Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beijing 北京

We made it!  (That comment will make sense later.)  Since I wrote last time the group has finished up our classes from the first portion of the semester, I've gone on a great trip to Beijing.  And with the beginning of a new week, our group has started the next set of classes.  Not much interesting happened between last Monday and Thursday besides a couple tests and making the decision to go to Beijing for the long weekend.  Grab a snack or something before you get too far, this is a pretty long one!

My sleeping location.
On Wednesday we finally realized that we didn't have class on Thursday or Friday and we felt compelled to take advantage of it!  Dan and I decided we'd try to get ticks for a train leaving Thursday during the day and meet up with another group of our friends that were also heading to Beijing for the weekend.  As it turned out, tickets for that train were sold out and the next train's seats were ridiculously priced.  We had decided that we were willing to do anything to get to Beijing that weekend so Dan bought us standing room only tickets...for a 10 hour train ride that started at 9:30 pm.  Another group had already traveled standing room only and said that they were basically in a boxcar with a bunch of people standing for a long time.  Regardless, we were willing to try it out for the experience.

There was some excitement getting to the train station since we thought that the train would be leaving from the same station we bought the tickets at.  With only 50 minutes before our train departed, we learned that we had to go to another train station 13 subway stops away!  To make a long story short, we got on the train less than five minutes before it left the station.  The standing room only situation didn't turn out to be as bad as we originally thought.  The three of us were able to stake out spots by some sinks and bathrooms.  I got to sit down and I even got to lay down a couple times before people woke me up to get to the bathroom.  I'm guessing that I was able to get about 2-3 hours of sleep that night.

When we got to Beijing we dropped our stuff off at our hostel and immediately left for a bus station.  I had read online that there was a bus that took people to the portion of the Great Wall we wanted to go to for 16 rmb (pretty cheap).  What the internet forgot to tell me was that the bus only ran in the summer.  This got me pretty worried since the weather wasn't supposed to be very nice the next couple days.  Fortunately we came across a woman and her husband that drove people out to the wall in their van for a reasonable price.  We bartered with them for a little while and eventually got a pretty good deal.  There's one thing I must say about the Great Wall, it's amazing and quite possibly one of the most spectacular things I've been to!  We also got to see some interesting things there too!.

The next couple days were a lot of fun as well.  We stayed in a hostel for $4.80 a night.  When I booked the place online it was listed as New Dragon Hostel, when we got there, it had been bought out by Motel 8.  But besides part of the ceiling breaking from water damage right over Jacob's bed, it was pretty nice.  It snowed the first night we were there which made the next couple days pretty interesting.  We got a trip set up through our hostel that went to The Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City, and The Summer Palace.  It was really cool to see all this stuff with snow covering it, but it wasn't cool for it to be so cold outside.  I managed to buy some authentic North Face gloves for 10 rmb ($1.50).  On Sunday we made it to Tienanmen Square and  Beihai park which, according to Wikipedia, is one of the largest Chinese parks.  Both of these places were really cold too, but it was still really neat to see everything.  Towards the end of the day at Beihai Dan and I started to get a little competitive with artistic photos, so that made it a little more fun.

I don't know if any of you have followed Chinese news this past week, but a few protests against the government were scheduled for the Sunday we were in Beijing.  Apparently a place called Wangfujing Street was a main center for these protests.  This part of Beijing was only a few blocks from our hostel and we were walking up and down that area the night before.  It only crossed our mind that something might be going on until we saw all the museums were closed by Tienanmen Square on Sunday.  It was pretty crazy to hear about that afterwards.

The train ride back was pretty uneventful.  We actually missed our first new class because they hadn't given us a schedule yet when we got our return tickets.  The classes haven't been too bad so far.  On most days we only have two 45 minute sessions with a ten minute break in the middle.  I also picked up my tailored suit today and it looks really nice, hopefully I won't gain too much weight when I get back to the states now!  Besides that, everything has been pretty uneventful here.  Everyone take care back home!  I've got A LOT of pictures below and a couple videos.  Don't watch the second one if you get motion sick.

Oh, and I had an orange tonight, it was pretty awesommeeee!

Pictures Form Beijing
Vendors on Wangfujing
Biking around Campus (don't watch if you get motion sick)