1st day (Mon)
As we departed early in the morning for the airport, we were all feeling the excitement of reaching Beijing. I've been waiting for this trip for a while. As we get to the airport we grab our tickets and look around as we have about a 2-hour wait until we board. In our search I found that they had a Popeye’s chicken. Needless to say I went crazy, I had been talking about craving Popeye’s for a long time and out of the blue, there one was. Of course I ordered a meal set as soon as it changed to the lunch menu (first in line) and it was as good as I remember. I was impatient because after I bought it I remembered that I had to still go through security. Everyone else waited to get Popeye’s when they got to the other side but I just wanted it right then and there so yes, my Popeye’s went though security and into the x-ray. After we got across I convinced everyone else to get Popeye’s as well. With our belly’s full we got on the plane and took off, after a little while I dosed off, as everyone else did, and was woken up by a flight attendant trying to hand me the in-flight meal. Even though I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t going to say no to food. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good (it was just pork with rice). After landing, we had a delay on the next flight, so we tried to find an ATM but that was unsuccessful so we just sat next to our terminal and waited for it to arrive. Once it came we were finally off to Beijing. We landed and the terminal in Beijing was very impressive. After finding an ATM there we headed outside to get a cab to take us to the 5 star hotel that our school had put us up in. one of the first guys that came up to us asked if we needed a ride and offered $100PRC per person (which was INSANLY EXPENSIVE) considering a pop is only $3PRC and a 20 piece meal of McDonalds chicken nuggets was only $24PRC (the exchange rate is not as strong, while Hong Kong is around 7.8 per US dollar the PRC is about 5 or 6, but things are a lot cheaper so it balances out).
We find a regular taxi that we get in and it takes us to the hotel. We walk in and obviously it’s beautiful, with bellhops coming up to you to take your bags. As we go to the check out we have a little difficultly but after a while we finally got checked into our rooms.
It felt nice to be in a good room for once this semester, as well as a real bed and a real shower. One thing that was interesting was we went out to get some dinner and we were randomly walking around and found a street ally to go down that looked like it had some food shops, as we walked down it we found some of our good friends from Hong Kong Baptist eating there. Ryan, the Australian, the Italians and Cecile, from France. So we ate some noodles with them as all the shops were trying to close. They all stood watching us eat so that once we were finished they could close up and go home. Well tomorrow we are going to the Embassy so ill let you know how that goes.
2nd day (Tues)
Had to wake up early today to go to the embassy, put on my new suit and let me tell you, I LOOK GOOD. So we all met downstairs and waited about 30 min to get a cab. But we only ended up about 5 min late to the embassy. It was pretty cool bc there was a massive line outside the gate leading into the building but we got to go around to the side and went up to a gate, waved our passport and he let us in. We went through multiple levels of security and through multiple doors that were at least half a foot thick. We sat down with a few diplomats, one specialized in economic affairs, one in political affairs, and the last one was from the defense department. They told us what they do and gave us some good advice as well as cleared up some culture barriers for us. We got to ask some questions, which they were all extremely knowledgeable. All in all it was very interesting and the US embassy was very nice.
After we went back to the hotel to change and went back out with Dr. Bennion, the one who is in charge of the exchange program, and he took us to a street alley that sold a lot of different kind of foods. The first thing I had was scorpion (fried) on a stick. They put a salty coating on it but it was actually really good, just very crunchy (and salty). Then I had something that was unbelievable, pineapple dipped in sugar (much like a caramel apple). THIS WAS AMAZING!!! They had so many types, strawberries, kiwi, and melon. Some just had one kind of fruit on a stick while others had a mix off all. This was just a snack bc none of us ate breakfast, so Bennion to us to this really awesome dim sum restaurant and had more dumplings then I have ever had in my life. I even tried donkey dumplings. We walked around some more and then went for a quick glance and Tiananmen square and the forbidden city. Since we are taking the whole tour on Friday we just looked around and did not go all the way into the palace. It was very interesting, and really all about show. It’s all about an intimidation and giving the appearance of power, which they obviously had but it was really built to show off.
