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.
Location: Beijing, China