a happy january 1st in Beijing

A couple days after I returned from the countryside I zoomed off to the good ol’ capital of China on the high-speed rail, which went about 305km/hr. I had the good fortune of sitting next to a baby the entire ride there who took an immediate liking to me. Truly a miracle.

After 10 hours, I arrived in Beijing! West. A different railway station than I had planned. And I quickly learned that Beijing Mandarin has a very different, unique twang (rrrrrrr) to it that led to a very, very, very confusing first conversation between me and a taxi driver who was not having it trying to understand my Hakka-not-Mandarin-English hybrid of a language. Talk about a crash course in Mandarin. Fortunately we eventually settled on a good drop off point nearish to the hostel I was to stay at, and only after an hour of being lost in the dark hutongs of Beijing did I find the shining beacon of the hostel, and Peach, a very nice yet sassy receptionist. It was smooth sailing from there.

Shijia Hutong, my temporary home-sweet-home
The next six days were a combination of fast learning and fun adventures, both alone and with my friend Ashton who is currently teaching English at a school in Daxing, Beijing. Highlights include learning to haggle (sort of), becoming a “regular” at the noodle place at the end of my hutong, befriending local convenience store owners, managing to communicate with locals and sometimes even passing off as one, making new international friends, and of course discovering much of what Beijing has to offer. It is a magnificent city indeed, with its imperial ancient history never for a second falling under the shadow of the prominent and proud modern architecture, of the city's current age of rapid development.

Highlights of local exploration and blind navigation include:

An overly welcoming bar to internationals.
Perusing the night market...
...and falling victim to aggressive vendors.
New Year's Eve spent in a cozy cozy rickshaw in traffic
(they're this big)
New Years, which, by the way, the Chinese in China hardly bat an eyelash at. So happy January 1st and good tidings to you all. Sincere apologies to my nice new Canadian friends whom I severely misinformed, by saying that there would probably be “fireworks or something cool!” at Tiananmen Square on new year’s eve, which there were not. The real new year’s this year is January 31st, where the whole country will go bezoomy during weeks of celebrations.

And now an interlude of some #solo #outfitrepeating travel pictures:

me and the Forbidden City
me and the walkway to the sacrifice hall in the Temple of Heaven
me and the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests
me and another prayer hall
me, just beyond the Sixty Year Gate. check out that angle.
me and the Sixty Year Gate
me and a brass-knobby door
me and Tiananmen Square
me (and Ashton) making the tough trek up the Great Wall
me and the Great Wall
and again, because it's an ancient wonder of the world and such after all
While the temples and the Forbidden City were certainly magnificent in their distinctive Chinese architecture and style and grandiosity, the Great Wall was definitely the most thrilling experience. At the peak of where we climbed, the wall seemed to wind on endlessly, intertwined comfortably with the mountains. I often stopped to stare off into the distance that hazy day, imagining what it must have been like to walk these walls when it stood for its original purpose.

in all its glory
Another unexpectedly fun part of seeing the Great Wall were the sliding cars! which slowly lugged you up one side of the wall in a slow, rickety-kind-of roller coaster seat in an unfinished carnival-sort-of vibe. Still fun though, highly recommended to avoid climbing too much as some steps near the top of the wall were up to my knees. Would be an epic venue for stadiums.

and of course it wouldn't be china without a silly little sign

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