My Week In: Beijing
The Sun Rises in The East...
Growing up, I had dreamed of visiting Beijing, China's capital city. It is difficult to explain, but I always found myself intrigued by the people, the tradition and cultural landmarks. This dream was nearly 10 years ago and this year finally, it manifested. (A plane ticket, endless nights of planning and one month's salary later of course.) Below I recollect my week in the magical city, all with original photos and experiences!
Spoiler Alert:The Great Wall, Forbidden City and Hutong District. ALL ahead.
The Great Wall
Now, there are few things in this world that can truly leave you breathless. That for me, was standing on The Great Wall. Aptly named by the way. The night before I could not sleep due to the excitement. I was up early, had breakfast at the hotel and was eagerly waiting at the reception for my local tour guide to collect me. Across the 1 hour trip, I was captivated by the stories and facts my tour guide told me. The history of the construction across each dynasty, the preservation and restoration across the modern times and the full length-nearly 22 thousand miles!
As we arrived, there was a bus shuttle ready to take us to the cable car, which in turn we would ride up to the the top. If you are keeping score, that was three different modes of transport just to get to the top. The cable car ride was a quick, but peaceful 10 minutes where you feel the escape from the modern world while crossing over into an imperial time machine into China's magical past.
As I stepped off the cable car, there was a host of local vendors serving drinks, souvenirs and food along the way to the stairwell entrance. I reached the first step, took a deep breath and climbed. After a few minutes, I was there, standing on The Great Wall, nearly 9 metres above the ground, looking out over Beijing as far as a bird's eye could see. Breathtaking.
My first reaction was to place my hand on the side. The reason for this is that the emperor at the time it was built had a saying, translated it read: "A warrior's journey is not complete, until they have placed their hand on The Great Wall."
Safe to say, my dream and journey, was completed.
The Great Wall
Cable Car Ride
The Forbidden City
I know what you are thinking, where to next after The Great Wall? Why only the place that served as the home to the imperial family of course! The Forbidden City is a large palace complex that served as the imperial family home from the Ming dynasty until the end of the Qing dynasty. Initially, I was surprised, given that the entire size is 72 hectares, all for one family?
As I made my way through the entrance, I noticed there are normally three entry ways at each entrance and door. I later discovered, this was for men, women and the middle entrance was for high ranking officials and the emperor himself. I was lucky enough to use the middle door and experience the palace as the emperor himself would. The colours, architecture and statues all feel like something out of a story book. I stood in awe trying to imagine how these were all created so many years back and that modern architects still struggle to re-create them. The palace has been declared a world heritage site and all the rooms, gardens and contents form part of a living museum open to the public and tourists.
This is a must see landmark for all travellers if you are planning trip to Beijing. The reason being is that you are able to catch a glimpse of how the emperor lived his day to day life. From meditation in the palace square in the morning, to lunch in the courtyard and then escaping to his very own zen garden. If you've wondered about time travel, this will be the closest experience you could get!
Statue Close to the Entrance
The Hutong District
After seeing two of the biggest tourist attractions, I wanted to experience something off the books and more close to the energy of the city people. This place my tour guide revealed to me was the Hutong District. A small town close to The Forbidden City where many local families still live. I started my day with a walking tour through the town and visiting courtyards that families had opened to the public to visit and see the culture. On the entrances were all red banners that had good wishes and positive sentiment for on-lookers. These are placed during Chines New year and are left on for protection and good fortune. Two things we all could use right about now!
The courtyard home reminded me of the The Imperial Palace, but on a much smaller scale of course. For imagery, it had one open air courtyard area in the middle surrounded by four rooms on each side. All decorated with natural plants and red lanterns. It felt like time stood still the moment I entered and resumed only the moment I left. As I left I tried my best to express to the owner the beauty of the home and how grateful I was to have seen it.
To end off the day, I was treated to a rick-shaw ride through the town and passed the local river where children were sailing small paper boat and teens were flying kites close by. Once again, a town that felt like it has been frozen in time to maintain and celebrate the culture and heritage only China has been known for. I'm sure you've guessed, but I never wanted to leave...
A Warrior's End...
My life long quest to see Beijing was complete. Closing the chapter brought me a feeling that cannot be explained. Seeing a wonder of the world, walking in the emperor's footsteps and travelling back in time to live as the locals did, are all memories I will never forget. Good thing I took all those photos. If you have not been reading between the lines, Beijing should be on your travel list. Scratch that. Beijing should be on the TOP of the list!
Be sure to take a look at the next stops in my China adventure...
© 2019 Kedan Pentia