I apologize that I haven’t posted about Beijing sooner. There is so much and with classes immediately upon arrival in Hong Kong, it has taken a bit to get to this post. Beijing is probably the most amazing urban city I’ve so far encountered! The driving is nuts!
What: Trip to Beijing, China from Hong Kong.
Who: Our entourage consisted of five friends who all attend Hong Kong Baptist and one friend who we met in Beijing who is currently studying abroad there.
Hong-Hong is a close friend from Babson. We hang out on a consistent basis back at Babson and here in Hong Kong.
Lindsay-Lindsay is also from Babson. She is a Korean friend. Hong, Lindsay and I hang out with the same people back at Babson.
Vincent-Vincent is a friend that I met here in Hong Kong. He is from Manchester in the UK. He quickly became part of our entourage because the girls love his “foreign” accent.
Robert- Robert is another friend we met here in Hong Kong. He is from Berlin and definitely shows it.
Connor- Connor is one of my best friends at Babson. He is the friend we met in Beijing. He is on a program in which they jump from St. Petersburg to Beijing and then finally Shanghai. He will be joining us for fun in mid November here in Hong Kong.
Where: Beijing consists of six rings surrounding the center of the city. We stayed in the third ring at a hotel call the Orange Hotel.
When: We left Wednesday evening and arrived Wednesday night. We stayed for five nights and left back to Hong Kong Monday morning, arriving in time for classes.
So, because we arrived in Beijing late Wednesday and wanted to do some major touring the next day, we decided it would be best to go to sleep and be well rested for the next day. Connor met us at the airport where he found us a private minivan to take us 50 minutes to our hotel. I quickly realized that no one really spoke good English and if it wasn’t for Connor’s Mandarin speaking ability it would have taken us a lot longer to get to the hotel. Throughout the whole trip, we rarely encountered taxi drivers or people in general who could speak English. We were lucky to have Connor with us.
So the next day after arriving at the Orange Hotel, Connor had to attend some classes so he wrote down (in Chinese) how to get to the Summer Palace. We simply handed the paper to the taxi driver and they took us to the Summer Palace. We decided to try an audio tour and shared it between the five of us. The Palace was built right next to a lake for the Emperor to live in during the summer season. It was gigantic. I have pictures on Facebook but basically, we walked around for five hours and only covered about 40 percent. It was truly amazing. Within this palace, there was a small town built with shops, banks, restaurants, etc, on a small river that connected to the lake. This was to create an illusion for the Royal family to “experience” town life. Picture a couple streets of downtown Hayward, WI within the Palace. The temples and structures themselves were gigantic, much bigger than any palace in Korea. Unlike Korea, the geographical location of this palace was not taken into consideration. They just built it around huge boulders and on small mountain sides. Yes, there was a mountain in the middle of the palace. On the other side of the palace was the lake. Here, you could rent a small electric boat that would go about 5 knots to drive around on the lake. Of course we all split the cost and relaxed for an hour on the lake. After, we continued on to see the museums and theatres that were built for the Emperor’s entertainment…within the palace. Truly amazing.
After the Summer Palace, Connor met us and took us to Silk Street, a huge department store that was all bargaining. You would enter and there would be small shops set up. The tenders would yell at you and tell you the “hot” deals they were offering. They would even grab your arm and drag you to their shop. This wasn’t light pulling either, I saw a little Chinese lady pull a 180 pound white man into her shop. Yes, crazy. The girls were in heaven. We learned from Connor the rules of bargaining. He was quite good at negotiating in Mandarin with everyone, getting us good deals. The tenders would start out with 5 Polo Ralph Lauren shirts for 1500 Yuan, a little more than $200 USD. By the end of the conversation, we were walking away with 5 Polo Ralph Lauren shirts for 150 Yuan, a little more than 20 USD! It was such an experience. While we were in Silk Street, the guys had customized dress shirts made. I got two fitted shirts for about 23 USD. After dinner, Connor took us to a bar street that is comparable to Block E or some places in Uptown. Here, there would be about 15 bars all with performers singing and dancing to empty bars! It was quite strange.
