Hello friends! I’m on vacation! My first stop is Beijing. Here’s what I did:
(Due to the number of pictures, this post will look best if you open it in a new window)
Day 1: Hutongs, Tiananmen Square, and The Forbidden City
I woke up early to take the train from Shanghai to Beijing. It took a little under 5 hours on the bullet train. Fun fact: the bullet train goes around 200mph. I made it to Beijing around lunchtime and took the metro towards my hostel. The first day consisted of exploring hutongs, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.
Hutongs: In Beijing, there are alleyways called Hutongs. They are full of restaurants, shops, and apartments. (In Shanghai, these apartments are called lane houses.) I explored the Hutongs around my hostel and found some hot tea and lunch. It’s nearly freezing in Beijing, so finding some hot food was my first mission.
Tiananmen Square: Tiananmen Square holds a lot of historical value. It was where the Republic of China was announced in 1949. This year was actually the 70th birthday of the PRC, so it’s pretty cool to visit now. (I’m fully aware of the other historical events that have happened at Tiananmen Square and ask that you don’t message me about any of those while I’m still in China. Upon my future return to the US, I’ll be writing another post about this.)
The Forbidden City: The Forbidden City is huge! I bought a ticket for 40rmb and walked through the buildings. The temples and spaces are beautiful. The details are also incredible. The architecture was borrowed from many different regions of China, including the garden architecture in Suzhou. The Forbidden City is possibly one of the most well thought out designs of a palace I have ever seen. Walking through from South to North is supposed to point you towards heaven. Each building is also symmetrical, and the temples on the side have another temple on the other side of the palace in order to keep the fēngshuǐ. There are animals on the roofs of the buildings and each animal is meant for a specific purpose. Some of them protect, some bring luck, some ward away evil. The entire city was so cool.
Day 2: Biking around the city & Beihai Garden
On the second day, I biked around the city. Then, I walked around Beihai Park for a few hours.
Beihai Park (also known as the Winter Palace): Beihai garden is near the Forbidden City, and it encompasses a large lake. The paths around the lake have multiple temples and spots to look out over the lake. In the center of the lake is the 白塔 (bai ta or “white pagoda”) which was built to honor the 5th Dalai Lama visiting Beijing in 1651. The temples are all very beautiful. Some of them are home to many Buddhas and statues of Chinese kings. Beihai Park reminds me of Hangzhou which makes sense as some of the structures around the lake were meant to mimic Hangzhou, Yangzhou, and Suzhou.
Day 3: The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China did not disappoint. I took a city bus to the Badaling section of the wall for only 20rmb. The drive takes between an hour and an hour and a half. I was the only foreigner that seems to use this form of transportation as the ticket people for the bus were very confused when I got on. All of the other foreigners I saw once at the wall came with tourist groups. I wanted freedom to explore on my own and figured that I’m pretty used to being the only foreigner in a room here.
After getting to the wall, I bought tickets into the wall and for the cable car. I rode the car to the top and fought through the tourists for the first 15 minutes of the walk. Most of the tourists stayed pretty close to the entrance/exit, but I walked much further. The walk is really like a hike and it was very difficult. The steps are so steep and there are crazy inclines where you almost need to pull yourself up the hill (pictured below). I was so exhausted. I walked about 2 miles towards this building on the wall. The building had jail type cells in it! Then, I kept walking to another guard type spot. Eventually, I looked back and realized that the walk back was almost completely uphill and that I had walked REALLY far.
Before turning back, I saw a bunch of Chinese people taking pictures of something, and, apparently there are bears on the Great Wall. So I took some pictures of the bears (below) and walked back. I’m not going to lie, it was an impossible hike, and at some point everyone was crawling up the steps. After walking another 2.5miles back, I rode the cable car to the bottom, found my bus, and rode the bus back to the city for 2 hours. Then, I finished the day with McDonald’s, Japanese food, and writing this post! My legs are going to be so sore in the morning.
I have about a million more pictures, and I would love to show you them all someday!