Back in early January, I made the short journey to the capital of China – Beijing!
There, not only was I able to accomplish a whole lot of sight-seeing, but I was also able to catch up with an old friend of mine who now lives in Beijing. Not only does she live in Beijing, she also works at the Beijing airport, and she was right there to meet me when I got off the tarmac! 😀
My friend, Mari, and I lived on the same floor together, back in the good ol’ days when I lived in the international dormitory of Kagawa University in Japan! It had been roughly two-and-a-half years since we had met, and it was so nice to see her again.
As the title of this post indicates, I got to spend a whole five nights in Beijing. I was determined to see as much as I could. Now looking back on my trip, I am confident that I did.
After arriving in Beijing around 7pm and making it to my hotel, it had gotten a bit late, so we simply located a good place to eat in the area (called Mama’s Kitchen), made our plans for the following day’s adventures, and parted ways to get a good night’s rest. We met early in the morning. She had given me nice and detailed instructions on which station to go to, which bus number to take, how many stops to go, and which one to get off at! What a guide! She continued to do this for my entire trip, bless her!
The pictures below recount some of our many wanderings of my first full day in Beijing, but briefly stated, we started at a famous street call Nanluoguxiang, through which many other famous streets criss-cross, called the Hutongs. After walking to and fro there, we made our way to a nearby lake where, priorly unbeknownst to us, we could go ice skating! After skating for a bit, we were quite tired, so we got some lunch. Afterwards we hopped onto the subway and made a journey to the Olympic Square where the famous Bird’s Nest hosted the 2008 Olympics. By the time we’d gotten there, it was already dark and cold and also quite windy. But we saw the sights anyway, taking our time to walk the whole square. After this, we hopped back on the subway and made for our respective homes. I however, stopped for a nice steak on the way back to my hotel…
On the next day, we saw just as much, if not more! Following her detailed instructions, I took the bus to the northern gate of the Forbidden City, the ancient home of the emperor. We spent at least three hours there. The place is absurdly huge! We walked all the way to the south gate, but since that gate is “Enter Only,” we continued on to the east gate, outside of which we lunched. Then we walked to Tiananmen Square which, all history aside (…and by the way, your average Chinese person doesn’t even know its history), is really just a big rectangular open space that you must pass through security in order to enter. Ok, I exaggerated a little… The security checkpoint gives you access to many places, not just the Square. If you look carefully at the picture of the entrance below, you can see the following places listed: Monument to the People’s Heroes, Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum, Great Hall of the People, Zhenyangmen, Tiananmen, and Forbidden City.
Despite wanting to go to the “Mao’s”oleum, and trying to go twice, we couldn’t. It was closed when we got there the first time, and the next day when I tried to go again since I knew the operating hours, the entire freakin’ square was closed off, so I couldn’t even get close.
So anyway, after walking in a circle around the Monument of the People’s Heroes, we walked over to the nearby China History Museum and spent some time in there. Unfortunately it was about to close, so we only got to see a couple exhibits; a Chinese currency exhibit and an ancient Chinese jade exhibit. Once we got kicked out, we decided to chill for a bit before seeing a movie and then calling it a day. We’d already walked a huge distance that day, and had even more to do the next day! Here are some pictures!
The slideshow above shows all of the pictures from the Forbidden City. The few that are shown below were taken near or around Tiananmen Square.
After the Square, we wandered around the museum for a little while, before going to see a movie, and then heading our separate ways to rest up for the next day!
As I mentioned above, on this morning I tried to go see Mao’s Tomb again, but it was closed unfortunately. An interesting thing happened though. As I was walking along the street to the Square, an older gentleman decided to start a conversation with me. He used to be an English teacher, if my memory is correct, and we had a nice chat. Eventually we parted ways as we drew nearer to our destinations. The interesting, and also astonishing part of this story is that the very next day, in a different area while I was walking to get coffee in the morning, we ran into each other again! In Beijing! One of the most populous cities in the world… As pleasant and improbable as that was, it literally put a big smile on my face for a while after that.
But anyway, I digress… We had originally planned to meet at the Square, but when I got there early and determined that it was still in fact closed, we made a new meeting place; a transfer station a few stops away from mine. I got there first, and managed to hop onto the exact train car that she was arriving on! It was a pretty suave meet. From there, we went to get some lunch because, by that point it had actually gotten to be close to noon, and neither of us had had a serious breakfast. Upon the recommendation of a CMU friend of mine who has spent some time in Beijing, we were able to locate one of the best pizza places in Beijing, or even China.
the Summer Palace. The name implies some sort of castle or something, right? But in fact, it is more like a Summer Private Central Park With Castles And Lakes And Mountains And Shrines. We spent quite a few hours wandering around in this huge place. Hopefully my pictures will do it some justice.
After exhausting ourselves walking around this massive lake, enjoying the weather and taking in the sights, we made our way to meet her family for a nice dinner of Peking Duck!
For my final day in Beijing, we started off our day by going to the Lama Temple.
Then went to explore the 798 Art Exhibit. It is an entire section of the city that is dense with different types of art on display in numerous different galleries. I’m not usually the type to get super excited about art, however, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting these galleries.
After wandering through this amazing concentration of art, we found a place to enjoy a couple of drinks and relax before turning in for the day. The place was cool enough, had a trendy vibe going, offered a nice selection of beverages and even hookah! Despite these things, we were the only ones there, which was a bit of a downer. Still, we had a nice time.
We called an Uber I think. When we got in the car, we noticed there were two others waiting in it already. I politely ignored them, but after a moment we became aware that one was also a foreigner – an American from New Hampshire no less, who happened to know the high school that I attended there! Oh how small the world is, even when you move half way around the world.
Once we got back to my hotel area, we went for a walk down Wangfujing Street for some street food. What followed was some of the crazier foods I’ve seen thus far in China…
Starfish and fried scorpions are still a bit much for me to handle! I played it safe with something a little more standard, yet still very much delicious.
Afterwards, we parted ways for the final time that trip with promises of future visits to Beijing and possibly her coming to see Dalian, thus ending what had been an amazing trip! Many thanks to Mari for being an amazing travel guide and companion!
*Side note – this post took so long for me to post (6 months!) because the Internet here in China is so dang frustrating that I would try again and again to finish this post, but would never fail to experience connection interruptions that would frustrate me to the point of giving up! I will try to post more in the coming months and catch you all up on what I’ve been doing this last half-year. Hope you enjoyed this journey with me – Cheers!