Thursday, September 22nd and Friday, September 23rd Beihua University students did not have classes because of campus wide Sports Days. I wish I could tell you more about Sports Day but I am unsure myself since I did not attend the big event. When we found out we would have two days off Maggie and I decided to go down to Beijing for the weekend to celebrate her birthday that Friday. I was also excited about not having classes on Thursday because that meant I would be home and could watch the Campus Ministries’ Coffee House on live stream. I connected to the live stream Thursday morning but the connection was really poor because of the internet speed over here, but from what I could see and what I heard from others it went really well! YAY Iona Campus Ministries!! Thursday afternoon I went over to the convent and taught for the afternoon and then I got ready for our trip!
I went to Beijing with two of my American Maryknoll Volunteers, Tim and Maggie. We took an overnight train to Beijing, so we left Jilin Station at 9:45pm and we arrived in the Beijing Station at about 9:40am. Overnight trains here are sleeper cars so each car is filled with three tier beds and there are a few fold down seats for those who do not want to stay in their beds for the whole trip (the middle and top bunks are a wee bit cramped but the fold down seats didn’t look too comfortable).
A photo of a Chinese sleeper car. The bottom bunk is hard to see in this picture but you can see the middle bunk and the top bunk.
This was my first experience with sleeper cars and let me tell you it was hilarious. First off, we weren’t sure if we had an assigned bed because we couldn’t read the ticket, so we went with nah just pick a bed. Tim had a ticket for a bottom bunk and Maggie and I both had bought tickets for the top bunks so we picked an empty group of beds and decided to get comfy. In order to get comfy though we had to get up to the top beds which was a serious challenge (and extremely entertaining for everyone else). Once I got settled in my bed I said I was glad I wouldn’t have to come down until we were in Beijing but I spoke too soon!
Maggie chillin on the luggage rack on our climb up to the third bunk.
I used my mad monkey skills to get up here and I was ready to be there for the night!
A few guys were giving Tim the stare down for a few minutes and finally we got the hint that nope we were wrong, there are assigned beds. So down we came to repeat the whole ordeal of climbing up to our beds a second time. Shorty after we got settled the train took off and we were on our way to Beijing! I used my Kindle until they turned off the lights and then I decided it was time to get some rest since we would have a busy few days in Beijing. I slept surprisingly well and woke up with only about 1 ½ to 2 hours left of our trip.
Train ride picture!
When I got off the train I looked around on the platform and it seemed pretty empty considering we were in Beijing but as soon as we walked towards the exit and entered the corridor to leave the station it got super busy and crazy. I have never seen so many people in one place moving about…that was my first taste of the Beijing I had been expecting. We left the train station and found the subway station that would take us two stops to our Hostel. The subways in Beijing are amazing! They are really clean, they smell fresh, and they are clearly labeled!
Beijing subway station!
We got off at the Qianmen Stop and I just had to snap some pictures. I didn’t realize until later that I was actually looking at the far end of Tiananmen Square. We stayed at the Qianmen Hostel and we really lucked out! The building itself was really neat because they had preserved it in its original form. There were two different inner courtyards (our room looked out into one) and one of the walls in our room was an original with glass over it so the place had a really nice feel to it. We were also about a five minute walk from the subway station and Tiananmen Square and a ten/fifteen minute walk from Forbidden City.
A photo of the larger inner courtyard in our hostel.
Our room in the hostel. The wall on the left side is the original wall with engravings and drawings protected by glass.
Our room overlooked this smaller inner courtyard.
Friday after exploring one of the Hutongs (old alleyway neighborhoods in Beijing) near our hostel and having lunch it was time to head to the Great Wall. We decided to go to the Badaling section mainly because there was a bus that would take us there, and it is also the most visited section of the Great Wall so we figured it would be good! The bus ride took about an hour and a half but the ride was well worth it!! With about 20 minutes left of the ride we started to see sections of the Great Wall here and there. It was such a tease…I felt like a five year old on Christmas morning looking at all the gifts but not being able to open them yet. Finally we arrived at Badaling and it was time to walk on the Great Wall of China!! Tim, Maggie, and I had a lot of fun and took tons of pictures. We went on a Friday there weren’t too many people on the wall so we were able to really enjoy it without huge crowds!
The Great Wall of China at Badaling!
Standing on the Great Wall of China!
Maggie, Tim, and I loving the Great Wall!!
I can't believe I was actually on the Great Wall!
Another section of the Great Wall!
haha got to love Mao, " He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man."
Friday evening we went out to eat at a really awesome Mexican restaurant that Maggie suggested. We were all psyched because we had CHEESE for the first time since Hong Kong!! Cheese is proabaly my favorite food but there is a serious lack of it here! You can’t really find decent cheese where I live and no restaurants serve it so it was such a nice treat. Maggie and I also enjoyed a few tasty margaritas to help celebrate her birthday in style!!
