Quiet streets, closed up shops, and empty buses. This wasn’t what I imagined Beijing to be. I wondered if the locals fled to escape the blanket of noxious smog that had molested the city in recent weeks.
It was Chinese (Lunar) New Year, the time of the year when the world witnesses the largest annual migration of people. During this time, millions of Chinese escape the cities and return to their rural ancestral homes to usher in the new year with loved ones, gifts, and dumplings.
But, Beijing wasn’t a complete ghost town. The sites were still a claustrophobe’s nightmare – ancient temples and palaces crammed with sightseers from overseas and from within the country. Parks were transformed into fairgrounds, offering those unfortunate enough to return home a moment of reprieve from their difficult lives and a chance to win a smile.
The constant crackle of fireworks accompanied by the laughter of children echoing through the hutong alleyways served as a reminder that a vibrant city like Beijing never really takes a break from life.