After over thirty hours of traveling, we finally arrived in Beijing, the capital of China. I will be breaking this blog up by city and then by day. With Bei as our tour leader, we do over five things everyday so it is going to be hard to talk about everything, but I will try my best! Please enjoy!
After arriving at the airport, we met with our tour director, Sunny. Sunny is absolutely amazing and Bei has been working with her for the past couple of years so Sunny is super excited to be working with us! We immediately board our coach bus and our itinerary begins at full speed. Our first stop was lunch in the center of Beijing. Lunch was traditional Chinese food, which wasn’t too shocking, however, I didn’t get out of the restaurant without some culture shock! Apparently in China, there is something called a squatting toilet, I’m sure you can figure out why this was shocking!
After lunch we left for the 2008 Olympic Village. We explored the Birds’ Nest, the Water Cube, and the surrounding areas. We take SO MANY group photos throughout the trip and every time we stop to take photos, fifteen different Chinese people will take photos of us. It’s like we’re famous! After this, we went to explore more of China before checking into our hotel and finally going to bed. At that point, I had been awake for over fifty-five hours!!
After our 6:30 wake up call, we had a traditional Chinese breakfast which, for me, consisted purely of watermelon. We got on the bus and went to the Beijing Zoo, home of China’s most famous animal, the Giant Panda! We took photos of the pandas and then bought numerous panda souvenirs. After this, it was directly on to our next destination, the Temple of Heaven. This has to be one of the most beautiful and unique places I have ever been. The temple itself is absolutely beautiful and sits on top of a massive hill, overlooking the entire city. In the park outside of the temple, there are hundreds of old people exercising and playing cards. These old men are insane, they are able to do tricks on the pull-up bar that I could never dream of doing! There was also an arranged marriage gathering going on. At this, parents of different young adults line up with different print outs of information on their children. The parents walk around and try to find matches for their kids. This had to have been one of the strangest things I have seen on this trip. After Temple of Heaven, it was on to a rickshaw tour of Beijing which would drop us off at lunch.
Our lunch was at a local family’s home. The man who cooked for us is famous for being the chef for the Vice Chairman of China in the ’90s. After lunch we took rickshaws back to the bus and then went on to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The size of these places is simply breathtaking. After touring the Forbidden City it was time for a Peking Duck dinner. The duck was delicious, I have never eaten so much in my life. After the Duck Dinner, we went to our second dinner of the night, traditional Beijing Hot Pot. This experience was so much fun but also super overwhelming for me because at that point I was running on little to no sleep! After our second dinner, we retired to our hotel, went to the local market, and then finally showered and went to sleep!
On our final full day in Beijing, we had a ruthless itinerary! We began our day by visiting the Summer Palace. Summer Palace was the summer home for many of China’s past Emperors. We watched some senior citizens practice Tai Chi when we arrived and then they invited some of us to join in. Let’s just say it is much harder than it looks! After that, we walked around the palace grounds and then we had a Tai Chi lesson in the middle of the beautiful palace garden. I was absolutely terrible at Tai Chi but it was still super fun. After the Summer Palace, we went directly to our next stop, a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. We got to taste eight different kinds of tea, it was so much fun! However, I was quite disappointed when I found out that unlike British tea time, Chinese tea ceremonies don’t involve fun finger foods. After the tea ceremony, it was off to lunch at a jade factory on the way to the Great Wall of China.
When we arrived at the Great Wall, it was humbling to say the least. The Wall is so expansive that it makes one person feel so small in comparison. The seniors decided to go up the most difficult stretch of the Wall and I was absolutely not prepared for the athletic endeavors that would follow. At points, I was climbing up what felt like cliffs on all fours just to make it to the top! In the end it was totally worth it, the views were priceless! After the Great Wall, we returned to Beijing for dinner. Then, after dinner, we took the subway to a local shopping street. I bought a selfie stick and a ballon with super fun lights on it. Alex and Joanna were not half as thrilled about the selfie stick as I was! After buying over eight different types of street foods, we took the subway back to the hotel. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, my balloon was unable to ride on the subway with me because apparently a ballon can become a bomb! Who knew? On Day 4, it is off to Xi’an, the first capital of China!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates from Xi’an,