Birthday margaritas at a Mexican restaurant in China?!? YESSSS! Happy Birthday Maggie!!
After dinner Maggie and I went out to meet up with some of her friends who she studied with in Beijing during her semester abroad and are now back in Beijing teaching English. We had a good time and it was great to meet some other English teachers living in China.
We spent Saturday morning at the Summer Palace. I found the Summer Palace to be a little overwhelming because of its size, its beauty, and the details put into each building and structure. It’s crazy to think that such a large estate was for just one man (along with the Emperor’s wife, family, concubines, and servants—but you know what I mean). Not only was it for one man but it was only his summer residence…what a life! I took tons of pictures but the Summer Palace is just one of those places you have to experience because it can’t be properly explained with words or illustrated by photos.
The Summer Palace is beautiful!! It’s hard to believe people lived in such luxury!
One of the many pagodas in the Summer Palace.
The rich colors and beautiful details painted on everything makes the Summer Palace stunning!
Standing in front of the large stone boat in the Summer Palace.
A beautiful traditional Chinese painting. This is a photo of a small portion of a gorgeous pavilion/walkway that must have been over a mile long and paintings like this were along the whole walkway!
After having Dairy Queen Blizzards we headed over to UIBE, University of International Business and Economics, to have lunch with Maggie’s host student and to see where she spent her semester abroad. The University was celebrating its 60th anniversary the following day so there was a lot of activity and the campus looked beautiful. After a late lunch Maggie did some shopping and Tim and I headed back to the hostel and checked out Tiananmen Square and the surrounding area at night. We were not allowed into Tiananmen Square because it was closed by the time we got there but we walked along side it and saw it lit up.
Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square at night!
The Gate of Heavenly Peace looking really pretty all lit up!
We met Maggie and her friend Kevin for Pizza (Western style with sauce and real cheese) at Tube Station. We were served the largest pizza I have ever seen which is ironic since it seems to be extremely hard to find good pizza and yet I see the largest pizza of my life. Luckily Tub Station did not disappoint! The pizza was delicious and the wings were pretty good too.
The biggest pizza I have ever seen...super yummy too!
After our late dinner Maggie and I went out to a night club called Vic’s for round two of her birthday celebrations. We had a lot of fun dancing and met people from all over the world! Vic’s was the place to be on a Saturday night in Beijing!
Sunday morning Tim and I walked around Tiananmen Square and then explored Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is HUGE! We took lots of pictures but there isn’t much to really do in Tiananmen Square other than walk around, look at the statues, and wait in a super long line to go into Mao’s Mausoleum—it doesn’t seem like a square you go to just to hang out and relax at. It was pretty cool for historical reasons though and I was really glad we walked all around. I think it’s pretty neat that the current Chinese Government rules from the area right across from the old Imperial City where the Emperors used to rule the Chinese Empire.
Standing in front of Mao’s Mausoleum in the middle of Tiananmen Square.
A view of Tiananmen Square looking towards the Monument to the People’s Heroes.
The Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square.
The National Flag in Tiananmen Square with the Tiananmen Gate in the background.
After walking around Tiananmen Square we crossed the road and stood in front of the Tiananmen Gate or the “Gate of Heavenly Peace.” This is where Chairman Mao stood in 1949 and declared the birth of the People’s Republic of China. It also marks the entrance to the old Imperial City.
Standing in front of Tiananmen Gate (also known as The Gate of Heavenly Peace).
After crossing under the gate and walking a little further we entered the Forbidden City. A little side note before I tell you about Forbidden City. Chinese Security is very strange—they have x-ray machines and security people before you enter most of the famous touristy spots in Beijing but they always motioned for us (the Americans) to go through without having our belongings checked. I thought this was very strange and it happen on a number of occasions—I guess I look very innocent and harmless. Now back to Forbidden City! I had felt overwhelmed at Summer Palace but I felt even more so at Forbidden City! There are SO many different buildings to see, I could have spent a day there and not seen everything. At the same time walking around and looking at the different buildings seemed repetitive after a while because people are not allowed into the buildings and most of them are pretty empty because the artifacts are now all over the world in different museums. The enormity of the city is amazing and standing there looking out over hundreds of roofs that all belonged to one person was really neat! The Forbidden City is a must see spot in Beijing because of its historical importance and its sheer size but I think I would want to have a guided tour next time so I could learn about each of the buildings along with other interesting facts and information.
The front gate of Forbidden City!
The Hall of Supreme Harmony--the most magnificent in the Forbidden City because it housed the thrown of the Chinese Emperor!
Chillin with an ancient Chinese Lion!
I had an AMAZING and extremely packed weekend in Beijing so as soon as I got on our speed train headed back to Jilin I feel asleep. Our train ride back was about 8 hours and I slept for most of it! I got home and called Dad for his birthday and then headed to bed after our wonderful world wind tour of Beijing!