I Love BJ

Beijing was a great trip and a more than welcome shift from our now familiar setting in Shanghai. China has sought to brand their cities with Shanghai striving to be the cosmopolitan, global center of Asia, while in Beijing lays at the center of the government, traditional culture, and Chinese history. This sentiment stemming from articles and books about the capital was reinforced during our short stay there. From the Temple of Heaven to the Bird’s nest, Beijing’s character is distinctly different from Shanghai and I welcomed the change in pace.

Thanks to our responsible tour guide Eric, we headed to the Great Wall to avoid bad weather in the coming days. On the way we stopped at the Ming Tombs and I immediately noticed the spacious roads and sprawled layout of Beijing compared to the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. With mountains in the backdrop and century year old trees everywhere, China’s diversity couldn’t have been made clearer. Our 2-hour journey through the mountains of northern Beijing was a beautiful sight. When we finally arrived, I was shocked by the lack of tourists. We checked into our “homey” hotel rooms and immediately headed to the gates to begin our climb. The view from the first tower we ascended was breathtaking. In both directions, you could see the Great Wall coat the mountaintops into the horizons, winding along them like a dragon. Eric pointed out the 6th tower in the distance as our goal and we began the 3-hour hike. This section of the Great Wall was special in that while areas had been renovated for the walking, others had retained original steps. Often times, we braced walls for stability, literally climbing the shattered steps. The whole hike, I wished the feeling from the Wall would last forever. It’s a truly daunting structure, blocking every mountain passage. I couldn’t help but imagine fear from the looming wall from the perspective of an army 1000 years ago. 

The integration of nature and the Great Wall was the first of a series of juxtapositions that I encountered in Beijing. Tiananmen square, the vast area that became the setting of the 1989 incident of recent history, contrasted Tiananmen, the entrance into the 600-year-old Forbidden City. On side lies the National Palace Museum, holder of ancient artifacts of Chinese history, while on another is Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum. The Bird’s nest is a jaw dropping display of Chinese architectural design and innovation, while in the same day we walked throughout the historical Temple of Heaven. There’s a meshing of new and old that becomes more symbiotic than clashing. Simply driving along a freeway in downtown Beijing, it doesn’t take long to encounter an arching gate or a traditional temple. It’s a unique experience, and I wish we could have spent more time exploring all the city has to offer.