Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Beijing Video

Here's a short video I made from the Beijing trip, highlighting a few of the famous attractions we visited. I chose the song "Breathing Space" because I was pleasantly surprised by how green and spacious the city of Beijing is. I was picturing an overpowering concrete maze with yellow clouds of smog, but I actually found Beijing to be beautiful and convenient! Don't get me wrong though, it's still massive. Every building in that city is huge; it's a city on steroids. The only small thing in that whole city was our room in the hostel.

Monday, May 5, 2014

That's a Pretty Good Wall

This past week I went to the Great Wall of China.
That's me! Photo by Matt B.
Going to the Wall was an absolute MUST on my to-do list in China, and I was ecstatic when I got the opportunity during our spring break. While staying in Beijing, we went on a day tour to visit the Mutianyu site, which is about 2.5 hours away from Beijing by bus. We spent a gorgeously warm, albeit hazy, afternoon hiking on this ancient structure, and I really enjoyed it!
Although on the way Matt and I joked about keeping our expectations low in order to decide for ourselves just how "great" this wall is, it's impossible to belittle this remarkable structure. Incredibly vast, it winds and stretches over and along mountains until it disappears from view. The amount of work it required, not to mention questioning how they even accomplished this tremendous task, is confounding.
As you can see here, some parts along the Wall are extremely steep as a result of the intense elevation changes it covers. I'm not used to doing anything higher than sea level, so this turned into a pretty good workout! I was very impressed by the vigour of both the young and old in conquering the Wall; some people were fully set on making serious progress, and didn't let the heat, elevation, distance, or difficulty stand in their way. Several high schools were touring the Wall while we visited, and by observing them, elderly Chinese people (some even being helped by family members), and everyone in between, it was good to see how important experiencing the Wall is to Chinese people. Another factor is that we were visiting during a national holiday, when thousands of Chinese people travel to the capital to take in their country's historical and commercial sites. 
Forever engraved at Tower 23.
Matt and I climbed to Mutianyu's highest tower, Number 23, where you can see the point at which restoration on the Wall stops and the natural, weathered surface continues. We also skipped lunch to hike further along in order to catch the toboggan ride down instead of a cable car. It was well worth the trip; the toboggan is like a sketchy luge on a water-slide: tons of fun! It was really strange to ride a carnivalesque attraction after getting off one of the ancient wonders of the world, but in China it just feels right.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Overnight Train

This past week I took the overnight train.

We went to Beijing for our "spring break," the little vacation we get for China's Labour Day (May 1). I taught my evening classes and we caught the train at around 9:30 PM, then about 12 hours later we arrived in Beijing. It was a long journey, but the comfort of the train really made it easy! We sprung for the "soft sleeper," which means you get your own bed in a room of 4. I shared the room with my two coworkers and a random Chinese guy who admittedly presented some snoring issues early on, but settled down pretty quickly.
Matt got the top bunk.
I've often heard what I thought to be an outdated opinion, that there is some class and sophistication to train travel, and now I can completely understand it. It hit me while brushing my teeth in the room with a bunch of sinks: the comfortable bed big enough for even me to stretch out on, the very affordable cost compared to air travel, even the Western toilet- everything added up to a wonderful experience that made being crammed into a jet seem even more miserable. I boarded at night, spent time with friends in our own room, fell asleep, woke up refreshed and did my morning routines, and suddenly I was in another city on a beautiful morning. Now I'm a fan of the overnight train, and I'll be looking to do it again!
Shhhhh..... bed time.....