I arrived in Beijing in smog and left to more, the air pollution hugging the ground, cotton-batting thick and noxious, blotting out the skyline.
In a way, it’s an apt metaphor for the Chinese capital, an inscrutable place. Shanghai’s easy charms are straightforward to access. But not Beijing, with its stern public spaces, modernist office towers, and shopping malls, endless shopping malls. (Seriously, I’ve been in more malls in a week than in years.) Where’s the there? In the official central city? The business district? One of the many neighbourhoods of high-rises?
I say this not to judge but to wonder aloud. After all, I, too, hail from a city of monumental architecture and government dominance, where hideaways are largely left to locals and visitors walk away with only a superficial glance. I wish I could claim depth of understanding. But I fall short.