Once I got to Beijing, the Internet at our hostel was spotty at best, and then I had 24 hours of travel…needless to say, I didn’t have a chance to post. So here’s a little catch-up on my time in Beijing.
Last day in Qinhuangdo: We were able to be a part of the Kids Book Club for the children of the teachers on campus. Kids heard the Easter story, hunted for Easter eggs, and decorated hard-boiled eggs as well. They didn’t speak any English, but laughter transcends any language barriers. Their energy and joy was infectious…and the bunny ears were pretty hilarious, too!
We ended the night with hot pot, which consists of a boiling pot of water, raw meat, vegetables, and noodles. We dropped the food into the water, where it quickly cooked. Then we fished around for the food with our chopsticks and dipped it into our peanut sauce to enjoy. It was one of my favorite meals, hands down!
First day in Beijing: We boarded a bullet train that morning and arrived in Beijing by noon. First stop? The hostel to drop off our luggage. Then we navigated the subway to get to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tons of people, amazing sights, ancient history. Each part of the Forbidden City is incredible in its own way; the immense thrones and elaborately decorated halls, each with its own specific function, were fascinating to explore. After we walked through the entirety of the Forbidden City, we crossed the moat (yet another layer of protection for the emperor!) and climbed the hill at the park across the street. From there, we had a perfect view of the whole city of Beijing. I can only imagine what it would look like at night with the city lights!
The Forbidden City from above and Tiananmen Square
We then took at taxi to Wangfujing Street, the home of the famous street market. The entire area feels like a Chinese version of Times Square, with giant flashing billboards, expensive stores, and activity every way you look, but our focus was the food stalls. As we meandered down the row, the air was filled with a mixture of foods and the sound of the vendors selling their wares, most of which consisted of various food on a stick. Squid, lamb, starfish, potato chips, fruit, spiders, duck, and more. I wasn’t too brave; I enjoyed a fried banana on a stick and a bowl of pineapple sticky rice. But I loved watching everyone experiment with different foods and listening to the vendors advertise in their bellowing voices.
Potato chips on the left; squid, snake, spiders, and more on the right
The Great Wall: We woke up early the next morning to drive to a portion of the Great Wall. With my ACL surgery only 6 weeks prior, my ability to climb stairs quickly and easily is about zero, so imagine my surprise when we took the chairlift to the top and saw the stairs stretching for miles in both directions. However, the Great Wall is the Great Wall; despite my discomfort at times, the time was incredible! It’s amazing to walk on something that has existed for over 1,400 years. First constructed during the Qi dynasty and then rebuilt during the Ming dynasty, 2 1/2 km of the wall in this area has been fully restored so that people can walk along it year-round. There are 23 watchtowers and plenty of opportunities for pictures! Though we weren’t able to walk the whole distance with my knee, we enjoyed the sunshine and simply being on a portion of one of the world’s most well-known architectural feats.
Last day: On our last day, we visited the Temple of Heaven and the grounds surrounding it. With such a distinctive design, the temple looks as if it stretches up to the heavens and was used for annual ceremonies of prayer for good harvest. One of my favorite parts was exploring the extensive grounds. Parks with exercise equipment for adults and children alike brimmed with people, a perfect opportunity for people-watching! Clusters of older men and women played card games and mahjong, inviting spectators and commentary (all in Chinese, but it got heated at times). Groups of dancers and hackysack (called jianzi in China) players filled open areas; this was probably one of my favorite afternoons because of the variety of activity seemingly everywhere!
We also walked to Pearl Market at the end of the day to purchase gifts and other items. A 5-story building, the market is divided into separate sections (electronics, purses/clothes, jewelry, artifacts). Operating on a barter system, we had fun negotiating prices and buying gifts and souvenirs. The vendors spoke amazing English, and their starting prices were almost laughable! However, we ended up with most of the items on our lists…and some not on our lists (I had no intention of buying a wallet, but the salespeople were like bulldogs on that floor, and I eventually gave in).
Then back to our hostel to re-pack and get a few hours of sleep before flying out in the morning. There are more stories that I’ll blog about in the days to come, but for now, jet lag is once again creeping up on me!
Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating a place for writers to share their work and hosting the March Slice of Life Story Challenge!