I start the day early in the morning. As, I have already the tickets and I am early in the station I have time to go for breakfast. I eat what it seems a very popular dish. I like it.
The patterns from the previous train trip are repeating. There are many small towns and many new neighbourhoods under development. There are buildings, all copies of the same design, hosting big shops. And then the last one or a couple of them seem to have been empty for a long time. But, not far away, a set of newer buildings are opening new shops. The more modern buildings, half-empty, are waiting for more shops to come.
The train arrives to Beijing South station close to noon. I have an afternoon ticket for the Forbidden City, so the timing is good.
I enter the Forbidden City. There is not much to say about it. It is as magnificent as I expected. As I cross thru pavilions and big squares, there is one detail here that reminds me of ‘Kung Fu Panda’ another one there that looks like a scene from ‘Mulan’. The Imperial Palace has inspired the arts and media for centuries. I am grateful to be able to see the original materials in all its historical glory.
I stay until we are told that its time to close. Slowly and orderly a mass of visitors goes out thru the big gates. I failed to visit a couple of exhibits. For these occasions, my thinking is that it is not wrong to leave a few things unseen for the next time that I come to the city. Outside a new surprise awaits me.
When I leave the Palace, a Chinese woman starts to talk with me in English. Her husband and daughter also add some comments to the conversation. They have a heavy accent, but their English is relatively fluent.
I wonder what is what they want. The talk is just polite chitchat. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Is your first visit to China?’ Used to Sweden respectful distance, I wonder what is what they want, but I continue talking with them.
Then, out of the blue, ask me to go for tea so they can practice more English.
Aha! So, everything was about that. Suddenly this puts into context a conversation I had last year in Shanghai. It followed the same pattern of polite questions without any concrete goal. Not being an English native, I have an accent of my own. But, I guess it is not enough to discourage people from looking to learn more. Or, maybe, it is just not noticeable to someone that is not so used to standard English.
After extending the talk for another ten minutes, I decline the invitation. Tomorrow I need to weak up early. I will be stopped twice more times walking to the hotel. For this trip, my goal is to learn the ins and outs of moving around China. But, next time, practising English seems a fantastic way of meeting people and learning more about Chinese culture.