And we’re back. I’m killing time before my flight back to the US to write about the rest of my time in China. Again, I’ll go day-by-day and then put some random tidbit information at the end.
SATURDAY, MAY 25
Dori and I woke up super early for our flight to Beijing. Our plane touched down around 10 am, so we had the whole day to play tourists. One of the biggest perks of the being in the Foreign Service is that Dori has friends stationed all over. Her friend Luke, who works in Beijing, was spending the weekend in Malaysia and graciously let us stay at his place while he was gone.
We dropped off our luggage and went off to the Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square. There were so many people! The two of us decided to go through the Forbidden City first. Later, this would prove to be a bad idea.
For those of you who don’t know, there are a bajillion gates to get to the main part of the Forbidden City. Cause the emperor needed to be far away from all the gross commoners. Nowadays, the first gate has a huge picture of Chairman Mao’s face on it. Lovely.
Once inside, you’re stunned by the architecture and detail of the buildings. The many colors, carvings, and tiles are all beautiful. We took a lot of pictures, and since we were in a major touristy area, a lot of pictures were taken of us. I never got used to it. Oh well, white people in China problems.
We exited through the back gate and realized that we were forever away from Tiananmen Square (I told you we learned our lesson), but we decided to walk back instead of cab it. The walk was horrible. Not only were the sidewalk stones making our feet ache, we were constantly being accosted by rickshaw drivers asking for business. I was getting furious at them.
*Side note: Men in Beijing like to say “hello” to white girls when they see them. It wouldn’t be so frustrating, but it’s definitely not in a harmless way. I really wanted to yell back, “Je ne parle anglais!” since not every white person is American/British/Australian. (Pretty sure I spelled some of that French wrong).
Finally, we found our way back to Tiananmen Square. You see it, all the flowers and nice buildings, and can’t believe that something so horrible had happened there not too long ago. Supposedly, the Chinese don’t talk about the massacre that much since it didn’t change anything politically. Most don’t feel anything about it one way or another.
Besides the National Museum of China and several monuments, there is the mausoleum of Mao. It’s a large structure with several statues outside depicting the people of China carrying a banner with his image. It’s interesting.
Next was a trip around Qianmen walking street. It’s a newly made area that looks old school but carries a bunch of new school stores like H&M and Zara. There were a few back alleyways. Hutongs.
Before dinner, we decided to go to this small bar in the Nanluoguxiang area that Dori’s friend told us about. On the way there we walked through an amazing park and more hutongs that felt more like “real” China. The bar was called Drum and Bell since it’s located between a very old drum tower and a very old bell tower. We went up on the roof, which had an amazing view of the area. It was noticeable that most of the patrons were expats speaking languages from English to Portuguese.
We were feeling good after we left and though to take a rickshaw to dinner. We made sure to hire a guy that HADN’T accosted us. He was super sweet and drove us to KFC. Cause we’re classy.
Jeez, this post is so long and I’m only done with Saturday.
SUNDAY, MAY 26
OUR GREAT WALL DAY!
A car drove us about an hour and a half out of the city to a small area of the wall called Mutianyu. The village was very small and the area wasn’t as touristy as other parts of the wall. We took a cable car (it was a porch swing with a handlebar) to the Wall and started our trek up and down one of the greatest achievements of mankind.
I can’t describe the experience very well. It’s one of those things that you have to do for yourself. The view, the architecture, the…everything. It was amazing. You could see it stretching on for miles, twisting and turning.
It was a good day for it since it was cool and cloudy. We didn’t start to feel sweaty or tired until our way back to where the cable car had dropped us off. But we weren’t going to take it back down. Oh no, we were going to TOBOGGAN!
Yes, you read that right. They had toboggans that took you down a large slide, snaking downhill. It was SO MUCH FUN! Dori and I loved it!
We grabbed some lunch before deciding to explore the village and the surrounding areas. It was very much rural China. Although, pretty sure the vast majority of the town’s income came from tourism. We hung out at a café for a bit before a car took us back. Dang, were we exhausted. We called it an early night and watched some Downton Abbey before going to bed.
MONDAY, MAY 27
It was our last day in Beijing and most of it was played by ear. It ended up being a day full of temples.
First, the Llama Temple. Another problem with touristy places in Beijing is the beggars. Living in NYC, I’ve seen a fair share of homeless people, but when it comes to amputees, our homeless people don’t feel the need to actually showcase the missing limbs. I had to avert my eyes a lot.
The temple was more Tibetan in style, with more people there to worship. Beautiful. There were a few prayer wheels and I couldn’t help spinning one. Although, I didn't pray. I quoted Eddie Murphy in “The Golden Child”.
There was a Confucian temple across the street so we went over to hit that up. To our liking, very few people were there. There was a statue of Confucius, so of course we had to take pictures with the dude. Again, it was another beautiful temple.
When touring with Gu Qin in Shanghai, she had told me about the Panjiayuan Antique Market it Beijing, so Dori and I went to check it out. It was huge! So any merchants selling so many different things. Lots of beads, (fake) jade carvings, teapots, vases, and calligraphy.
We still had a little bit of time before we needed to be at the airport, so Dori suggested we head over to the Temple of Heaven. I know I’ve called all these temples beautiful, but they all were! This one was much different to the others though. The main temples were mostly circular and there was an offering mound. Intense. It’s also a public park if you’re a retiree or Beijing resident, so all the greenery was nice after so much time in the foul air.
Finally we were ready to leave Shanghai. The Beijing Airport is horrible. Security was super paranoid (Our umbrellas? Really?) and the terminals had no good food. I had to have ice cream for dinner. As I sit in the Pudong International Airport, I agree with Dori’s statement that Chinese airports are the worst.
TUESDAY, MAY 28
My last day in China and I took it very easy. Slept in and took my time packing before meeting Dori for lunch. I spent the afternoon getting a much needed foot massage. Finally, Dori came back to her apartment to see me off. I have to say that I got a bit choked up saying goodbye. I had such a good time staying with her. I miss her a lot when she’s so far away.
A few tidbits:
- I found out what an “Asian air-conditioner” is, and I don’t like it.
- I won’t ever complain about La Guardia’s food options ever again.
- I still don’t know how to use chopsticks, but Dori bought be a starter pair that are connected with a plastic panda.
So that’s it. That was my trip. My plane is about to board. I can’t believe it went by so fast. I can’t believe I actually went to China! It’s wet my appetite for travel and I can’t wait until I have the time and money to go somewhere else.