Chinese people can't wait in lines. They push, shove, and cut entire lines without a care. The concept of personal space does not exist in the least here. Regarding the buildings here, it seems as if once construction is completed, the building is used and runs its course without any maintanence whatsoever. It's as if the philosophy here stands as "if it starts to fall apart, just knock it down and build something new." This seems pretty accurate when noting the amount of construction going on in nearly every city we've been to. New skyscrapers pop into the skyline daily. Perhaps this rate of expansion uses all construction and finishing resources, making repairs and routine building maintanence impossible. This attitude towards repairs is most noticeable within our hotels. Most of the hotels are "almost really nice." The lobbies are covered in marble with large pillars and decorative furniture; the elevators are clean and modern; the rooms are spacious, nicely layed out, and equipped with sliding glass door showers and adequate furniture. These qualities, however, are offset by the lack of concern for simple care and repairs. The corners of wallpaper in rooms are often peeling off, the bathroom countertops need wiped off, the plumbing beneath the sink is often exposed, and the bed sheets and towels are often still damp from lack of sufficient drying. These opposing good and bad attributes make most modern structures here in China, "almost really nice", but not quite. Perhaps once the constuction boom slows, China will begin to focus more on the structures it has already built rather than just building something new.
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Our flight from Dalian arrived late Thursday night in Chongqing where we were picked up by a bus. Chongqing is the largest city in the world by population with over 33 million inhabitants. I can honestly say I have never been anywhere more humid than Chongqing. Stepping into Chongqing felt like stepping into a bathroom after an hour long steaming shower, except cold. We only had one day in the city, most of which was spent in the Three Gorges Dam Museum.
Our dinner was a traditional Chongqing hotpot. The beef and lamb were delicious, and the cooking sauce had an excellent spicy taste, but I could not stomach the chicken feet, cow stomach, eel, chicken stomach, or bull penis. Yes, they served bull penis. The 3 day cruise follows our extremely brief stay in Chonqing, and I am very much looking forward to it.
Our trip from Beijing to Dalian was by train, a form of transportation I had not previously experienced. The cabins we had were nice; they were considered soft sleeper cabins and had room for four occupants. We boarded the train in Beijing around 9 PM and arrived in Dalian the following morning around 8 AM. I slept essentially the entire ride, but I can say that travel by train is fairly comfortable and I would have no problem doing it again. As we stepped off the train in Dalian we were welcomed by rain and cold weather. We checked into the hotel and had our first break of the trip. After resting and freshening up, we headed out to do some sightseeing.
Our bus drove to the top of a large hill where an observation platform was built to overlook Dalian on one side and the ocean on the other. Atop the hill stood an unusual flying saucer structure which was apparently an observation deck.
We did not go up since it was not free, but the structure itself was interesting to look at. Unfortunately, due to the fog, we were unable to see very far from atop the hill. The pictures our cameras were able to take hardly capture the size of the city. We ventured down to the beach after taking in the view and found a rocky beach covered by smooth stones which were perfect for skipping. Following our stone skipping contests we headed back to the hotel and put on our dress clothes for a high class dinner with some of Xinli's friends. Some of the food was unique to Chinese culture (in other words it was not appealing to me) such as intestine, deep sea clam, and squid. The following day began with a long drive to visit another part of Dalian. This area was atop another hill and overlooked a Chinese naval base. This hill was topped by an old structure built during the Chinese-Japanese war.
Lunch was our choice of anything in the area. Most of us decided to try Chinese McDonald's. I ordered a chicken sandwich and fries. The chicken was not quite the same; the meat was darker and somewhat chewy, but the fries were the same as American McDonald's fries. Our dinner was another fancy meal, although this one had more traditional pork and beef dishes, so I ate much more and greatly enjoyed it. The table for this meal was large enough to seat our dinner party of about 40. It had a center that rotated automatically so that food was always moving to different parts of the table. This constant motion of the food made competency with chop sticks a necessity if we wanted to eat.
