Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Recount: China, Part 1

In the spring of 2008, I spent two weeks traveling throughout mainland China (Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai) and Hong Kong. Here is a brief ("brief") recount of my travels.

To get from Seattle to Beijing, we had to first fly down to San Francisco (about 1.5 hours), then fly back up over Seattle and the Arctic Circle (and Siberia, we are fairly certain) to Beijing (about 18 hours). Yes, 18 hours. Fortunately, I had a window seat.

The first thing we noticed upon arrival in the Beijing airport was how clean everything was. We later found out that this was partially due to the fact that we had arrived in a wing that had only opened three days prior, but this is still something we saw throughout much of China. They like to clean things. Our bags were not treated as well, however. My friend Keith found a clear footprint and matching indentation on his luggage.

In Beijing, we saw the first of the "Party Rooms." By this, I mean that a group of us seniors, plus one token junior, all selected one of our rooms in the hotel in which to hang out in the evenings. In this hotel, it was actually my room. On one of the nights, everyone actually fell asleep all around the room while we attempted to watch a Chinese opera on TV, thus resulting in those who didn't already reside in the room being locked out of their own and having to spend the entire night. Some clever sneaking in the morning ensured that we didn't get in trouble.

Beijing, as it turns out, is gargantuan. The city is the size of Belgium. The city. We would be on our tour bus for hours at a time and still be in Beijing. Without traffic. In Beijing, we saw the final stages of construction on the Olympic Village and various venues (like the Bird's Nest and the Bubble). We rode the bicycle rickshaws.

One of our major excursions was to the Summer Palace. This place is immense. It was built by an emperor for his mother, and apparently he was a real momma's boy, because he also built her a lake. And a mountain to put parts of the palace on. He was economical and made the mountain out of what he took to make the lake. It's gorgeous, full of long outdoor walkways for the ladies of the palace to sweep along in in their beautiful robes. It's been kept up quite nicely.

We also got to stop at the Forbidden Palace. It's quite a large compound, with lots of smaller museums in various rooms. Also large random pot type articles and extremely large doors.

We also stopped at Tiananmen Square (the best picture of which is up in the first set), and of course...

The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China was AWESOME. It isn't actually that tall or wide, so I imagine if one was a barbarian invader who was determined to cross it, you probably could. It is, however, ridiculously long. It stretched literally as far as we could see in either direction. The crazy part about it is that it faithfully follows every rise and fall of the hilly area it resides in. Sometimes it uses stairs, sometimes ramps. And none of the stairs match. Different heights, different widths, sometimes slanted. It's also at a pretty high altitude, all of which means that the best athletes in the world would get wiped out trying to run the thing. I was trying to walk it on an empty stomach. It didn't work out too well at times. I ended up sitting on a deserted stretch while my friends foraged ahead, and I had my first experience as a collector item for photos. 

A young Chinese couple were walking the Great Wall of China. One would think this would be pretty exciting. Somehow, I was more exciting. They took turns sitting with me for pictures. They didn't even get the Great Wall stretching out behind us. I was the tourist attraction in these pictures. This ended up happening a lot, probably about once or twice a day for the 12 days we were there. 

The best part of the Great Wall actually came about once we were off of it. The area next to the cafe where we were all supposed to meet up was blocked off, so for a while we just sat around. Suddenly, a figure all in white stepped out of one of the black SUVs parked in the cafe area, went up onto the Great Wall, and started filming a movie. 

Yeah, that's Jackie Chan.

And that's most of the exciting stuff from Beijing! I'll be back with accounts of the other three cities in future postings.   

I hope my Paris postings will be a little livelier, with more individual anecdotes. These are recollections from over two years ago! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010


GOT MY VISA!!!! It was the most miserable experience getting it, but now I HAVE IT! And it's pretty and it's official and, when paired up with my flight confirmation, means I am ACTUALLY GOING. I will be in France a month from now! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Now back to your regularly scheduled Christmas programming....

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I'm starting this up to keep people appraised of my world travels over the next several months. I am spending my entire junior year abroad- this past fall semester was in Washington DC (I'll post a recap at some point), and on January 16th I fly to Paris- by way of Iceland! And of course, once in Europe, there will be much inter-Europe traveling.

I'll try to post at least once a week, with little stories, learned words, and of course, pictures! I hope you enjoy it =)