Beijing/Peking

I have made it to China! :)

We took a LOT flight from Prague to Beijing with a 45 minute layover in Warszawa (we probably could have made it with a 10 minute layover, the gates are all so close and we didn’t have to go through security again!). It was a night flight, but once we stared getting close to Beijing, I had my eyes peeled for my first view of Chinese soil, and what I saw was amazing! It was around 5/6am, so the sun was just rising, and we were flying over a mountain range. The light really threw all the peaks into sharp contrast, and there was white mist curling around the bases of the mountains, and pooling in the valleys. My camera was in my backpack in the carry on luggage bins (and I was in the window seat with two filled seats separating me from the aisle), so I couldn’t capture it on film, but it was beautiful.

We arrived in China at approximately 7am on Monday, and were picked up from the airport by Earnestine’s uncle. He was very very nice, gave us water, and asked us how we were feeling and if we were up for going straight to the Great Wall, followed by the Summer Palace. We glanced at each other with a crazy look in our eyes and nodded, and that is exactly what we did.

First we grabbed some breakfast, where I tried lots of new Chinese food. For me this was big because the most authentic Chinese food I have had is pork lomein and general tso’s chicken from the local Chinese food place. But I got a chance to try a lot of food, which was all delicious (I wish I knew the names and spellings and descriptions, but I was too tired and discombobulated to remember anything yesterday).

Soon after we were driving towards the Great Wall, which was surreal as we had just disembarked from our flight about 2 hours earlier. However, before we got a chance to experience the Great Wall, we first had to wait through a 1.5 hour long line to get on a cable car. The line was a bonding experience to say the least. My butt, back, and arms were definitely manhandled this way and that, into barriers, ropes, and other people as a few VERY PUSHY PEOPLE turned what was already a nightmare of a line into something else.

This was us not even trying to smush into the photo. We were like this naturally:

We survived until the cable cars (or the gondolalift)!

Once we got up to the actual part of the wall, it was beautiful! It took me a while to get over the SEVERE annoyance and rising hatred I felt towards all people anywhere near me at that time, but once I got over myself, I could really enjoy the view, the feeling, and just the fact that I was standing on one of the modern wonders of the world.

 

 

After a lot of picture taking, we headed down and tried to find Earnestine’s uncle again so we could continue with our jam packed schedule. We stopped to have lunch and take a much needed shower, after which we rocketed off to see the Summer Palace. We arrived at around late afternoon, the crowds were gone and it was much more quiet, peaceful, and exactly what I needed. We took even more pictures, marveled at the architecture, paintings, and general beauty of everything around us.

As usual, we took a snack break and tried some yogurt which was apparently a specialty in Beijing. It was DELICIOUS. <3 I could go for some more right now:

We then took a little boat ride to what I thought was an island with Earnestine’s uncle, his daughter, his sister, and her son (the last two are not pictured below):

This is the boat we took! :)
On the island we saw an absolutely breathtaking view.

 

Walking back, we took a jumping picture for funsies with Earnestine’s uncle’s sister’s son (on the far left):

 

 

And I got my wish granted by getting to ride in a rickshaw!

After the Summer Palace, we went out to grab some Peking Duck, but our plans fell through and we went to a hot pot place instead. Basically each person had their own little boiling pot of broth, and the waitress would bring out plates of various things like strips of beef, little nests of noodles, raw vegetables, and seafood. We would then grab a strip of beef, and hold it in the hotpot for a little while, until it cooked. Then we would dip it into some kind of peanut sesame sauce and eat it. It was really good. My favorites were the strips of meat (I am not sure what all of them were but they were good!).

As a side note, I am extremely thankful that I have always taken the chance to use chopsticks whenever possible at home, because now I can get by here without standing out too much from the rest of the table. My dexterity with them is not the best, but I can (usually) grab something from a plate and bring it over to mine without dropping it halfway over. :) I call that success!

(Also, I am not sure if I am correctly naming any of these things, and I am sorry for any inaccuracies, but I am not 100% sure if I am over my jetlag yet and had an absolute whirlwind of a day (my poor memory can only do so much!).)

Later that night, as we were driving through the streets with Earnestine’s family though, I was thinking about what it must have felt like to be born here and see the city change, develop, and grow. I don’t quite know exactly how that feels like because my knowledge of Chinese culture and traditions is quite poor, but my imagination is pretty strong and I had a fun time imagining. :) Thinking about what it was like to grow up in any culture is interesting, considering all the tiny, and sometimes not so tiny differences, that each culture has from the other. For example, I had a chance to try out a squatting toilet yesterday, which was crazy as I had never even considered going to the bathroom on anything other than a toilet. But people do this every day, and it’s as second nature to them as a toilet is to me. I feel like this is a super dumb example, but it’s the one that was most vivid to me, because using the restroom is a very private experience in which people are sensitive to changes. When I went to Europe for the first time in a long time, I was surprised to see the toilet separated from the shower and sink in some homes, and for public stalls to have walls that extended to the floor, rather than stalls in which you could see your neighbors feet if you tried.

Anyway! On Tuesday, after a much needed night’s sleep in a normal bed, we got onto a train heading for QingDao, which is a city on the Yellow Sea. Before heading there, I wrote the following:

It is apparently a favorite vacation spot for Koreans! The weather there is cooler than that in Beijing, and I am excited because I have forgotten what it feels like to be outside without immediately breaking out in a thin layer of sweat. Prague was absolutely boiling, and Beijing is pretty hot as well. I guess that is what we get for travelling in August!

But after getting there it ended up being even hotter than Beijing…

Anyway, will write about QingDao later. :)

Agata

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