Last week was National Holiday here in China. This is a week long holiday in China where everyone and their sister are on vacation and are doing the "tourist thing." Hundreds (and I'm sure that is an understatement) of people swarmed to hot spots like Beijing to take in the sights and get away for a week. Check THIS out. After weighing out different options, many of us teachers here decided to stay in Beijing and make it a "staycation" vacation. I have been living in Beijing for 6 weeks now and prior to the National Holiday it had been a solid month. I was itching to finally see the city I was living in and will be living in for the next 10 months or more. There is so much history packed in to this enormous city and many scenic areas to take in. My agenda for the week didn't take long to fill up. On the menu: Tiananmen Square, National Museum, Nanluoguxiang Hutongs, Houhai Lake, Wangfujing Street, Forbidden City, Beihai Park, Summer Palace, Beijing Zoo, and Olympic Park where the Bird's Nest and Water Cube are from the 2008 Olympic Games. How does that saying go? "Places to go, people to see, things to do!"
Soooo, maybe I over thought the amount of time I had during the week long break. And maybe I didn't take in to consideration that others would be on vacation too and that the population of Beijing would grow exponentially for one week. Oopsie! Yeah, so, I didn't get to do everything on my list for the week but I was reminded that I am living here for a year or more and have LOTS of time to see things. Lots of time!
|The Great Hall of the People at Tiananmen Square.|
|Proof that I stood in Tiananmen Square.|
But what I did see was magnificent! Just amazing. Guys, I was at Tiananmen Square! The history, the stories, the things that took place. And I was there! My friend Amanda can vouch for me on this one: I remember having a conversation with her sometime in the spring after she went to visit Tiananmen Square herself. I said very strongly to her (ALERT: family & friends - sorry for the bad language) "DUDE! You were at fucking Tiananmen Square. That's a big deal!" Yup, that's pretty much how I felt as I stood in the square looking around at the Great Hall of the People, Chariman Mao's tomb, and the Chinese flag waving in the wind high above the activity.
Similar feelings were present when I went to visit Summer Palace and Forbidden City. The architecture at these places is just phenomenal, and the colours are gorgeous. The numerous amounts of people I could have easily done without, but I tried my hardest not to let them drive me too crazy. Shoulder to shoulder people trekking on walkways around a lake that isn't more than 2-3 feet wide saw my anxiety levels rise. Nevertheless, I took it all in (or as much of it as I could or had time for!)
|Standing in front of the Imperial Ancestral Temple at Forbidden City.|
|A beautiful view of "The Temple of the Fragrant Buddha."|
I saw pieces of art at Forbidden City in one of the buildings that had been changed in to an art gallery. I saw three different couples getting their wedding pictures taken around the outside of the "Imperial Ancestral Temple" at Forbidden City. I climbed up the side of a mountain at Summer Palace in my Toms. It was all amazing! And I still pinch myself today in disbelief that I'm really here. That I am finally traveling and doing the things I've always imagined I could do.
We even spent a day at the Beijing Zoo. My friends who know me the best know that I LOVE a good zoo. And this zoo made me extra excited because it has pandas at it. Before going to the Beijing Zoo I had never seen a panda in real life. I know that it's in an enclosure and that they aren't wild or anything, but what are the chances I'd EVER see a panda out in the wild here in Asia. Pretty slim if you ask me! And they were adorable! The first enclosure we went to the panda wasn't home. Which made Brittany, Erin, and I quite upset (see below).
But as we moved on we saw a crowd gathering in front of another enclosure, and there he was. The most adorable, regal, and calm panda bear sauntering around his enclosure. He was beautiful, and I fell in love instantly. The Beijing Zoo is an enormous place! We didn't get to see it in it's entirety, but we did see all of our favourite animals. Tigers (my personal favourite), elephants, dolphins, polar bears, lemurs, lions, and so many more. The zoo is well kept and is very green! I'll be making another visit sometime during my stay in Beijing.
Remember watching the Olympics in the summer of 2008? I do! They were in Beijing and as I feel about all Olympic games, they were epic! So, when Brittany expressed in extreme interest in going to see the Olympic park where the Bird's Nest and Water Cube are, I was totally on board! One common theme I am running in to here in Beijing is the gorgeous and unique architecture. And that's just how I'll describe these buildings where the Olympics took place. The Bird's Nest building where the track and field is, and where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies took place is unlike any other building I have ever seen. Clearly they named it the Bird's Nest for a reason - because it looks just like that. It looks like sticks and twigs (or in this case, pieces of metal) woven together like a nest. It is a very open concept, and you can see through the intersections of the metal. And the Water Cube is just as interesting! The outside of the building has a very liquified and bubbly look about it. I know that this building in particular has a whole new look about it at night as it lights up several shades of blue. This is something I will also be returning to see during my stay in Beijing!
|Standing outside the Bird's Nest at Olympic Park.|
|Looking through the Bird's Nest to the Water Cube (and smog!).|
So, I didn't get to Beihai Park or to the National Museum. I didn't get to eat something funky on a stick at Wangfujing Street. BUT! I did get to see everything else on my list during my "staycation." And, I'm living here for a year or more. There is lots of time. By Thursday afternoon, we all agreed that we needed to slow down and do some relaxing. And we did just that! I feel like I'm just rambling in this post and that my thoughts are spewed all over the page! Maybe I should have blogged each night to keep my thoughts organized and concise. Oh well! I know I'm forgetting some things, and there are specific moments during my vacation that I'll remember forever. But I have the pictures, I have the memories, and I have this blog! There is no way I'm going to forget my first "staycation" vacation in Beijing!
|The group before climbing up to the "Temple of the Fragrant Buddha"|
|Taking a boat ride on Houhai Lake at night.|
|Outside Forbidden City.|
|The Temple of the Fragrant Buddha at Summer Palace.|
|The view of Beijing and Kunming Lake from the Temple at Summer Palace.|