Overall, Dalian is a beautiful city, but is still undergoing massive construction. The city is being widely expanded through investments by corporations such as Intel, and within ten years I think the city will be even nicer and busier than it is today. Most of the buildings are fairly modern as the main city is only 25 years old, and it seemed as though the majority of hotels had revolving restaurants atop them so guests could observe the daily changes in the skyline as new skyscrapers popped into view. Our stop in Dalian was mainly to experience expensive Chinese dining, and even though Dalian is known for its seafood, of which I am not a fan, I thoroughly enjoyed our dining experiences.
It's currently 11:30 AM here in Dalian. We arrived on an overnight train early this morning and are taking a short break before heading out to tour the city. While I have some downtime, I want to reflect on the trip so far and the crash course our class took through Beijing.
The approximately 13 hour flight from Newark to Beijing seemed pretty much as long as it sounds. I had time to watch 4 movies, listen to about 3 full albums, and take a decent nap. Our flight path took us within 60 miles of the North Pole, though I had an aisle seat so I did not get a chance to open the window and look at all the ice. We arrived in Beijing and our passports were checked in one of the world's largest terminals. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we headed out for a hot pot dinner. I had experienced a hot pot meal once before in the U.S., but never a hot pot meal where pig brain was an option. Feeling slightly jet lagged and completely exhausted, I decided not to be adventurous and went with what I thought was beef, but later found out was lamb.
The following day marked the beginning of our adventures through Beijing, beginning with Tienanmen Square. Mao Zedong, who is seen in the U.S. as a controversial former communist leader, is essentially worshiped here.
This is his mausoleum. The building is massive and citizens buy flowers to present as an offering before entering the viewing room.
Following Tienanmen Square, we visited China's National Center for the Performing Arts. The building is the largest dome structure in the world, and contains multiple theaters. It seemed as though no expense was spared during the structure's construction; everything was modern and clean.
The following day we toured the Forbidden City. Even before entering, the massive walls guarding the city displayed just how powerful and wealthy the Chinese dynasties were. The Imperial garden was breathtaking. Some of the trees were over 300 years old, and I was amazed by the size of the rocks moved into the garden. Every building was painted with meticulous detail and used bright reds, blues, greens, and yellows to give the structures a very regal appearance. This style is seen in nearly all ancient Chinese architecture, but each building has its own purpose and meaning, and each structure really is its own work of art.
I took a particular interest in the various sculptures seen throughout the ancient sites we visited. Most important buildings seemed to have a pair of sculptures or statues to the right and left of the entrances. The lion statues are the only animals which are noticeably different from one another. The lion on the right is female, which can be noted by the lion cub under its paw. The lion on the left is the male, and has a decorative ball under its paw rather than the cub. Although I believe most are for decoration some served as large incense burners during celebrations. I tried to get at least one photo of each of these statues.
The air in Beijing was far from clear. The smog began to dull vision at only a few hundred feet. This was most obvious when we visited the Great Wall. The wall itself was impressive, but the smog prevented us from observing the distant hills and mountains.
The olympic park was our next stop. The Bird's Nest was extremely impressive and the its design is unlike any building I have seen. Although it looks absolutely massive from the outside, it seats fewer people than PSU's Beaver Stadium.
The following day we visited the Summer Palace. This massive garden contains a huge manmade lake and some extremely intricate structure design. One of my favorite pictures I've taken so far this trip is of the ceiling in a gazebo type structure located within the palace garden.
We ended our stay in Beijing with a trip to the Temple of Heaven and a city street on which foods such as scorpion and centipede could be purchased.
All in all I really liked Beijing. I generally am not one to enjoy city life; I prefer open fields and trees to busy streets and skyscrapers, but Beijing is one of the coolest cities I've ever been to. Even though nearly 22 million people live there, the layout allows the sidewalks to be less crowded than sidewalks in New York City. Buildings aren't jammed one right against another, they are spread over a huge area leaving space for sculptures and gardens to be scattered throughout the entire city. Although we only had a few days to spend in Beijing, it has become one of my favorite cities.
My name is Trevor and I am a freshman at Penn State. I am currently planning to major in mechanical engineering and hope to persue a career in the automotive industry. This summer I will be taking part in a class titled ENGR 197A, which is a 3 credit, 3 and a half week trip to China. I will be visiting many major landmarks while there including the Great Wall, Three Gorges Dam, the Olympic Park, and many other historical and culturally important locations. I am very excited for this trip and can't wait to start writing about my experiences.