We are at the end of our trip in Beijing, China and I wanted to take some time to share and reflect before diving into Japan.
One of the things that struck me from the moment we landed was how big things are in Beijing. Whether it was the initial impression of Beijing International Airport, the size and scale of their modern infrastructure, or walking through the old dynastic temples and palaces; Beijing does not do things on a small scale. This theme kept repeating itself throughout my walks in the city.
Beijing has been described to me as hostile to pedestrians. Though some streets should be crossed cautiously I did not find this to be the case. Most of the time I got around Beijing either on foot or by subway (more on this later). Generally if you are mindful of your surroundings you will be fine. Regarding the bikes, mopeds, and other creative personal transportation devices that sometimes ride on the sidewalks my advice is to be predictable. Move off to the side before stopping to take pictures and don't suddenly zig in the middle of a zag.
The food has been spectacular. There was fried whole squid and jellyfish. There was chicken knuckles and Peking duck. There were soups and noodles of every variety prepared in standard and unique ways. The Chinese have many varied kinds of mushrooms and just as many ways of cooking them. I tried everything and liked almost all of it! I wish I had taken more pictures of the food since it's difficult to describe. The cooks and chefs and food preparers all seemed to take pride in both taste and presentation.
The Chinese were remarkably forgiving of my butchering their language. My first few days I was limited to Hello, Yes, Thank You, and furious gesticulating. By the end of the trip my vocabulary had expanded to include No, Water, Beer, and You're Welcome (fluency was only a few days). I used the Baidu translation app on my travel phone for more complicated conversations.
Besides walking I used the subway extensively. The Beijing subway stations are clean with straightforward layouts. The ticket machine is in both Mandarin and English. You tell it which station you want to go to and it calculates your fare (which was never above ￥5 or ~$0.70). The stations had clear signs for train direction and exits. There was usually a station within a short walking distance of the more touristy locales.
This was a beautiful park next to the Forbidden City that was nearly empty. I spent a lazy afternoon watching the ducks and reading my Beijing travel book in the well kept gardens.
Nanluogoxiang, Hutongs, and Canals
This was one of my favorite areas. I spent my first full day lost in the Hutongs trying to find the canals and stumbled across a little courtyard brewery. I also spent my last full day here with Cassandra.
A park I got lost in
I was trying to find my way to the subway to get back to the hotel and stumbled on this small public park. I have no idea what this park was called nor how to get back to it.
This is a large garden park surrounding a lake with well preserved historical buildings. It was definitely more packed than Zhongshan and great for people watching.
A group of Cassandra's coworkers took the morning to go to the Great Wall and I joined up with them. They were a wonderful group and we had a great time hiking a portion of the restored wall at Mutianyu. On the way up to the Wall we took a ski lift and the way down was via toboggan.
Though the steps to get to the tops of these towers were long and steep the views were spectacular. Through luck I happened to make it to the drum tower as they began their mid-morning performance.
They are not kidding about this!
I'm hoping to share some fun stories and more pictures of our travels in the coming weeks but the sun has risen here in Japan on my first day and it must be seized!