Beijing Break Down
Forgive any misspellings. Committing 48 hours to seeing all of Beijing is a feat only accomplished on almost no sleep. I could easily write a separate blog post for every different experience I had in Beijing, but since this is a blog post and not a novel, I will try to keep it as condensed as possible.
We arrived in Beijing on Friday and checked in at Hostel 365. My entire life I have traveled with my family and we have always stayed in nice hotels in the classic family of four adjoining room. From my previous understanding, Hostels were not nice places to stay and had the reputation for being dangerous. Wrong. I was floored by how nice Hostel 365 is. The place had a hippie-asian vibe, with graffiti of passed travelers scribbled all over the wall, and everyone who stayed there was in the same age range as I was. The hostel was located on a small food street that came alive at night with baozi, xiaozi, malatang, and barebecue. Attached was a bar that is owned by a good friend of one of our friends. We headed down to the bar when we arrived late at 12 am. We talked to many other groups of people traveling in Beijing….one of them being a Francis W. Parker Alum. Yes. I met a fellow former Kaplan Advisee member in Beijing. He graduated a few years before I was in high school. But considering how small my high school was, it was shocking to meet someone who could talk about pasta bowl, morning ex, and had corinthians memorized.
On Saturday we woke up bright and early to take on the Tianamen Square, The Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. Our hostel was walking distance to Tianamen Square. Its hard to explain how small you feel standing inside the world’s largest town square. Around me was an incomprehensible amount of people (and their umbrellas) and a flat limestone surface that seemed to extend for miles. We walked around the square, admired the monuments and new additions to the square that were created for the communist anniversary.
And then the forbidden city. The History Major in me was already overjoyed that I got to stand in Tianamen Square,The location of historical events both terrible and extraordinary, but walking the same path through the forbidden city that for 750 years was only entered by emperors gave me the chills. The architecture is beautiful, and the size is huge. It is no wonder that an emperor in the Han dynasty once had 3,000 concubines living with him in the forbidden city because the scale of it is so large that it would take forever to find just one concubine.
We grabbed a quick chinese lunch and hired a driver to take us 2 hours out of the city to the great wall of china.
Because we arrived there a little late, all the crowds had gone home, and there were very few people still there by the time we arrived at five o clock. The wall took my breath away. I have never seen something so elegant and impressive in the way that the Great Wall of China is. It travels and winds through the mountains as far as the eye can see. We spent and our climbing the wall, chatting with chinese tourists who wanted our picture, and first and foremost admiring the view at sunset. It was a clear pollution free day, and we were blessed with the experience of watching the sunset over the mountains on the great wall of China. I was struck by a moment of being so thankful for the opportunity to not only see the great wall but share the experience with the amazing people that I have meet here in China.
After a long ride back, we headed to back to the bar at the hostel to eat dinner and meet with the bar’s owner, Abi. We chatted with him for hours, danced a whole lot of salsa with Juan and Felipe, and just as I thought the night was winding down, felipe and I got into a conversation with a chinese couple. They didn’t speak any english, but somehow we hit it off and they convinced us to go to a club with them. Felipe, Juan, and I hopped in a cab with them and arrived at a very chinese club, I don’t think there was a single other lao wai there. The couple had a table waiting with the following items: two cases of beer, sliced watermelon, popcorn, and ice cream. I wasn’t even aware that food was a typical menu item for clubs,and I am pretty sure ice cream is not a normal selection (not that I was complaining). We danced for another hour, and hung out with our new friends until the couple got into a huge fight. I am sure it had nothing to do with us, but it was definitely our signal to leave. We crashed back at the hostel around 6 am, ready to be up the next morning at 9.
On sunday, I had a breakfast of champions after my long night out with maybe a liter of coffee before we headed to the Beijing dirt market. It is a market full of antiques (some real some fake) jade, tibetan artifacts, and communist relics and posters. The market is huge, and incredibly overwhelming. I wanted to get a necklace made, but I was so indecisive and there were so many options, that it didn’t end up happening. I did pick up a few awesome items for gifts, graduation, and birthday presents though! Also a picture of Mao hugging a black man.
Even though I was full from breakfast, Abi invited our group to a lunch of beijing kao ya (beijing roast duck). When we arrived, there was enough food to feed an army. three roast ducks, 4 seafood dishes, two meat dishes, and three vegetable dishes. There is nothing quite like eating the famous beijing kao ya, in beijing, with a group of beijing natives. Beijing Kao Ya is a bit like a chinese taco. you dip fried duck skin and duck meat in a dark sweet soy based sauce and add a cucumber and onion. Then you wrap it up in a thin rice tortilla like thing and enjoy! It is SO GOOD. I forgot how full I was and had as much of the duck as I could. you only live once!
After a very filling lunch, we said good bye to Beijing and hopped on the new high speed rail back to shanghai. The top speed for the rail is 300 km/hour, and I could barely make out the trees as they whizzed on by.
Overall I absolutely loved Beijing, As the cultural center of China, it has a very different character than Shanghai. Shanghai is very commercial, but Beijing feels very historical, and very connected to the culture of china. Chinese politics is also much more apparent in the way business is conducted, the propaganda, and the building construction. It feels much more foreign than Shanghai!
Did I like it more than Shanghai? Depends, when I have the opportunity to spend more time there I will let you know!
And there you have Gen Carter’s Beijing Breakdown.