We have arrived safely in China and our six month journey is off to a great start.
Some of the highlights:
Day 0: 12 hour flight from Seattle to Beijing was as smooth as a 12 hour flight can be. We both watched 2 movies on the flight (Matt watched the weird mix of Casablanca and Terminator Genisys while Phi balled her eyes out to The Good Dinosaur and Me Before You). Arriving in Beijing around 8 PM local time, our mission was getting to our Airbnb rental as quickly as possible to get some rest. We were excited to get in a taxi, but our excitement quickly tapered when it took us about 45 minutes to go 2 miles. 1.5 hours later, we were relieved to find a great place and finally get some rest.
Day 1: Stepping out of the door in the morning, we were both surprised at how “real” the smog was. Our first thought was, how did Phi’s sister live in China for 4 years? Our Airbnb host sent us a WeChat* message advising us to get masks (see cover photo). We spent the majority of the day at the Forbidden City, which was the Chinese Imperial Palace for nearly 500 years (1420 – 1912). The history, age, intricacy and beauty of the grounds, temples and many of the relics were incredible. Some of the Buddha statues and other relics were over 2,000 years old. For dinner, we had Peking Duck from a restaurant a Nordstrom friend recommended.
Day 2: This was our Great Wall day. We woke up early to catch the subway to meet Beijing Hikers. Our destination was a remote section of the wall that is not open to the public. After meeting up with the group of about 20, we had ~2 hour bus ride to the wall. The total hike was only about 5 miles, but much of the hike was spent scrambling up and down steep, slippery slopes on the wall. It was an unreal site to see. The first thoughts that come to mind were how difficult it would have been to construct such a wall. Dinner was at a local restaurant in rural China. Dinner was traditional family style Chinese. It was so great to experience rural China and get to see their way of life. We met lots of other fascinating people on this hike ranging from a recently married couple that were traveling for 5 months to a German family that has lived in Beijing for 13 years.
Day 3: We woke up super early to go for a jog. We set out to watch the flag raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square that occurs every morning at sunrise. Arriving about 5 minutes before the ceremony, we were stunned to see thousands of people here to view the ceremony. It was a damp and chilly morning, but that didn’t stop anyone from coming to see a rather patriotic ceremony with music, soldiers marching and the Chinese flag being raised. After this, we roamed around Tiananmen Square. A Chinese woman came up and asked to have her picture with Matt. He felt like a celebrity. We spent the afternoon at the Summer Palace. It was overcast, drizzly and a bit chilly; however, we loved the grounds.
We’ve also been trying to take as much local transportation as possible. Matt has expertly figured out the subway lines so we have limited our taxi use. Phi has gotten really good at apologizing to people that she doesn’t speak Mandarin outside of thank you, sorry, my Mandarin is poor, I do not understand and I am Cantonese. Locals keep looking at her to translate to Matt but clearly that is not happening.
Tonight we hope to hit up the Night Market and we will have to report back with how well we did. In the meantime, below are some photos from our first few days.
Any suggestions on things we should try at the Night Market?
*WeChat is a Chinese messaging service. We have quickly found out that the Great Firewall is also real as Facebook, Instagram and all things Google (gmail, search, etc.) is blocked. We were able to borrow Phi’s sister’s VPN but it’s been a bit spotty so we will be off the social grid until we leave China.