Sunday, February 28, 2016

Off to China!! Our Adventures in Beijing

So, before my adventure in China could begin, I had to spend a week at school deskwarming, which is not really a big deal, but it is kinda creepy to be at school alone.

cleaning time

I had to say goodbye to Gyuhyun Teacher,
who was one of the nicest teachers at school.
She's moving to America for a few years!
It was a sad goodbye

delicious cupcakes were the only consulation

I found out that both Seon Kyung and Young Ah will be my co teachers again, and a former 5th grade teacher rounds out the trio. I've heard she is nice and speaks English well. We will see, but I'm excited for the year, even if many teachers in the office don't seem to be (new school system stress). 

I decided not to worry about any of that, because Cesca and I had a trip to China to worry about!

much less painful than getting on the plane for Japan

We arranged for a tour through a company, but until we actually met them at the airport, I was constantly worrying in the back of my mind, like, what if this was a scam. Thankfully, we were met by our guide and driver, and dropped off at our hotel.

We got in around late afternoon, and frankly the idea of wandering far was daunting, so we just hung out in the shopping center near our hotel.

We laughed at the Pizza and More sign

They still had Christmas lights up

Don't judge, we ended up at McDonald's because at least they had an English menu and we successfully ordered via pointing and gestures.

people just left their trash and the workers took care
of it, which left us very confused

lol Uncle Sam's

we ordered one of these by taking a picture and
just gesturing wildly to the lady

we also really couldn't figure out how much
stuff cost in real money. The Yuan Remembi
is not easy to convert

lovely hotel

picture ception


It was a little overwhelming to be stared at a lot and not be able to communicate, which happened through the whole trip.

We started early the next day and hit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven

While we were walking, a group of people asked our tour guide if they could take pics with us, so he also took some pictures of them with my camera, so we could remember fondly the strangers who wanted a picture of white girls on their phones. 

Next, we approached the Forbidden City. I honestly think I would have been more impressed if I hadn't already lived in Korea for 2.5 years, since the architecture is quite similar in style to Korea. With a few more dragons. And more mentions of Feng Shui  

Like, it looks sliightly different and maybe a little fancier than Korea, but for the most part, the styles are similar. You know, there's places only the emperor can walk cause he's blessed by heaven and you're not, blah blah.

There's also a lot of Yin Yang imagery in everything


We had lunch and headed to the Temple of Heaven, where the Emperor would ask the heavens for a good harvest.

walking with our guide

The same emperor who built the Forbidden City built this temple and a bunch of other ones (sun, moon, earth) around the city.


The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

This whole family wanted a picture with us. I felt like a celebrity 

Here's where he would do the ceremony, cause if you stand on
it, it's the closest point to Heaven, I think

It took us a while to look through everything, and after the temple, we headed back to our area. Our guide recommended a shopping street kind of close to our hotel, so we explored that.

We found it. It had normal shops and a more traditional street food area

we did not partake in the eating of scorpions.

The next morning, we started early again and headed for the Ming tombs, where some of the most important emperors from the Ming Dynasty were buried. 

We walked down the Sacred Way to get to the tombs

The animals line up to pay respect to the emperor


I think this was their version of a unicorn??

The ministers and generals also lined up

We finally reached the tomb entrance

Chinese tombs aren't underground, which meant we
had to climb to see it

I think this one is for Emperor Zhu Di. He advanced
china a lot but was not a great person

I think this was the blessing and grace palace, where they even had an alter
in front for sacrifices to the emperor

After that, we headed out to the Great Wall. The original part we were scheduled to go to was nixed because the cable car wasn't working on account of it being too windy (a curse that seems to follow Cesca and me everywhere, like Seoraksan).

We ended up going to a steeper but more accessible section of the wall, Juyongguan.

We goofed off and took a ton of pictures. We didn't climb a ton on account of Cesca's ankle, just enough to be high on the wall and feel satisfied with accomplishing it.

Her joking "What's so great about it?" face

can you see how steep it is?

but the views were lovely! I'm sure it looks nicer not in winter,
but I cannot imagine climbing this in the summer heat. Or crowds.

Cesca's "Just leave me here to die" face

she's cute and stuff

Cause it wouldn't be a world renowned landmark without graffiti.

Watcher on the Wall

Gimpy leg did a good job but we decided to stop torturing her 

and headed back down

There were some other nice buildings and structures around to check out

That's our tour guide napping while we were up on the wall

One of our delicious meals

we saw a lot of Korean celebrities in ads
and it was comforting

My translation is pretty awesome
The characters in my name mean 
Pretty Girl
Pretty Lady

Cesca's were less awesome- Law, Orchid,
Silk, Card??

One of the annoying "not forced but totally
forced" shopping trips. We were at the mercy
of the tour guide, who kept saying 'Oh no,
not shopping trip. Just experience"

Apparently no matter who you book through in China, you're gonna be on a shopping trip, as we saw many fellow tourists at the shops. It was annoying, but what could we do? Just get followed around awkwardly while not buying anything and being told Chinese is easy -__-

Here are some pics from my phone cause i'm too lazy to reorganize them.

Anyway, after the Great Wall, we saw an acrobatics show that Cesca took pictures of. Then we headed to the train station to get to our overnight train to Xi'an.

Will these be delicious? I dunnooo

overnight train time

not the most comfortable night's sleep, but still
an experience!

If you want more pictures, check out my facebook! 

Beijing was not as dirty as I was expecting (except for the bathrooms, which were almost always squat toilets with no TP or warm water or soap.... woooohooooo), but it was a little overwhelming to be in a city where I couldn't read or understand anything. Chinese is not the most beautiful language to me, especially in Beijing, where the accent is apparently stronger and therefore it sounds angrier. 

The country was beautiful but the language and general disorder did not totally endear me, especially the spitting (ugh they do it in Korea too and it drives me nuts) and the lack of organization or respect for lines.  Learning my limits, I guess.

Cesca and I were immensely popular and got asked to take many pictures, which was funny but also strange. I'm not one for causing a scene, but the blatant gawking in our direction was hard to avoid. Kids are cute though, so I tried to encourage their interest. That was fun.

We didn't get pickpocketed though, so that was an accomplishment! There were lots of police around, which our tour guide said should make us feel safer, but they also looked like commie soldiers in their outfits and with their guns. They also stared at us a lot haha.

Beijing was fine, but I'm glad we also went to Xi'an or I think I would have been a little disappointed in China. The driving was INSANE (what are lanes, anyway?), our guide was good but his English was a little lacking and confusing and he was verrryy over informative, and the shopping trips were frustrating, But the actual sites were awesome and really pretty and fantastic, especially the Great Wall. 

Look forward to more updates from my more favored part of the trip, Xi'an!

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