北京:Wangfujing

All of this travel through China has been awesome. Every city has a unique personality and millennia of history makes them fun to visit. Of the cities I’ve been, Beijing has my heart. For me, what makes the city so great is how lively the culture is. Before my first Beijing visit, I was expecting the capital to be serious with a business first mentality. I was very wrong. Through travel, spending the summer in Beijing, and our short time in the city I learned to appreciate every playful gesture, photograph, and invitation to eat Beijing duck that I’ve ever received. Our visit made it clear that Beijing’s liveliness truly mirrored the rest of the China, and at its core, no place did that better than Wangfujing.

Although we never made an official trip to Wangfujing, our hotel was mighty close. It was also the first time I’ve been to Beijing without my weather app notifying me that my skin will burn within my first 10 minutes outside. Also, the President of the Dominican Republic was in town, so we ran into some smog-less sightseeing. From that point on, I knew autumn in Beijing was something special.

With that, we wasted no time on our journey to Wangfujing. I had been many times, but the street never loses its luster — watching the reaction of a friend who has never witnessed so many people casually eat squid on a stick and listen to great music will always be priceless. I spent the summer in Beijing so I had been to Wangfujing more times than I remember. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away once more. However, I’m thankful this trip was geared toward understanding the cities development through the ages. As a tourist, student, and eventually someone hungry for scorpion on a stick, my previous visits to Wangfujing ignored its history and how far the street has come. S/o to the Davidson in China program for encouraging us to do more than just eat the snacks. From that point of view, I was very blown away.

As Westerners and students abroad, Wangfujing is so foreign compared to anything we’ve ever seen — that’s what makes it so great. The crowdedness, singing, face painting, and gimmicks designed to get you to buy sticked-scorpion make for a great day.

If you were hoping this blog post would be a food review: 4/5. Acquired taste.

Yuhu

Up until now our travels were comfortable. Suspiciously comfortable. Although we were warned about the altitude, few of us have experienced the effects that nearly two miles of elevation can bring out, and like most, I was honestly pretty curious to see how this one would turn out. The constant warnings of altitude sickness bred a sense of alertness before we took our first steps. Knowing the altitude may be too strong for some, our group took on a silent sense of comradery. True to the spirit of the adventurer, together we walked, onwards, but mostly upwards.

As we made our way into Yuhu I couldn’t help but notice the pace of life. Not just human-to-human interaction, but the serenity that made up most of the village. I first remember observing the slowness of the mosquitos living at such great heights. After watching a man taking his work break slowly swat at an even slower mosquito, I caught a glimpse of the tranquility so many of the villagers enjoyed. For a moment, I thought this coolness came withouts some of the luxuries we appreciate today. However, what I saw next offered a new perspective: A local woman riding a horse and using an iPhone to pay for street food. I was surprised. To see such a modern thing seamlessly make its way into everyday life was interesting for me. So many little things went into that brief moment to create a mixture of the past and present. Before our trip to Yuhu we discussed how all cultures have a right to pick and choose how they’d like to change – that moment was the perfect picture to better my understanding.

It was also interesting to imagine what Joseph Rock would’ve seen. The dedication to preserve his old house was telling, as well. It was cool to learn that some older members of the village still have memories of him from their youth.  At the town museum, I was able to see a picture of Rock. He really looked like he owned the place. I immediately thought, “This probably isn’t a good thing”, but apparently some elderly villagers had happy memories of the 外国King. Our visit was short, I left without fully grasping his impact on the village, why he looks kingly in all of his existing photos, and why he’s immortalized in Lijiang. Thinking about this puts me somewhere between a rock and a hard place (I had to), but from the local people’s perspective there was nothing to worry about. That aside, although our journey into Yuhu marked the beginning of our upward adventures, in many ways it was the first time we could smash our preconceptions of rural China, and see China from a new perspective.

The group in front of Joseph Rock’s old home

 

 

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