Monday, June 13, 2016

Where To Begin...

Originally posted on:  July 26, 2015

My short stay in Beijing is unfortunately coming to an end. I have been in the city for the past three days and cannot believe the amazing things I have seen in that short time.  Our small group has been taken around by a professional tour guide during our stay.  Her depth of knowledge is impressive.  She knows the tourist spots in and out and took us to the best locations.  It has been a remarkable experience.  Enjoy the photos below!
We arrived in the city around 7pm.  We took the bullet train, which travelled about 303km/hr most of the way.  When we got to the hotel, we were all quite hungry, as our food consumption for the day consisted only of McDonald’s at the train station before we left.  After settling into our rooms we decided to search the neighborhood for a good looking restaurant.  Being in Beijing, Peking Duck was at the top of our list.  We were fortunate enough to find a restaurant that served the duck in a traditional style.  The presentation was fantastic.  The chef brought the duck out and carved our slices right in front of us.  After slicing, he modeled how to properly wrap the duck with assorted veggies in what appeared to be a spring roll type wrap.  The meal was amazing and a great welcome to Beijing!
Our first full day in the city was quite busy.  We started the day at Tiananmen Square.  The historical significance of this location is more than words can express.  It was almost overwhelming standing in the same space where college students helped to revolutionize the country.  By the way, the anniversary of that event is May 4th and is now recognized as National Youth Day.
After spending some time in the Square, we ventured into the Forbidden City, home to the Chinese Emperors during two different dynasties for nearly 500 years.
It was a massively designed complex of just under 10,000 rooms with the most advanced security of the time.  Besides having the large moat, impenetrable wall, and guard towers, they also layered 15 levels of bricks beneath the entire city to prevent enemies from tunneling up from beneath. The emperor lived in luxury.  He, and once she, viewed the country as his personal possessions.  Everything belonged to him, including the people.  It was an honor to serve in the Forbidden City with the emperor nearby.  Unfortunately it always came at a steep cost.  Females working in the city had a very specific role.  If they were in the city, they were one of 72 concubines for whom were competing in jealous rages to carry on the dynasty name by having the emperor’s son.  The men in the city….were required to become unics.  Either way, it was a tough life.  Below are some of the buildings from inside the city.
After the Forbidden City, we took a ride to the nearby Temple of Heaven.  This temple, unlike the one I visited earlier in the month, has been out of commission for nearly a hundred years.  It is merely a tourist destination now.  The reason it is so popular though, besides the beautiful buildings, is because this was the temple the emperor visited several times each year.  The main building is considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in China.  This temple was also the location of the animal sacrifices, which were offered to the gods once a year by the emperor.
Today was the big event, though……The Great Wall.  We boarded our bus early this morning and took a scenic two hour bus ride to northern Beijing.  Finally, way out beyond the buzz of the city, we stopped near a chain of mountains.  Way at the tippy top, you could see what all the fuss is about.  We hopped on a cable car and rode to the top.  It was everything you expect and more.  We were fortunate enough to go to a less visited section of the wall, so we could truly enjoy the experience.  If I had to recommend anything I have seen so far in China, this section of the wall would be number 1.
As if seeing The Wall wasn’t enough….we were able to luge down the mountain!!!  It made the experience all the more memorable.  The emotions I experienced at The Great Will will not be forgotten.
Finally, to end our time in Beijing, we visited the Olympic Park from the 2008 summer Olympics.  While it wasn’t The Great Wall, it was still amazing see the impressive architecture of those games.  They are still using nearly all of the buildings for various things.  Many of the office buildings and hotels were converted into apartments.  The water cube became a public pool, and the Bird’s Nest is still being used for sporting and concert events in the summer and is turned into an indoor ski resort in the winter!
I have greatly enjoyed my time in Beijing.  Tomorrow morning we are off to an old capital city, Nanjing, made famous from it’s bloody battle with Japan.  I am incredibly excited to see more of China!!  Stay tuned for another blog post in the next few days!

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