Beijing, Beijing, Beijing!

By Chris S., CE Adviser in China

I guess Friday would be a good place to start. The weather leaving Yantai was horrible. It was raining pretty much non stop all morning and we were nervous about not making our flight. The taxi ride was pretty sketchy.

So I made it to Beijing and the weather was great. It was a little warm, but better than rain. I was incredibly exhausted, and after dinner laid down for a bit. After feeling really lazy, I got up and walked around for a while. I made an attempt to buy deodorant, but it was unsuccessful. I bought something that the lady at the store thought that I wanted, but I think it was some kind of perfume. I sprayed it in my armpit, and it burned badly.

For dinner, I had some pizza and talked with some Canadian girls, but succumbed to the sleepiness that had been haunting me all night. It was only about 9 when I laid down, but it took me a while to get to sleep.

I had booked a Great Wall trip for Saturday and had to get up at 6. The taxi picked me up at 7 and made a stop to pick up another guy. Then dropped us both off at another hostel. We met up with about 18 other people and hopped on a bus.

The ride took about an hour and a half. I tried to sleep for some of it, but the seats weren’t that comfortable. On the way, we passed various sections of the Great Wall that were incredibly crowded and I was beginning to get a little nervous. If you know me, you know I hate large crowds. Luckily we kept driving, and eventually turned off onto a dirt road.

It seemed like we were going down the shabby road, through small villages, for quite some time. We eventually popped out of the trees and went through a nice set of gates. When we got to the end of the road, we were faced with a “Great” wall. It shot up the hill side, and appeared to be very steep. Even the walk to the wall was steep. It turned out that we were at the ancient, non restored part of the wall. The only other people that I saw there were a couple of workers painting hand rails.

The total trek was 10 km. It was all up and down hill, steps and otherwise. At one point the nice part of the wall stopped and we were faced with over grown rubble. Half way through, I ran out of water. The wind was blowing pretty strong, so that probably saved me from dying. I was very happy with this tour though. We got to see parts of the wall that had been knocked down by Mongolian invaders, and other parts that had just collapsed over time.

The guy that we picked up from the other hostel was named Bradley, and he was from South Carolina. We chit chatted the whole time and he was a pretty cool dude. He had also been in China for three months, but had stayed mostly in Xian, where the Terracotta Warriors are. While he was there, he was doing a co-op, which is similar to an internship.

We also walked with some girls from Germany, a couple from France, and a girl from Holland. They were all really nice and shared their water with me when they saw I was out. I keep running into really nice people on this trip.

I failed to mention how incredibly tiring this trip was. As I would lift a leg walking, it would shake until I put it back on the ground. I don’t think my pictures will do any of it justice, but it was steep, and really amazing.

For some reason, two other guys and myself decided to run down the last section. Looking back this was pretty stupid considering how tired my legs were, but it was fun, and I didn’t get hurt. We were jumping over things and stepping off of boulders that may not have been stable. Wooo!

When we got back to the bus, I bought two waters and chugged them without hesitation. That might have been the thirstiest I have ever been in my life. We took a ten minute drive to a restaurant and ate some pretty awesome food. As usual, the tofu sucked. I’m not a fan of the stuff, and I find that the only thing it takes the flavor of, is the bad components of each other ingredient. That and the texture is strange to me.

The rest of the ride was filled with on and off sleep, note passing, and talking with Bradley. When I got back, I hopped in the shower to cool my fresh sun burn. It wasn’t that bad, but the cool water felt good. After showering, I met up with Bradley, a British girl, and the Dutch girl.

We went to a bar called 37. Sitting outside is always interesting in China. People think you’re a display, and in a way, I think the restaurants try to draw the others in with westerners. I don’t blame them. The German girls ended up walking by and sat down with us. We all had some good conversation, some beers, and eventually went to grab a bite to eat.

At dinner, a man from Argentina joined us. It turned out that he is an artist. I asked him what type of art he does and he told me meat. I thought maybe there was something lost in translation, but it turns out that he really does carve various types of meat. Interesting… I guess there is a meat sculpting event here this week.

After dinner, we parted ways and Bradley and I walked back towards our respective hostels. We walked next to Tian Na Men Square. It really is just a big square. I know very historical events took place there, but it really isn’t that great to visit.

When I got back to my hostel, the Canadian girls were in the bar drinking, so I joined them for a quick beer. We ended up talking about politics, and though I sway towards their point of view, I played devil’s advocate, so they could see why people feel the way they do. It was fun, but I was tired, so I went to bed. I awoke around five in the morning with a massive headache. Normally, I would attribute it to the beer, but in this case, it was dehydration. I guess the beer did play into it, but it wasn’t a hangover. Apparently, from the time I got home, to the time that I started drinking beer, there wasn’t enough water consumption. The headache really didn’t go away until around two in the afternoon.

I was supposed to wake up and go to the Forbidden City with Bradley, then meet up with Floortja, the Dutch girl, for a bike tour. That didn’t happen. I went and got some Chinese medicine for my pounding headache. It didn’t help.

Around 11:30, I walked about 4 km to the Forbidden City and did a self guided tour. People are sneaky around there. I had people telling me that they wanted to go to a tea house to practice English, then when the bill comes, it’s an outrageous price and they threaten to call the police if you don’t pay.

When I got inside the walls, a man was very intent on giving me a tour. Then he said the line was really long and if I had a tour with him, we could bypass the line. After much talking, I got him to leave me alone. When I got to the ticket counter, there were about 5 people in front of me. Bunch of scammers. Luckily, I’m not into falling for these things

The Forbidden City itself was pretty cool, but my headache and the heat distracted me. It is old and had big buildings, with big open spaces. It had a really “forbidden” feel to it. The Imperial Garden was probably my favorite part. I walked through a gate to see more, and realized that I had exited out of the back of the city. A sign behind me read, no re-entry.

On my way back to the hostel, I stopped by a book store and found the three English books that they had, and bought something by Faulkner. I might find more tomorrow in the international terminal when I get back to Beijing.

The big news for the weekend is that I booked my flight back to Yantai for the wrong date. Not sure how that happened, but it did. I got online and looked at my flight info. Today is the 16th, and the flight was booked for the 19th. I hopped on the China Air site and saw that the last flight they had of the day was at 5:45. It was 3:05. I was already packed, so I grabbed a cab and hauled ass to the airport. It turned out that there was one ticket left for the flight, and I got it! I fly home in the morning!!!


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