I’m looking forward to getting the whole tour on Friday though. We went back to the hotel and we all took a nap before going out for dinner. As we woke up and got changed we found that Bennion was not feeling to good so he told us a spot of street vendors that we could go to and get some good food for real cheap. So we headed that direction and saw some bizarre food and tried a lot of different things. They had snake, lizards on sticks, bugs and intestines, sheep’s penis, dog and many other things. After we filled our stomachs with a variety of different things we continued to look around the area near our hotel. We are now back and watching TV, having a few drinks and relaxing for our next adventure tomorrow, which none of us know what we are doing as of yet, we just know we need to be up and ready to do something by noon.
3rd day (Wed)
The day starts off with an early phone call, Dr Cartwright had fell and broken her ankle. The day’s activities were off. So we went to McDonalds to get breakfast before 11. We made it there around 10:45, however they had switched to lunch already. This was pretty disappointing but we ordered anyways. After we ate an early lunch we headed back and rested before meeting Bennion at noon. Once we all meet up Bennion told us that we were going to have a private tour of the Birds Nest (where the Olympics was held) because he knew one of the people that were in charge of Marketing the Olympics. As we waited for confirmation we went back out to get lunch with Bennion, we found a subway and talk for a long time but about a lot of important things that we were going to do in the future and what the school has been planning for the future. Unfortunately the Birds Nest did not work out but we went to Beihai park and walked around. This was an amazing cite because this was a park meant only for government officials and the emperor. So needless to say this place was beautiful.
After we did that for a few hours we met up with the Dean Rogers and he took Bennion and the rest of us out for dinner. We talked about our experiences in Hong Kong and how things have been going. It was a great dinner and a blast to catch up with Dean Rogers and all that he’s been doing. Once we were finished we went into the mall to get some DQ. After the DQ we headed back to the hotel to go swim and hit the hot tub. Unfortunately the heat in the pool was not working and the hot tub was not very hot, but it still felt good. So know I am back in my room watching HBO and cant wait to go to sleep because I have a very busy day tomorrow. We are going to wake up early at 5:30 go work out a 6, get done around 7/7:30 take a quick shower and get changed to go meet Bennion for some McDonalds breakfast. Then we head out to the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall. Cant wait to tell you all about it, goodnight.
4th day (Thur)
So today we went to see the Ming Tombs. We had our own private tour bus and tour guide. It was amazing that our school had set us up with so much. It was also good that the Dean Rogers joined us in our expedition for the day. As we started the day early once again our first stop was the Tombs. This was an impressive sight as guide said it took over 6 years to find this location. Each tomb that was built could not be bigger than the fathers. So obviously the first tomb is the largest and it get progressively smaller for each emperor after. Only one of the tombs has ever be excavated because we they first attempted it they did not have the skill or knowledge of how to go about the process and they lost a lot of the artifacts, not to mention that they dragged the emperor out of his coffin, denounced him and then burned the body. This was a very tragic archeological expedition so the government has not allowed another one to take place. There is so much that I have learned for this trip about the Ming tombs but I would have an extremely long post and not to mention I would never be able to get to the other stuff that I did today.
So after going through the tombs we headed out lunch at this jade market. It was a beautiful place full of high end jade that costs thousands of dollars but they had some things that were reasonably priced for us college students as well. Lunch was very good and after we had something to eat we were off to the great wall. As we got closer to the mountains you could see some stretches of the wall in the distance. Some interesting facts that I learned were: the wall was once 4000 miles long but only 800 miles have survived the test of time, the second is that the great wall can not be seen from space, it follows a natural ridge line, not to mention the wall is not tall at all.
That was the biggest shocker for me, I was expecting the massive intimidating wall, what was intimidating was the length of the wall not the height. It must have only stood about one and a half stories high, 2 at most, or it at least looked that way. Also one thing I did not expect use how uneven the steps were. It was so messed up, I understand you have to work with what you were given and the fact that its going up a mountain, but you would be walking and have one big step up followed by another then all of a sudden it would be a baby step and then a few regular steps followed abruptly by another large step. I can’t imagine how many guards fell down or got injured just walking that thing at night; there was no organization to it, not to mention the insane slops. But never the less it truly was an amazing site to see. After all the site seeing we headed back to the hotel to relax for a little while before we went out to eat with Bennion. After a quick power nap we headed for Din Tai Fung, which was voted by New York Times as one of the top 10 restaurant chains in the world. The food was amazing for dessert we have this strawberry shaved ice. It was a large bowl of sweetened shaved ice with strawberries on the top and bottoms toped with a sweet strawberry glaze the melted some of the shaved ice, It was INCREDIBLE! Hard to describe but it was a dessert to remember. Bennion treated us to this dinner so a thousand thanks to him and the school for setting up such an amazing trip that I truly will never forget. THANK YOU SO MUCH BOWLING GREEN!
