Monday, November 26, 2012

A Week of Travels: Part One

Hello everyone once again it has been quite awhile. I have been busy with what seems to be an ever growing pile of things to do, such as midterms and papers, and I have also been traveling.  I was going to write about my midterms, but I think that might have been a little too exciting.  So it is my adventures during my recent travels in China to which today’s blog post pertains.
 A couple of weeks ago my fellow classmates and I had a week off from classes to travel around China.  A couple of friends and I decided to jump on a bullet train and head to Beijing which was our first stop in our week of traveling.  After a short five hour ride, we arrived in Beijing at 11pm and stepped out onto a rain drenched street near Tiananmen Square.  After checking into a nearby hostel we decided to take a walk in one of Beijing’s many “matchbox house” communities.  These communities consist of very small delicate houses lined up abreast along narrow streets that seem analogous to the paths in a corn maze.  These communities are so large and intertwined that inside small business can survive just because people do not want to have to navigate all the way to a main street.  Walking through these communities felt as if you were not in Beijing, well at least not 2012 Beijing, it really seemed like one was walking through the streets of old China.  I found it very interesting that a community like this, despite its close proximity to Tiananmen Square, had so far survived the modernization pressures of the city.
The next day we visited the Forbidden City, which was very interesting but extremely crowded.  After wading through a sea of other tourists, knocking into a curious man who looked like and dressed like Jesus Christ, I entered the Forbidden City. I was immediately surprised by the sheer size of the city and by the fact that despite its size there was comparably very few rooms.  Most of the city is large courtyards that provide the buildings located at the ends of these courtyards with an appearance of being daunting and powerful.  After our day in the Forbidden City we spent the night couchsurfing with a Russian who was living in the city.  That night after some delicious Beijing hot pot we decided to check out some of Beijing’s night life, which is a lot fun.  But the real fun started later that night when a taxi driver tried to overcharge us and he and I got into a shouting match, in Chinese, over the price.  Despite losing a button off my shirt after the taxi driver decided to get a little physical, I really enjoyed the experience because I used quite a bit of Chinese, and up to that point my argument with this taxi driver was the longest conversation I had with a Chinese person that I did not closely know.  At the end of the argument we ended up not having to pay the full price and made it back without any further complications.
During our last full day in Beijing we visited the Great Wall.  The section of the Great Wall that we visited was restored for about a mile of its length, which was nice because it gave me a sense of what the wall looked like during its glory days.  But the sections of the wall that had not been restored were the most interesting.  To walk on top of the original stone of which the wall was built with felt like I was walking on something that transcended time.  Walking out on the decaying sections of the wall, far away from the crowds of other tourists, truly gave me an idea of what a monumental feat of human perseverance the building of such a structure exemplified.  An interesting occurrence that happened to me while I was walking on the Great Wall was that I saw the same guy resembling Jesus Christ that I had seen at the Forbidden City the previous day walk past me.  The second appearance of this man sparked jokes between my friends and I that went along the lines of "After all those Sundays of Church, it turns out that all I had to do to find Jesus was visit Beijing".  
After the day at the Great Wall my friends and I left Beijing and boarded the plane to Sichuan.  In Sichuan my friends and I had a few more interesting adventures that include Halloween with a Chinese Cop and I now have a Chinese grandmother, but these are tales for another post. So until next time

Top of Tiananmen Square 

Forbidden City

A shíshī

Inside the Forbidden City


This picture is a good representation of the pollution in Beijing.  The funny thing is that when I showed this picture to one of my Chinese friends he said"wow you guys were lucky you went on a good day".  I found that very interesting, I would hate to see what the pollution is like on a mediocre day.

An arrow tower on the walls of the Forbidden City

More meow for your mao
(A Mao is also a form of currency in China, to clarify the joke)

Great Wall (Restored Section)

Great Wall (decaying Section)

The remains of a Great Wall watch tower


On second thought...

Oh well why not
This is humorous, in China scorpions are not a common snack. It is truly just a product of tourism in Beijing.  While my friends and I were indulging in this particular snack we attracted a group of about fifteen Chinese people, who eagerly watched and took pictures of the stupid foreign tourists eating scorpions  

Something that I did not expect to see while in China