Nothing Like Starting an Adventure with an Adventure!

Beijing Travel Blog

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So I started my day early with a flight down to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I had a connecting flight from KL to Tianjin, China (about an hour outside of Beijing)…or so I thought.  Considering I booked my trip the last few days of school I was apparently a little slow in my thinking and booked a 1am flight instead of a 1pm flight!  So as I arrive at the airport looking for my flight and panic a little and then realize what I had done.  There is of course only one flight on Air Asia to Tianjin at 1am the next day, which wouldn't be a big deal except Mom is flying in from LAX and will be arriving about 5:30am.  So I start to freak out a little as I’m not quite sure what I should do.  I talked to Air Asia and they weren’t much help since they had limited flights to China.  I finally found a place where I could use the internet.  I tried to see if I could take an Air Asia flight to a couple places and then find a domestic flight to Beijing, but that wasn’t happening with the time frame I was working with.  So then I looked at flights going from KL direct to Beijing.  No matter where you are in Southeast Asia, all the flights to Beijing leave at about midnight and arrive around 6:30am.  So I book a flight from KL to Singapore to Beijing.  Since my new flight is so close to when I leave, Expedia couldn’t confirm my flight.  I hop on the bus to the other terminal and try to find the airline offices, which don’t open until mid afternoon.  I’m freaking out a little and have time to kill until I can talk to someone face to face.  3:00 finally comes around and I can confirm my flights, which makes me feel better, but now I’m trying to find a way for the airline to deliver a message to Mom so she knows I’ll be late and nothing "bad" happened to me.  I had to wait until I got to Singapore since I was taking a different airline from there to China.  They never did get the message to Mom, but we eventually found each other with me crying and apologizing (and Mom thinking of calling Jerry to tell him she was on the next flight back to LAX!)  What an emotional 24 hours!

After calming down a little Mom and I got some local currency and figured out how to get into town, on the subway of course!  It was a little busy on the subway considering it was morning rush hour, but even with our big backpacks and little backpacks we managed.  We got off the subway at Tiananmen Square and eventually found our hostel, which happened to be down the one road they were completely renovating the road, the sidewalk, and the buildings on.  Luckily once inside, you couldn’t really hear the construction noise.  We got our room and got things settled.  We tried to figure out some travel plans for the next couple parts of our trip as well.  There wasn’t a train available when we wanted to go from Beijing to Xi’an so we booked a flight.  We tried to book some other trains, but you have to be in the province of your starting point and of course every city we were going to was in a different province as the one before- just makes it hard to plan things ahead of time on a budget without the time to wait for trains to become available, but we managed.

Once settled we headed out to find some food.  An easy task we thought would have been easy, but we didn’t really walk by much.  We went the back way out of our hostel to see what was on the other side.  We ended up in an old Chinese neighborhood and at a produce market.  We got suckered into buying a melon type fruit and actually the guy wanted to charges us a lot more for it.  We kept walking in hopes of finding some real food and eventually we found a place that had bao (steamed buns with pork and onions).  It was just okay, but it was food and we were happy.  From there we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Everything (besides the people) in China is massive- doesn’t matter if it is a building, a plant, or what.  I can’t imagine why anyone would need a living quarter as large as the Forbidden City, but it was beautiful and impressive. There were an insane number of people at both places.  We walked around for awhile and both started to get really tired.  Mom was on jet lag and I was still emotionally drained.  On the way back to the hostel we stopped at Leoshoe Teahouse because we heard they had a good acrobat show.  We bought tickets for that evening hoping for a good show, but it was disappointing.  The show was a bunch of different acts- musical, dance, kung fu, tea demonstrations, opera mask changing, etc. but most of them weren’t very good.  Part of the disappointment was that it was very different from what we were expecting, but it was an experience.

**Sorry if my explanations of some of these places are not very clear, but some are hard to explain in words. A lot of the things we saw were beautiful, huge, impressive, but I can’t explain why, they just were.**

The next morning we were up early to catch a van to the Great Wall!  We started our 10K hike at Jinshanling and made our way to Simatai.  It was quite intense with the ups and downs and a lot of stairs, but was awesome.  This part of the wall has a few hagglers trying to get you to buy stuff, but not as many as the “tourist” part of the wall.  We had a hard time getting rid of some of them.  I think they were worried about Mom or something, but it was really hard to continue to be nice to the ones that continually followed us.  This part of the wall is mostly unrestored.  There were a couple sections at the end of our trek where they were doing some restorations.  It is amazing how they ever got all the supplies to build the wall in first place.

At the end of our trek there was a suspension bridge that you have to cross to get to the other side of the river and you have to pay a minimal amount, but still.  Then you have the option of walking down a hill or zip lining across the river and then taking a little boat back to the other side.  Mom opted for the hill and I opted for the zip line.  It was pretty mellow, but really fun.  Then we had a Chinese Family style lunch with the other people who rode in the van with us.  We had really good conversations over lunch and in the van both ways.  It’s so interesting to hear other people’s tales of where they are living, where they have been, and their traveling experiences.  By the time we got back to our hostel we were completely whipped.  We clean up and had dinner in the hostel, which was really good and then headed to bed. 

Monday morning we actually slept in and it felt amazing!  Mom and I were both pretty sore from our hike on the Great Wall, but that didn’t stop us!  We ate one of the expensive pieces of fruit and the other had gone bad.  We waited to eat eat, but that was a mistake.  We made our way to the Summer Palace and had a salty mediocre lunch there.  The Summer Palace was again massive, but beautiful.  Once inside the Summer Palace a woman asked me if I’d take a picture.  I said sure and went to take her camera so I could take one of her, grandma, and the baby.  All of a sudden I’m holding the baby and grandma is standing next to me.  She didn’t want me to take the picture; she wanted a picture with me in it.  This was just the start of our “celebrity-ness.”  There were lots of trees, flowers, lakes and mini museums.  The architecture was amazing.  There was a lot of walking, again!  Mom and I took it really slow considering our legs did not want to move as much as we were making them move.  After our day at the Summer Palace, we made our way to the Olympic Village.  We had enough time to get to it and have a snack before it started raining.  It didn’t rain much, but just in spurts.  The Bird’s Next is quite the architectural design, but definitely more impressive from a distance.  Once we had walked through the village, we tried to find a night food market and street market we had heard about.  We had a hard time finding it, but eventually did.  The street market was basically a walking street with a bunch of regular stores on it, but I was expecting more like a bargaining night market.  The food market was good thought.  We got a Chinese burrito, chicken skewers and octopus skewers.  We weren’t quite into trying the sea star, snake, shark, silkworms, centipedes, scorpions, sheep penis, or any of the other unique delicacies they were offering.  We had another failed attempt at finding the subway back home.  The maps we had were not very detailed and made the directions seem a lot easier than they were!  We just wanted to make sure we got in our daily 10K.

Tuesday morning we took a cab to the airport.  While waiting a lady was trying to get close enough to take a pictures with us in it.  Eventually she just asked and then about six other people asked to take pictures with Mom and me.  Mom and I had a safe flight to Xi’an where we will spend the next day and half…

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photo by: Eric