I mentioned before on this post that I happened to be in Japan, South Korea and China during the 70th Year Celebration of the end of World War II. For someone with very little knowledge of Asia’s involvement in the war, the whole experience was eye-opening. Not only to learn about the history, but to observe how each country fared after the war and the tension that still lives between these countries. For most of us, the war is something of the past, an event that our grandparent generation lived through, but in Asia, specially in South Korea and China, the feeling that the war was just yesterday still lives on.
It was even more eye-opening to be in Beijing during the celebration to watch the Military Parade and the several tanks stroll by in a demonstration of power. In the Hutongs, every house proudly displayed the red flag of China and the community volunteers (the guys in blue shirts and red hats), made sure everything happened as planned. During the Military Parade, I counted at least 3 different types of police/military groups making sure civilians stayed behind barriers. The video of Xi Jinping, president of China, commanding his military was something out of Hollywood!
In addition, no businesses were open and transportation lines shut down. The hostel kitchen was closed for two full days, with no warning, which made it almost a survival situation, with travelers foraging for ramen noodles and beers to stock pile. Hey, if the end of world is close, you might as well have beer, right?
With all this, the feeling was one of uneasiness for me. But for every tank and soldier I saw on the streets, I also got a smile from a resident or passerby. They wanted me to look up at the jets or see some other attraction. The kids still played around the Hutong alleys and for the most part, my fellow travelers and hostel mates seemed unfazed by all this, which made it almost seem like any other day on the road. Almost.