Second stop on the journey, the capitol of China, Beijing. I took the high-speed train from Shanghai, which traveled 815 miles in just under 5 hours at a speed of 185 mile an hour. Was probably one of the smoothest train rides I’ve ever taken. Just like Shanghai, the weather was muggy and hot. Outside of sleeping in an AC room during the nights, I don’t think there’s been a moment that I’ve been in China that I haven’t been moist!
I found Beijing much more interesting than Shanghai, as Beijing is a significantly more important city from a historical context. As I’ve been much more fascinated with Greek, Roman, Medieval, Ancient Chinese, etc. history as opposed to modern history, being in Beijing was a bit surreal.
I spent my first day in Beijing walking around Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven. Tiananmen Square was just as massive as I imagined. Enormous museums stood on the east & west sides of the square while the tomb of Counselor Chow, the first president of China, resided on the south of end. The building was closed due to scheduled maintenance until September. On the north end of the square, the Forbidden City.
Walking through the gates of the city, you couldn’t help but be in awe of its enormity. It took me a solid 4-5 hours to walk through the entire city. Walking the walls of the southern outer courtyard, I couldn’t see where the city ended on the north side. I learned a great deal about the Ming & Qing dynasties, the only two dynasties to inhabit the city. There were also very cool exhibits that included art, showed how many of buildings were constructed, and trading with the west via the Silk Road.
After stopping to eat some bomb dumplings for lunch, I headed to the Temple of Heaven. The massive park included Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, Imperial Vault of Heaven, Echo Wall, Fasting Palace, Ancient Cypress Woods, Chinese Rose Garden & Thousand Flowers Garden. I spent another 4-5 hours here. While the temples were beautiful, I enjoyed the Cypress Woods the most. I spent a good two hours walking through the woods and stopped to rest and meditate for a while. It was very Zen.
I spent the majority of the second day at the Summer Palace, which took me a good 6 hours to complete. Entering the palace, you’re greeted with an amazing view of Kuming Lake with the Hall of Buddhist Incense towering above on Longevity Hill. The lake was filled with hundreds of boats heading to the island in the middle of the lake. Strolling around was very peaceful, in the non-busy areas. The marble and stone walkway are lined with trees that hungover over the pathway creating an arch. After hiking up the Longevity Hill and gazing at the Marble Boat, I stopped and ate my lunch in quiet, grassy area looking out into a vastness of water lilies. After lunch, I walked across the massive marble bridge to the island in the middle of the lake.
In the evening, I tried to find the famous Donghuamen night market. After a while of walking around and not finding it anywhere, I asked someone where it was. Apparently, it was just down late last year due to health code and noise violations. I was absolutely gutted, as the market was one the things I was most looking forward to experiencing in Beijing. Luckily, as I was walking back to the hostel, I stumbled upon another, much smaller night market, that had some of the exotic food I was looking for. While I didn’t try anything this night, if you so pleased, you could dine on scorpion, grasshopper, cockroach, centipede, lizard, snake and starfish. I’m definitely interested in trying snake and scorpion, but another day at another market.
The third day, I trekked the Great Wall of China. More on that in another post.
Beijing was incredible and lived up to my expectations. The food was absolutely delectable. The history and architecture fascinating. While I enjoyed my time here, I’m excited to head to Xi’an and see the Terracotta Army!