Sunday, March 29, 2015

On the road again: Beijing Part 1 (Arriving in Beijing and the Great Wall)

I had only been back in Korea for about two weeks before I was packing my backpack for another trip.  This time I was headed to Beijing during our Lunar New Year holiday with my friend Jen.  Jen and I also traveled together to Japan, and after the wonderful time we had together there, I was super excited to travel with her again.

We started our day with a 6 AM bus ride to Seoul, then we had to take another bus to the airport, where we caught our flight around 1:00.  The flight to Beijing luckily wan't too long, and once we arrived we took a train, then the subway to get to our hostel.
Here we go again!

We immediately noticed how quiet it was in the city. Since it was the Lunar New Year holiday everyone goes to their hometowns to celebrate with their families, which means the cities empty out a bit.  We were lucky that we were staying at a really nice hostel and even had a private room.

An actual shower!

Our very own room! So much budget traveling that we're not used to this!

When we checked in the people working at the main desk told us that at 6:00 we could come make dumplings, so obviously we said yes and joined in for the fun.  Following the dumpling making, they provided us with an AWESOME dinner--all for free.  They kept bringing out more and more dumplings until we were all completely stuffed.  After staying around for a bit to talk to the other people in the hostel, we decided to book a tour to the Great Wall for the next morning.  We had an early night because we were exhausted from traveling and we had to be ready by 6 AM for our tour the next morning.

Making dumplings

Awesome dinner!

The bowls we used during dinner were from the Beijing Olympics in 2008

Fireworks were going of ALL night long for the new year, so I didn't sleep well at all during my first night in Beijing. Nonetheless, we woke up the next morning bright and early to prepare for our trip to the Great Wall.  There are a bunch of different parts of the Great Wall that you can visit, but we booked the tour to Jinshanling because the people at our hostel told us it is the most beautiful part.

We got picked up at the hostel around 6 AM, and to our surprise we had a very friendly and talkative driver.  He was incredibly confused by the fact that Jen is American, even though she looks Chinese (she's actually Chinese American), and insisted that she's not really American, but obviously I am because of my big nose.  He also told us through his broken language and gestures that we have to get married before 30 because after 30 we will be completely out of luck.  Gotta love how Asians are always so concerned about the relationship status of complete strangers.
Our van driver.  What a hysterical way to start the morning...probably the friendliest Chinese person we met. 

Our van driver brought us to meet a bigger bus, where we got on before hitting the road to get to the Great Wall.  The bus we were on was super uncomfortable because the window I was sitting right next to wouldn't close all the way.  As a result, it was freezing the entire ride there, which was nearly three hours long.

Once we arrived our guide told us that since it was the Lunar New Year, we had to eat lunch first so that the people who work there could get home to their families.  It was about 9 AM at that point, so we weren't really in the mood for lunch yet, but what can you do? Lunch left a lot to be desired, but I tried to eat as much as possible because I knew it would be a long time before we got to eat again.

Around 10:00 we made our way to the Great Wall.  At this point they pretty much just let us roam free for a few hours.  We had a small walk to the top, then we had an amazing view of mountains and the Great Wall, which extended as far as we could see on both sides.

We walked along the wall for a while, taking in the view and of course taking tons of pictures. It was freezing, but it was hard to care because the views were so beautiful.  The most amazing part of the day was the fact that we essentially had the entire place to ourselves.  Since it was the actual day of the Lunar New Year, all of the Chinese people were home with their families.  We had about 15 people that were on our bus with us, but once we all spread out, Jen and I were really all by ourselves.
Still cannot believe I was actually here!

So lucky to have this amazing experience with such a great friend.

The size of the Great Wall is something that you can read about, but seeing it in person leaves a unique impression on you. It's only when you see it that you really understand how amazing it is that it was built so long ago, before the modern technology we have today.  I can't imagine how they even managed to get all of the materials through all of the rugged and remote mountains, never mind how they went about the actual construction.

The only downside to our visit was that it was absolutely freezing outside. When Jen and I first planned on going to China for the Lunar New Year, we of course knew it would be cold.  However, before we went we kept checking the weather and every report said that it was going to be about 50 degrees while we were there.  This turned out to be completely false, and as a result we were seriously under-prepared for the frigid temperatures we experienced.

Once we got to the point where we couldn't stand the cold anymore, we made our way back to the bus, where we endured another freezing bus ride back to our hostel.  We finally got back around 4:00, at which point we stood in front of our heater until we were finally warm again.

We finally got brave enough to go back our for dinner, before stopping at a corner store to buy some snacks for our room for the night.We were exhausted from a long, cold, and busy day, so it was an early night for us that included sitting in bed and eating cookies--not so bad if you ask me.

No comments:

Post a Comment