and little shops or take pictures with not a glance from the locals. the only good thing about this hutong area was that it is still not visited by the package tourist hordes and you just occassionally see a depressed looking white who was probably a travel writer. and you can still see that strange chinese toilets where the doors are absent and people just squat and shat alongside each other. how can they do this is beyond me.

it is interesting that paul theroux didn't mention about this in his funny travel book on china riding the iron rooster. he whined and grumbled about the chinese and their spitting, that other strange chinese behavior which i have never witnessed even since the first time i started travelling throughout china in 1997 . but i could see the open door toliets everywhere even now and paul theroux did not seem to care or saw it even when he was travelling around in 1980s.

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