Rotten eggs. That is the smell outside our hotel. The exact origin of this odor is unknown… could it be coming from the nearby garbage cans or maybe is it emitted from the thousands of car exhaust pipes? I am not sure. My air quality meters cannot detect the source of this smelly aroma, yet they can detect the amount of particulate matter in the air. Data from the first day in Beijing reveals bad air quality. Visually, there is a grey smog in the air. Physically, my eyes burn and I feel congested.
The city of Beijing is immensely huge. 22 million people I want to say? Large superblock apartment buildings scatter the city landscape. A mix of timeworn and newly-built structures configure an interesting architectural dichotomy. The streets are filled with people and cars, some not obeying the traffic laws. It almost seems lawless, yet police officers are situated on every block. I am sometimes reminded of the fictional settings in Judge Dredd or Bladerunner as I pass some of Beijing’s cityscapes. It is achingly mesmerizing. Has science fiction come to life?
Tian’anmen Square is maybe twice as large as my hometown if not bigger. And then there is the Forbidden Palace, an entirely separate area which is just as enormous. I was in awe of the beauty and splendor yet ached from the opaque blanket of grey smog in the air. I talked with a woman who studied in Beijing in the 90’s and she said the air quality was almost darkening in those days. It seems to her that China is making much progress in regard to enhancing air quality, however, I believe much is still needed to improve upon. I am confident of future improvement.