I’ve been waiting to go to China for years. I’ve been fascinated with the language, art and culture for as long as I can remember and now is a particularly fascinating time to visit as the Olympics just took place in Beijing.
My impression of Beijing was short and specific but I loved what I saw. The city was clean and well organized, the people were friendly, and getting around was enjoyable. I’m sure that coming from Ulan Bator helped me appreciate Beijing, but I appreciated the contrast between the two cities. Our group stayed in the second ring road which is a very central location. The city is organized in these ring roads and the first ring road is the Forbidden City, the ancient capital. Because of this organization, the city is relatively easy to navigate.
Of course, my Chinese practice did come in handy – generally people were very impressed when I could say something in Chinese. (Perhaps they have low expectations of westerners after the Olympics). I asked a waitress where the bathroom was (Qing wen, xi shou jian zai nar?) and she practically peed in excitement.
My time in Beijing was a three-day whirlwind: we saw the great wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Wanfujing shopping area, Temple of Heaven, the bird’s nest stadium, the water cube and it seemed like a million other things.
Our next stop was “small town” China in Datong (population 3.3 million). Datong is inland from Beijing and is a primarily industrial city with some ancient Buddhist landmarks preserved within the city limits. I’m not going to lie – sometimes it seems like you’ve seen one Buddha, you’ve seen them all – but the devotion to preserving 3,000 year old ruins is astounding.
Tomorrow we are on the road again and I am excited for the journey to continue. I have updated my photo page for the first time on the trip so please take a look. Also, there is a new Pacific Rim Program website which is excellent and you should check out as well!
Zai jian! Good-bye!