Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Random Items From Beijing

Since I already wrote about the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, I thought that I'd put together some random photos and thoughts about Beijing in their own post. I had been to Beijing just before the Olympics in 2008. At that time, everything was torn up and under construction. It was great to have a chance to come back so soon to see how it all turned out.

Beijing is, as you probably already know, the capital of China and the city has over 13 million residents. It's got everything from the old Hutong neighborhoods to the ultra-modern areas too. I can't express enough how amazed I am with the city and how much I really like it. Like my experiences in Japan, I love how the city has so much history yet it offers so many modern conveniences. You can walk through a neighborhood that's been there for over 500 years then take the subway to a Starbucks for a latte.

There's a ton of stuff to see in the city. Here's just a taste...

This photo was taken at the Temple Of Heaven, which was built in the early 1400s and is was/is used as a place to pray for a good harvest:

On the way back to the subway from the Temple of Heaven, I saw this man writing on the ground with water and a giant writing brush. I thought that it was really cool and so did the crowd that was gathered around to watch.

Next up was a visit to the Summer Palace, which is a large garden, architectural, and water park in the northwestern area of Beijing. It's full of amazing buildings and temples and the gardens are very beautiful. One part I enjoyed was this view over the lake and towards downtown Beijing from the top of the hill:

I couldn't go to Beijing and not visit the Olympic Village and arenas. I didn't get to go last time because they were still under construction. They've made it easy to get to since they built a subway that extends from the main line in the city over to the village. First up was a stop at the Bird's Nest Stadium where the track and field events took place:

...and then right across the street at the Bubble Arena where the water events took place:

The architecture of both buildings is very cool and it was exciting get to see inside both of them. While at the Bird's Nest I was bummed to say the least that I didn't have a chance to take the Love elevator but oh well:

Finally, no story of Beijing would be complete without talking about the city's cuisine. I had the chance to eat at a few good restaurants but I think I most enjoyed eating at the local places. During a trip to Guatemala a few years ago with two people I used to work with, I amazed them by buying and then eating a tamale from an ancient women sitting on the floor of a local market. To this day, they still talk about it like I made wine from water. Well, Carol and Ruma, here's a photo dedicated to you of me eating at one place in Beijing. No, there's no inside and, yes, that's mystery meat on a stick. Each stick costs about $0.10 and I ate about 10 of them before wandering off to another stand.

Overall, I'm very impressed by Beijing. The city is clean, modern, and exciting. The folks are friendly and pretty much everyone under the age of 25 speaks perfect English. I'd love to spend some more time there if I ever get the chance.

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