A Confusing New World or Déjà Vu?
Typically not one to get easily lost, I have found that it is oh-so-NOT hard to get lost in Beijing! Language barrier aside (as being an obvious peril), the Chinese culture for signage is mesmerizing. In my experience, the Western world is rather selective when it comes to statements via signs and it assigns prominence according to a sign's relevance (e.g. "Enter" is rather prominent when you approach an attraction, the "Exit" sign is always clearly marked and you can rest assured that you can see those two much quicker than, for example, a sign pointing for Cinderella's castle - except, of course, if you are on your way to the castle - all about relevance!).
Not in China! Everything here demands equal opportunity for your attention and I find that fascinating and somewhat scary, especially when I was able to get lost twice in two days: once in Sun Park (which is a HUGE park with controlled access and only 4 entrances/exits) and the Forbidden City (I circled around a few times before I was able to understand the proper flow). Yes - I blame it on signage and nothing else (such as jet lag, lack of sleep, and general disorientation).
Yet this highly planned and sometimes counter-intuitive organization has left me quite charmed. As I walk Beijing's streets, I feel oddly at home. Sudden flashbacks to Bulgaria's centralized urban planning of the late 70's and early 80's is witnessed on a much grander scale here. An odd meeting of vastly different cultures (the Far East historical and cultural richness, the Western popular and financial culture, and the highly planned and organized society of modern China) somehow appears to just work, like a well-oiled machine.
I like it here even though jet lag IS proving to be more brutal than expected (thus a blog post at the local time of 5:15AM). I am excited to take on my next Chinese journey though - trying out the local food. Wish me good luck!