Abstract: My Asia travels recently took me to Beijing where I experienced the Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, the Olympics park, and so much more.
This past weekend was a Chinese holiday called the Ching Ming festival. During this festival, family members of the deceased visit their grave and sweep the floors of their ancestors as a sign of respect and remembrance. Because is it a national holiday, people get to take a day off from work and students get a day off of school. My four-day weekend travel destination: Beijing, China.
I am so lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China. Ever since I was in the seventh grade, I knew I had to witness the Great Wall of China, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Here I am, eight years later making my dreams and goals come true! Mainland China is very different compared to that of Hong Kong in terms of culture, food, and even language.
I traveled with a fellow Berkeley student I met on the same exchange program named Tuhina. We had booked our tickets one month ago and decided that the Great Wall was something we could not miss. We departed from Hong Kong international airport on Thursday night and arrived in Beijing at 1:00 AM. As soon as we got off the plane, the first thing we noticed was how cold it was! The outside temperature was 34 degrees Fahrenheit and it was raining. We had to wait outside for 30 minutes to get a taxi to our hostel. We checked into our hostel named Leo Hostel, located in a hutong in Qianmen, which is a narrow street filled with residential areas and restaurants.
Prior to our trip, I did a lot of research on destinations in Beijing to see how much we could get done in three days. On our itinerary was: the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, and Olympic Park. To our surprise, we were able to do all those things in three days with efficient planning and an enthusiastic mindset. Despite neither of us being able to speak Chinese, a map, travel guide, and universal hand gestures got us through the weekend. We mastered the subway system and always asked for help when we were confused. Sometimes, we ended up at places we didn’t intend on being at just by wandering around the city.
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City were about a thirty minute walk from our hostel. There are so many people walking around everywhere and it is hard to walk without bumping into someone. We had to walk through security and do bag screenings before we can get through to the area. There are security guards and policemen surrounding every area of Beijing, especially in Tiananmen Square. Once we arrived, the first thing we noticed was how grand the area and buildings were. There is so much history behind this space and it is obvious why so many people travel to see this destination. My favorite was the Forbidden City. All the buildings look relatively similar but the area was just breathtaking. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace during the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is called the Forbidden City because during that time, only the emperor, his court, servants, and special guests were allowed to enter. Everyone else was forbidden to enter the city without permission from the emperor. It took us about two hours to walk around the Forbidden City, but there was still so much more of it to see.
Later that night, we decided to eat street food and try different foods that we saw locals eating. Attracted by the aroma of stew and a large pot of a broth and meats, we decided to try the chef’s concoction. This restaurant was well known for its Peking Duck and Old Beijing Soup. The Old Beijing Soup I found to be quite odd, but I ate it anyway. It was a dark broth with pig intestines, pork liver, pork blood and tofu. The flavor was salty and too bland for my taste, but since it is such a traditional Beijing dish, I just had to try it in order to tell you all about it! I tried a lot of other street foods during my weekend there such as pork buns, Chinese donuts, and baked goods. The food in Beijing is really different from Hong Kong and most of the things I enjoyed in Hong Kong were unavailable to me in Beijing.
It was surprising to see the cultural differences from Hong Kong and China. The British colonized Hong Kong and the Western influence there is very apparent compared to in Beijing, China. Most people in China do not speak English and carry a different aura than that of the city-driven people in Hong Kong. Although Beijing is filled with so many people, they move at a relatively slower pace than the people in Hong Kong, eat different foods, and speak a different language. The spoken language in Beijing is Mandarin and in Hong Kong it is Cantonese.
Overall, my experience in Beijing was so much fun. I got to experience a new culture, make new friends through traveling, visited the Great Wall of China, and share all my adventures with my friends and family for the rest of my life!
Local Time: 6:50PM
Time Zone: Hong Kong Time HKT
Location (Latitude, Longitude): Hong Kong
How far did I travel this week? 1233 miles
How far have I traveled on your journey so far? Over 4000 miles
How did I get around this week? Airplane, Subway, and Bus.
What was the most interesting place I visited this week? Great Wall of China
Other travel news: (short story about what happened this week)
This week I toured Beijing in 4 days.
Weather Tally (enter the # of days for each weather type):
Partly cloudy: 2
What is the air temperature right now? 55 degrees
How was the weather this week? The weather was cold and dry.
What animals did I see this week? I saw birds flying in the clear blue sky during my visit to the Ming Tombs.
What was the coolest thing I saw in nature this week? Cherry Blossom trees along the Great Wall
Other Nature News: (short story about what happened this week)
Upon arrival, it was raining in Beijing. But thankfully the rain cleared the way for clear blue skies and nice weather in Beijing by our last day there.
What languages are spoken here? Mandarin Chinese
What type of money is used here? Chinese Yuan
How much does a bottle of water cost? 1 Chinese Yuan= 15 cents USD
What was the best meal this week? Peking Duck
What music did I listen to this week? The hostel played contemporary Western music.
What activity was the most fun this week? Watching a man sing Chinese opera in the Summer Palace park. It was so relaxing, soothing and inspiring.
What did I read this week? I read tour books and maps of Beijing.
Other news from this week: (short story about what happened this week)
We had to be extra careful with being around birds this week because the bird flu was beginning to spread and infecting lots of people during this time.
Check out a video of the Great Wall here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/woyg84nnxq7y70h/Great%20Wall%20Video.MOV