Beijing Backpacking, Day 30: Getting One Last Glimpse of Everything

There's no better way to say farewell than with a sleepy Sunday sunrise in the background, where the air is fresh and nature is still well and truly alive.
There’s no better way to say farewell than with a sleepy Sunday sunrise in the background, where the air is fresh and nature is still well and truly alive.

ONE OF THE most beautiful things I find about the Chinese language is how it expresses its pearls of wisdom: in its four-character phrases, known in the native language as chengyu. Never has there been a more succinct yet beautiful way to express the realities of life; many of them use metaphor and allegory to vivid imagery.

So it’s apt that, as my time in Beijing drew to a close, I express my sentiments through an example. 日月如梭,how the sun and moon race back and forth across the sky. How time flies, indeed. Cue the cliches. Everything I had assumed about China was challenged. I have met the most amazing people with the most insightful stories. I leave China a different person.

So, is this the end? Absolutely not. I’ve learned so much about Beijing, there is so much to share about this place, that I will definitely keep posting about the things I have encountered here frequently; they just won’t be structured according to the day I visited them.

But how can I wrap up thirty days of adventure and learning so aptly? Start with a sunrise. I farewelled two friends I made in my last two weeks here; we bonded over the common experience about what it means to be Asians, growing up in Western countries, returning to Asia; what it means to be happy. It’s as much the summary of my time here as it is my life.

Going past the philosophically sentimental, I head back to my place in Shuangjing to sleep (yes, this was right after clubbing) and pack. Having been so busy, I had never seen Shuangjing on a Sunday morning, and the silence and tranquillity are surreal. I had just told my colleague that it seems to be a place that never sleeps; then I realise that I only ever see it after breakfast time or late at night.

I farewell the city centre. I farewell the temples. I farewell Wangfujing – briefly, in the hope of finding some last-minute souvenirs. And I farewell my host. Then I go for one final meal. And what better final meal is there than with a colleague, over something Beijing is famous for the world over – its duck. And it tastes sublime with eggplant and watermelon juice – two quintessentially Beijing sides. I feel bad that my colleague offers to help me wheel my bags to Dongzhimen station – they’re heavy, and one definitely Asian thing in me is to save face and avoid burdening others. But I give in, seeing that this is the last time we’ll share for the foreseeable future. After all, what’s the most valuable thing that you should savour when you travel? The bonds you make, of course.

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