After this whole day, all of us were extremely tired. Also, the weather was a lot colder than we expected. As a side note, I have never seen traffic like Beijing. It was ridiculous! Every so often, there would be a ten lane street intersecting with another ten lane street. The cars followed loose guidance from the traffic lights but pedestrians and bikers just crossed whenever they could fit through! You had anywhere from 100 to 300 people walking or on bikes just trying to cross the street as cars rocket through the intersection. It is amazing that accidents don’t happen every minute.
The next day, we got up and went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The thing about Beijing is that every touristy spot you go, it is going to be ridiculously crowded. You couldn’t really get good pictures because there was literally thousands and thousands of people trying to do the same thing. The square was pretty empty but the Forbidden City was amazing. All the buildings looked the same but the size of the city was unbelievable. It went on and on and on. Most of the rooms were “forbidden” but just looking at the vast size of the city was amazing enough. There was a long pathway that went from outside the city straight through. As tourists, you walk through and get to see each center courtyard. I After the inside of the city, we walked up a mountain to look down at it. Again, I could not comprehend how they could make such a building. I have a video on Facebook looking down on it.
After touring this area, we went back to Silk Street to pick up some of our shirts. Once we got them, because they were so cheap we decided to get some more. We walked around that area a little longer and then went and got Korean barbeque. The Korean food in Beijing was much better than in Hong Kong. After this, we met some more Babson students that were on the same program as Connor. We went to another night life area where we encountered a German dress up party. It was quite interesting…
The next day we went to the Great Wall of China. Connor arranged for a private can to bring us an hour and a half out of Beijing to the wall and to drive us around the next day. The countryside of Beijing is beautiful but the people living out there are quite poor. The Great Wall is without a doubt one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is truly unbelievable that such a wall could be built thousands of years ago. The wall itself is big with so many stairs and towers. But what is more unbelievable is where the wall is built. They didn’t build the wall in between mountains or around them. They built the wall right over the mountain, and we aren’t talking about mountains in North New England either. Actually, we aren’t even talking about the ski-mountains in Colorado. We are talking about impossible mountains. Mountains were the wall follows the top of the peak where the wall is just as wide as the top of the peak and over the fall is a thousand foot drop. It really is something that everyone must see once in their life. We walked for a couple of hours and came to the end of the safe part of the wall. Connor, Robert and I decided to trek on through the un-groomed part. This is where we saw the true Great Wall because there were trees and bushes growing everywhere. It looked like ruins more than the cleaned up part of the great wall. Again, it was really amazing. On the wall up to the wall, we took a chair lift like a ski resort. On the way down was completely different. At this certain part of the Great Wall, they constructed a luge run. We sat on a little seat with four wheels and a brake and then shot down a windy track. You weren’t supposed to go fast but we were four male, young adults so we definitely went fast! Actually, I’m surprised they let the karts go that fast because at some points I thought I was going to fly off the track. It was really fun. I took two videos while we were going down (you weren’t suppose to but oh well) but I deleted the better of the two. I will put the short one up on Facebook anyway.
After the wall, we had a Peking duck dinner. The duck takes an hour to prepare so we actually finished all the other food before the duck came. It was really tasty and very inexpensive for such a plentiful meal. After the meal, Connor, Hong, Robert and I met up with a guy who graduated Babson last year and who is living in Beijing now. We went to a really popular night club and relatively speaking, it was like everything else in Beijing…gigantic! No joke, you could fit about 10-12 American night clubs into this one club. We met a lot of people and had a good night.
The next day we woke up late and took the day at a relaxing pace. It was really, really cold and windy but we trekked on to the Olympic City and went inside the stadium! It was really cool because we were so close to everything we saw on TV. It would be really cool to watch the Olympics in person. Again, there were a lot of people touring that area too. That night, we went to a pizza parlor that was established by an American some years ago. He now has four or five around Beijing and is a millionaire just because of simple pizza! It encouraged a little business scheming…
By this time we were so exhausted that we went back to our hotel and got ready to trek out at three in the morning. To be honest, I felt like a got about 5 percent of Beijing during our trip. I really want to go back but Beijing is a city where you need to spend a few months, not a few days. But it was great! I will upload all the pictures so you can see on Facebook!