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On Leaving China

The Chinese are the most industrious people on the planet. They are like ants. This building will probably be completely built in a week. I am not joking. When I returned to Hangzhou after being away for eight months my old neighborhood was totally revamped. What were massive pits in the earth when I left [...]

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The Chinese are the most industrious people on the planet. They are like ants. This building will probably be completely built in a week. I am not joking. When I returned to Hangzhou after being away for eight months my old neighborhood was totally revamped. What were massive pits in the earth when I left were transformed into towering high rises and had people living in the in merely a few months. It is unbelievable.

Beijing, P.R. China
5.15.2007

I should be leaving for a Erlian in the Gobi Desert on the Mongolian border tomorrow morning. I am seriously going miss China. I can not explain my attraction to this land. It seems so horrible in so many respects, but it has just gotten me. There is just something about it that keeps calling me back every time I leave. This was the third time that I have had an extended run in China, and the third time that I know that I will probably return. It is just real good living here. I can just tramp into a town, and within a day find a well paying job, a cheap room, and a place where I can get good food. It is just really simple here, really basic. I have found it easy to provide for myself with only a touch of effort (I speak enough Chinese, which probably is the sole reason I can make this statement). I am just really relaxed here. I really needed to get back to China after another four months in India. When I did my health was shaky and I needed to just lay around for a while, eat highly nutritious foods, and consume massive amounts of herbs. I studied with a really good Chinese medicine doctor here the year before, and I went back to him to be put back together. It took a few months but he did the job, and although I am still not 100% (digestion is still weak), I am ready to go. I couldn’t sit around Hangzhou any longer, the Road was calling.

So now that I am on the verge of leaving China I am just recollecting on how much I love and hate living here. It is not a “cool” country by any means. It is one of the most non-layedback places that I have ever been. Everything is so focused, so intense….complex. In all the time that I have been in China I have made very few friends; and these were all in Yunnan province (on the Vietnam, Lao, Myanmar border). I have never made a Chinese friend in Hangzhou or anywhere else in the country. Maybe this is one of the reasons that I like it so much. I can walk down the street and know that I am not going to be placed in a social situation. I can just be quiet here. I can just contemplate the days away. I don’t have any friendship obligations and will not fall into any. I am just free to walk in the hills and be with myself. But a season of this becomes enough to regulate myself enough to move back into the world, make friends, and be social again. People go through stages; sometimes it is best to rage and sometimes it is best to lay low. My stages seem to correspond with the seasons. Winters I brood in self directed meditations, Summers I run with friends. The in between seasons correspond by likewise degrees. I am an animal, seasonal change still impacts me.

But other than this, I really respect the Chinese character and dig on the old time Tao dharma and poetry. I first began coming to China so that I could learn the language to read the nature poetry of the ancient poets. I am not quite at that stage of proficiency, but I am still learning. I have a feeling that I am always going to be studying this language. I also really like the fact that Chinese men still beat the hell out of each other in the streets. If there is a problem, it is settled with fist. Seriously, walking the streets of this country is like attending a fight showcase. You can often watch multiple fights on a single walk. I find it entertaining, and the Chinese do to. Not even the police break up fights. Rather, the officers of the law are spectators like everybody else. Everything is really up front in China. The people are rude, loud, and belligerent, though they are tough and know how to “eat-bitter.” I really find that I hold a great amount of appreciation for their somewhat intense social tendencies. If they have a question for me they ask it. It is just their way. I am really going to miss China. I feel as if I am leaving just to be called back, again. But I must be moving on. To Mongolia!

Man near Forbidden City with nothing much to do.
Beijing at dusk.
Gate tower of Forbidden city. I did not bother going it…it is forbidden, right?
Statue in restaurant window. I joked with Mira about how she is going to have to do this for me.

Filed under: China, Travel Plan, Urbanization

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3611 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

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