Sunday, August 12, 2012

Beijing, China 2012

I'm So Excited They Let Me Into The Forbidden City!

I didn't stand out at all!
Of all of the cities I visited in China, Beijing was the one I was most excited to get to.  We arrived in the morning by sleeper train from Xi'an.  With most of the day still ahead of us, we headed out to the Forbidden City.  

The Forbidden City has been open to the public since 1949.  It is a popular tourist visit, and is enormous in size.  Since we were there in the middle of the day it was packed with tourists and the temperature was scorching.  Keeping hydrated was key as the heat and humidity were torturous.  The entire Forbidden City is paved with stone, so finding a shady spot was next to impossible and meant hugging up to a building with about fifty other sweaty tourists. Most of the Chinese people carry umbrellas and parasols around like Americans carry sunglasses.  I didn't think that I would need one, so I didn't bring the one I had.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  New rule for future travels.....always follow the example of the locals.

Forbidden City Entrance
After about three hours of wandering our way around the maze of the Forbidden City and boring Phil to the point of ditching us for the comfort of the air conditioned hotel room, we left the palace walls on the north side and hiked up the hill to Jing Shan Park.  The hike is steep, but short and gives a spectacular 360 degree view of Beijing.  It also doesn't hurt that it has a fantastic breeze and plenty of shade!

I'm very curious who eats the "Sheep Penis"
As we rolled into the evening hours, we decided to head back to the hotel to clean up and pick up Phil for some dinner.  We took the long way back to the hotel and perused the Night Food Market off Wangfujing Street to see if we would be interested in coming back there for a bit of food.  After seeing the interesting choices of sheep penis and water beetles, we decided that maybe we would pass on eating there and just take a few pictures instead. 

Me, Climbing to the farthest point.
On day two we setup a private tour for a hike on the Great Wall.  I've been itching to visit the Great Wall for as long as I can remember.  There are a few different rebuilt sections that you can visit just outside of Beijing.  We chose to visit the Badaliing section, which is the easier of them to hike, but has the most beautiful views.  Saying that it is the easier section, does not mean that it is easy.  It was quite a tiresome hike to the farthest part of the section that is available to visitors.  Only the reconstructed "safe" sections are available to hike, and I was determined to go as far as I was allowed so I could see sections that were not reconstructed.  I could not wait to hike the Great Wall, so Nicole and Phil were not surprised at all when I up and left them in search of the old section.

I was the tourist attraction!
The Great Wall seems to never end!
When we first started at the beginning entrance to the wall, there was a sea of people everywhere.  So many people in fact that we quickly became a tourist attraction and the lines formed to take pictures with us!  I took pictures for a bit, then passed the posing over to Nicole and Phil, and headed out on my own.  The wall stayed thick with people who seemed determined to make it as far as possible, and for a little bit I was concerned that there would be a sea of people forever.  However, once I reached what looked like the highest point, it suddenly cleared out, and it felt as if I was the only person out there.  Past that highest point, people seemed to give up and turn back, giving me an opportunity to have the wall all to myself.  I hiked as far as I was allowed, until I hit a dead end wall telling me I was not allowed any farther.  This gave me the opportunity to sit, relax and be alone to my thoughts.  It was amazing, and quite a nice change from the extremely large crowds that overtook all of the other sites we visited throughout China. 

I had the place to myself!

After a brief time of hanging out and enjoying the surroundings, I decided I should head back before Nicole and Philip sent a search party out for me.  The return hike was a breeze, considering it was all downhill.  I caught up with them, and we headed out.  On the retun to Beijing, we got the opportunity to stop at a Jade factory and learned how Jade was made.  The factory was a working factory, so we got to see the employees in action.   Let's just say, there really doesn't seem to be any safety regulations for workers in China.

We gave ourselves very little time in Beijing, so even though we were exhausted from the Great Wall, we still pushed through and headed out to see a couple more sights in the city.  We went past Tananman Square, however it was after hours, so we didn't spend any time in the buildings.  I'm not sure if this is true, but I heard that each day they raise the body of President Mao for viewings.  Even if we did have time to go into the buildings, I'm almost certain that I did not need that specific attraction to be on my to do list.  It sounds just a little to creepy to me.

Rigshaw Ride through the hutongs
Instead we continued past Tananman Square over to little shopping area and did a little last minute gift shopping.  Nicole had been itching to take a ride in a Rigshaw and also wanted to see a typical Beijing hutong, so we killed two birds with one stone.  We talked the driver into taking us on a Rigshaw through the hutong, or rather he just took us there without us asking! There was a bit of a language barrier, so truthfully he was probably just thinking, "I'll just drive them in circles.  They won't know the difference"

Temple of Heaven
 On our last day in Beijing Nicole and I wandered to the Temple of Heaven.  When we first got there we were surprised to see that there was a festival of some kind going on.......or maybe it was just morning excercises, but they were all older people and they were dancing to Britney Spears music.  We stood there for a few minutes and tried to figure it out, then decided to move on into the park.  The area surrounding the Temple of Heaven is gorgeous.  It's a little park full of local men gambling at board games and women knitting and sewing while gossiping with each other.  All kinds of exercise classes were going on around the park including individuals practicing Tai Chi, and everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time.  We continued through the crowds and toured ourselves through the Temples.  

Pagoda we found on a hike in the Summer Palace.
It was our last full day in the city, and we were starting to get exhausted, so we headed out and jumped on the bus to the north side of Beijing to the Summer Palace.  Now the Forbidden City is beautiful, but in my opinion, the summer palace is breathtaking.  It is perfectly situated on a lake and full of trees and beautiful hiking areas.  It was a complete opposite change of scenery, and I'm almost certain that I can not for the life of me figure out why any of the Dynasties would leave this amazing home to go back into the Forbidden City.   The Summer Palace is a ways outside the normal part of Beijing, so not a lot of tourists go there, but the subway takes you all but two blocks from this beautiful place, so if ever you end up in Beijing, I say make sure you take the time to head out and visit it.

There are so many other amazing things to be done in Beijing, but by the end of this trip we could almost not feel our feet any longer, so for our final evening, we took in a Chinese Acrobatic show.  This event was a camera free event, but the performers were amazing bending, jumping and dancing in every possible way.  There was even a point where a bicycle carried 10 people on it at once.  I guess it's rather hard to explain without pictures, so to understand what the show was like, I've attached a link to the one we saw. click here

Phil, Nicole and Myself at the Forbidden City
China was truly a fantastic eye opening experience.  We experienced everything from the over population, to the smog, to the beautiful & kind people of China (especially the ones that kept taking our pictures).  It was the trip of a life time and I highly suggest to anyone who likes to travel, take the time to go, even if it is just to one city.  China is like nothing you have ever see, and I loved every minute of it!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great time, especially having a piece of the wall to yourself. I would love to head to China someday.