5th day (Friday)
Wow, how to describe to day: a lot of walking! We went to the temple of heaven (the most sacred place in all of china) then proceeded to the forbidden city for a grand Bennion Tour. So the day started off with us waking up early to go get breakfast, fun fact; every time I order something in McDonalds here in Beijing there is a complication, there are many examples but I will describe this mornings one, I went to the counter to order a breakfast sandwich and a hash brown, not difficult. I wanted orange juice instead of coffee because I was craving orange juice. So I order the sandwich and asked if I could have orange juice instead of coffee. She looked at me weird and said no. She said it only comes with coffee and that I could not get orange juice. After around 3 min of arguing with her on how stupid it was that they could not just put orange juice in the cup instead of coffee I said ok, I will just take the sandwich and buy and orange juice. She again said that I could not buy just the sandwich, the sandwich CAME WITH COFFEE. Semi mad I said fine I’ll take the sandwich and coffee and I want a side order of juice. McDonalds aside now, after breakfast we got in the cab and headed to the Temple of Heaven.
This was a very beautiful place with a lot of importance behind it. I can tell you all about it when I return. After walking through a place that was the most important spot in all of china, some say more important that the forbidden city because the forbidden city was where the Emperor lived but the Temple of Heaven was where the prayers were sent by the emperor to bring a good harvest and good weather. It was this place that directly impacted the lives of the people of China. We directly headed to the Forbidden City after. This was another amazing site to behold, the sheer size and grandeur of a palace such as this being built in 1420 is unbelievable. To walk down the whole thing in a straight path will take about 2 hours (reference to how big the palace is). However we took Bennions tour so he showed us a bit more. Since he has been there before many times, he knows everything about the history and traditions as well as all the weird and interesting facts. He truly could be a tour guide. After going through the whole thing our feet were killing us so we headed back to the hotel to nap and hit the hot tub before going out to dinner. Once rested, we hit the streets to find dinner. We ended up going into the mall and finding a small restaurant that was really cheap. I can't recall the name of the place but I do remember that you could pick up gum at the front desk on your way out. It had the name on the gum, which I thought was pretty interesting given that most places always serve mints. We then hit the food venders again. Tried a few other things got bought more glazed pineapple on a stick (I must have bought at least 2 day, I loved these things). We then walked around some more as it was our last night in Beijing. We had a lot of fun going into different shops trying to buy things for super cheap. We took a lot of weird, funny pictures too, or at least I did. Going to sleep, need to wake up early to more to get on our flight to Hong Kong. I can’t wait to get back; I miss Hong Kong a lot.
6th day (Sat)
Ok so things are not going so well. I am writing in a hotel in some crappy city called Wen Zhou. We left Beijing and were sitting on the plane and we were delayed. We sat in the plane for over an hour. Obviously not good when you have a transfer time to the next plane of an hour and 30 min. So we took off hoping we were not going to miss our plane. We landed and we had to take a bus to the terminal, which did not save us any time, then we had to find our luggage with 20 min before the plane took off, we had no clue what gate we had arrive at to get our tickets give them our luggage and go back through security. Obviously none of this happened, as we had to be checking our bags 30 mines before the plane takes off. So we were arguing with the people at the desk, who did not speak much English, because they said that it was our fault for missing the flight by booking two flight with a 1 hour and thirty min wait between the two.
Traveled during Easter. Got on the plane and slept most of the time. It felt so good to be back in Hong Kong! Once I got back to my room me and Greg unpacked, sent some emails and skyped, and then headed off to the gym for about 2 hours. Came back cleaned up went out for BK Sunday. Just got back from the grocery store, with Cadbury eggs, and finishing up some last min things. Off to bed for a good night sleep then waking up early to go work out again. Last week of classes then one more week off. Maybe backpack across southern china for some really cheap things (things in southern china are insanely cheap) plus studying for finals. Wow this trip is almost over...weird.