For today, our last day in Beijing, we did the one remaining must see thing on our list. Not Peking Duck, the science museum, of course. The museum was so good that we ended up spending a good half day there, and had to drag the boys away.
The Beijing Science and Technology museum was built just in time for the Olympics, in the same precinct. Oddly enough, the Olympic precinct itself was very reminiscent of Sydney Olympic Park. Wide open wind swept places with very few people in them. Even communist government can create white elephants, it seems, empty space in a city of 22 million people.
Even the subway line to the Olympic precinct had no one in it. The boys (and I) were ecstatic to find a seat on what was our third subway line of the trip, after spending the previous section jammed into people’s armpits.
The museum itself was fantastic. All the exhibits worked, there were lots of great practical demonstrations of scientific concepts (although the electricity and magnetism section got well beyond my hazy memories of high school Physics).
My favorite part was the mammoth gallery devoted to Chinese inventions. There were lots of working models of water wheels, and various other mechanical devices used in farming thousands of years ago. And a wonderful astronomy section, with replicas of various adstronomical models created to predicts solar eclipses, among other things.
The boys, though, most enjoyed the science playground, which had a separate entry price, and was more playground than scientific.
In the subway back, we were astounded all over again at how good the subway system is. Its not that amazing, for a city this big, unless you realise that it was only about five years ago that it was described on travel websites as fairly useless, only two lines that don’t go anywhere useful and ridiculously crowded
Now there are 9 different lines. Any destination we’ve wanted to go to has a station nearby. It is still crowded (and we havent travelled in rush hour yet) but it is clean, modern, and cheap (around 30 cents for a single ticket).
I was thinking that it would be difficult to create that much completely new subway in a city this populated, without a fairly authoritarian government, but it probably just requires enough money and political will – given it is underground, you probably don’t even have to turf too many people out.
On the way back, on the crowded subway, we all realized that we’ve finally got the hang of this traveling in Beijing thing. Just in time to move on to our next city tomorrow!
Knowledge factor: 9/10, there was a huge amount of information available about some quite tricky scientific concepts, notably electricity
Fun factor: 9.5/10
Cafe factor: 3/10 as we could only find sugary popcorn to feed the boys and there was no coffee
Expense: 9/10 ($18 for all of us, which included $9 for the science playground
Unique factor: 8/10 – the Chinese invention gallery was fantastic, and included the occasional real artifact, along with a huge amount of information