Beijing

June 7, 2010 at 2:24 am | Posted in China | Leave a comment

After a westernized taste of China (Hong Kong), it was now time to experience proper china. China only really opened up to visitors in the late 70’s, so it isn’t surprising that it was not as tourist friendly as some of our other countries. The first thing that struck us was that only a tiny minority of people speak english. this made for plenty of awkward hand gestures and charades. ordering food in restaurants was a real struggle unless they had a picture menu – even then, specifically with a certain case of chunks of cartilage disguised as delicious pork, ordering could be a disastrous guessing game.

besides the difficulty in food and directions, i was a little overwhelmed by the change in culture. HK is so westernized compared to china. the chinese people also seemed very different(in general, more conservative and reserved) and the fact that we were in a communist society was evident. oh, the mass public transport is amazingly clean, easy and cheap. yay. and instead of rickshaws, there are little refrigerator cars.

We attempted to get a lift in one on a horrendously rainy day but it completely backfired. For a start our driver was a nut, he said he understood where we wanted to go (from the chinese word which took ages to write down) but we negotiated a price and then he took us 100 metres down the street and started babbling absolute rubbish to us, after a while we eventually got out but he continued to follow us up the street and shouting crazy things at us, im sure he put a curse on us both.

we went to the olympic village one day and were so impressed by the buildings.

The birds nest – the olympic stadium. the nest is definitely the most impressive of all the architecture.

i also noticed this criss-cross patterns in window panes and a few other non-olympic related chinese designs. the olympic building for swimming is cool too – it’s exterior is covered in translucent blue 3-dimensional bubbles. the interior views are even more amazing.

Tiananmen square – sight of the 1989 protest

the forbidden city is also on Tiananmen square. it’s a real hub of cultural attractions. it’s also the place where a couple tried to scam us according to hudson (or maybe they were just being nice as i thought).

One of the main tourist attractions in Beijing is the imperial palace (the forbidden city). It was home to the emperors of the ming and qing dynasty for almost 500 years. personally, i thought the forbidden city sounds a lot more intriguing than it actually is. that being said, the peaked roofs and red walls are the epitome of chinese architecture and very pleasing to the eye. the historical bits are also interesting and bring the interiors to life.

there are huge cauldrons like this one all over the forbidden city. they were originally kept full of water (and covered in blankets during cold months) in case of fire. men would have to grab those huge bastards and lug them to the fire. i think this historical tidbit makes the cauldrons much more exciting.

The forbidden city has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site in order to preserve the historical chinese architecture. in addition to the peaked roofs everywhere, there is also a lovely fish pond (fish ponds are big in china) and a mountain (um, really just a hill) that is man-made out of chunks of rock.

The chinese military museum – like the majority of chinese museums, a blatant piece of propaganda

The beijing streets were fun to walk around. yeah hudson, i guess they were, except that it was very confusing as there were no english signs and each chinese person we asked pointed us in a different direction.

the streets around where we stayed were actually fun though. we stayed in the hutong area; the hutong is basically a neighborhood that contains old buildings on intricately laid-out streets and alleys. surprisingly, you couldn’t really get lost because all of the streets ran together – you were bound to hit upon something recognizable eventually. the hutong is full of families and everyday people, shops, little restaurants. there is even a park (um a big space of asphalt) where kids and adults played games and badminton. the asphalt park is nicer than it sounds.

We couldn’t visit Beijing and not venture to the great wall. We had heard that the wall could be somewhat of a tourist circus at times so we picked a not-so-touristy place to appreciate a more realistic view of the great wall. It also happened to be raining so there was nobody in sight. well, nobody except for the person that took this picture of us.

The wall was so steep in some places, it was a real struggle to climb. We were thinking about doing a 12km hike along the wall; i’m glad we didn’t, would have killed us. (kelly: agreed).

I really enjoyed seeing the great wall, it went for miles and it was amazing to think that the chinese built this over all the hills.
yes, i (kelly) am also glad. before seeing the wall, i wasn’t too hyped up: just a wall that took forever to build that never ended up serving much of a purpose. however, the wall is an amazing human feat and affords so many cool views. i guess the wall is kind of cool after all.

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