I spent all day today at Tsinghua University in Beijing. It is either the best or the second best university in China (in competition with Peking University) and is absolutely vast. So vast that trying to find the right building for my first meeting took half an hour by car. It has several hotels and about 10 different canteens along with theatres, swimming pools and housing blocks to rival most towns. It was founded in 1911 and is where most of the senior politicians in The Party studied. Chairman Mao once had a swim there I was told, but then Mao was everywhere I have ever been in China.
The architecture is a mix of styles from the very old to the ultra modern and they have some nice touches: traditional Chinese gardens with gongs that they still strike to give the time and cobbled pathways.
It used to be Tsinghua Gardens, part of the emperor’s Summer Palace gardens, and sits right next to them now. It was about minus 2 degrees so all of the lakes were frozen and it looked bleak, but beautiful. My hosts took me for a Chinese banquet lunch and I was expecting the worst (chicken’s feet or unidentifiable offal) but they were generous and ordered sympathetically.
I’m now in the back of a honking taxi weaving through evening traffic after visiting the Silk Street market. This is where westerners flock to pick up imitation luxury goods and I was no different – a large Mulberry handbag for your mother for £30. Nothing to me, but you still know you are paying over the odds. The bargaining is tiring and relentless and some of the shop keepers are aggressive, but I just blank them, did what I want, ask them the price and then offer them a tenth of what they ask for. Then I will work my way up to what I’m happy paying. All fun and games.
One more day in China and then heading to see uncle Buzz in Abu Dhabi on the way home. I’ll finally get to fly on the Airbus A380, which for a plane geek like me is incredibly exciting.
PS. Just tried to publish this from my phone, but it seems WordPress is banned in China. I’ll have to wait until I’m in a less censored part of the world. Hopefully all that kind of nonsense will have ended by the time you’re old enough to read this, but I doubt it.