Where do I begin. We went to Beijing (that's a good start).
A few weeks ago we realized we had limited time left in China and still hadn't made it to Beijing, the capital city, and the Great Wall of China. Surely this is some kind of crime. So we found a weekend that we didn't have class on Monday morning and hastily organized a trip in which we left school on Friday afternoon right after class.
Yall Beijing is REAL different from Shanghai. First of all. It's more North. So it's more cold. WAY more cold. 30 degrees more cold. To say that this weekend was filled with "What the fuck were we thinking?" moments would be an understatement. E.g. "Why would we leave lovely temperate Shanghai to spend a weekend in this Arctic tundra?!"
Second of all the cab setup is WAY different in Beijing. In Shanghai the only time you have difficulty getting a cab is when it's raining. In Beijing, the only time you have difficulty getting a cab is on days ending in 'y'. We spent much of our nights on the street, or in the street, trying to wave down cabs in the freezing cold. Cab drivers in Beijing also don't like to use their meters. And when they do, they just use the number on the meter as a rough estimate for their rate. (Example, the meter says 21 RMB. The cab driver says give me 25. Which we do. Cause we're cold.)
HOWEVER, I will say that the cab drivers are nicer in Beijing than in Shanghai. On one occasion, when I was alone and my trusty iPhone had died, I got into a cab and literally had to BEG him for five minutes (complete with prayer supplication hand gestures and desperate, "Please, please, please, please!!" It was so cold yall) to take me to my hotel fwith only the street name (NOTE: to anyone interested in travelling in China, to take a cab you need to give the driver the street you want to go to and a cross street. Chinese cab drivers act like they cannot do ANYTHING without this supplementary information. I personally think they're all just playing dumb so they don't have to tote you around trying to find your location. Just this week we gave a cab driver a street and a cross street and he played dumb for like 5 minutes acting like he didn't know where it was, even though one of the streets is a MAJOR Shanghai shopping street, Huaihai Lu. After five minutes of back and forth do you know what he did? HE PUT THE ADDRESS INTO HIS GPS! THE EMEFFER HAD A GPS THE WHOLE TIME AND WAS HEMMING AN HAWING WITH US ABOUT THE ADDRESS!!! I digress...)
Anyway eventually I think I managed to remember the district the hotel was in and the taxi driver took me. A Shanghai taxi driver woulda been cussing me in Mandarin and putting me out on the pavement long time.
Third of all, Beijing was windy. Oh did I already talk about the weather? The wind was a separate issue. Case in point.
These are bicycles and scooters that the wind had blown over on Saturday night. On this same Saturday night Sarah heard an announcer on the radio urging people not to leave their houses the next day because of the cold winds and harsh temperatures. And where were we planning to go? Oh just to the Great Wall of China.
The Forbidden City
On Saturday we went to the Forbidden City, the grand imperial palace of the former Chinese emperors. It was raining. A lot. In fact I had to go back to the hotel to change my silly non waterproof boots. When I got back I was with my friend Damon, who is studying in Beijing, and I made him and his other friend pretty much race through the freezing rain through the Forbidden City which is an ALL outdoor tour. Not pleasant. Damon kept stopping to take pics and I couldn't help but think, "Dude. You live here. You can come back any time. Let's GO!" Sour is an understatement. I still managed to hastily snap some pics. Thank God for Lifeproof iPhone cases.
However, after the rain (and we had taken refuge in a lovely convenient and WARM mall) the air had a familiar lovely crisp coldness to it that felt so CLEAN AND GREAT that my spirits were lifted. It felt like Christmas. I actually started to sing Christmas songs.
And then Beijing clearly thought I was too happy. It got colder. We ran into the closest H & M from our hotel (which, because it's China, was right across the street) and purchased our weight in scarves, gloves, mittens, knit headbands and tights.
The Great Wall at Ba Da Ling
Over breakfast the other girls were trying to give themselves some kinda delusional pep talk. "Oh it won't be that bad. People exaggerate the weather all the time." I had to stop them. Me: Girls. Let's be real. Our hotel room is on the 14th floor and the wind is rattling the windows. And we are going up in the mountains. Stop fooling yourselves. It is going to be unbearably cold.
I didn't even know what I was talking about.
When we got up to the mountain, after a bus trip that lasted over an hour, I couldn't focus clearly on the beautiful scenery because the freezing wind was blowing in my eyes an making them tear up. There was snow on the ground. There was ice everywhere. Jenni and Sarah made a beeline for the few tourist stores that were still open during the low season to buy MORE sweatshirts, scarves and hats. After they were done, I was like okay lets go! Great Wall action!
We walked a few more metres and Jenni and Sarah had to stop again to buy more warm gear. This is where it all went downhill for me. I officially had had too much time to think. Nervous Nancy, my archnemesis alterego, who is committed to making my life a boring, anxiety filled, fiesta of fear, started to whisper in my ear. "Nurse, what are you thinking? Is this really a sensible thing to do? This wind real strong and you don't weigh that much. You wanna blow away and be found days later on some Chinese mountain with amountain ram goat chewing away at your carcass? Besides do you see any other black people up here?" This last question was especially important as I had seen more black people in Beijing than anywhere in China so far. They were all in big tour groups and they looked just as sour as I did.
As Sarah and Jenni mulled over their purchases I began to cry. Yes. Cry. It was all over. This is where I sight saw: at the Great Wall Subway restaurant.
Sarah and Jenni went to the wall and took lots of pics. If you notice from Sarah's pics on her blog post, there were children on the Wall. Yes children had managed to make it up there and I couldn't. (By the way some ridiculous people had actually brought their babies up there that day. Most irresponsible people ever.) I was a Great Wall failure.
Incidentally, they didn't get very far as much of the Wall was closed because of ice. So overall just the worst day EVER POSSIBLE to go to the Great Wall of China. I comforted myself that it would give me a reason to come back to China and Beijing in the future when it was WARM. I'd rather deal with a million pushy tourists than that weather. Ever. Again.
When we got back to Shanghai you would swear we had arrived in some kind of tropical paradise. "The weather is soooo nice!" we kept exclaiming. Of course we also had some great experiences in Beijing such as our post Great Wall Peking Duck meal at Da Dong. All in all, Beijing was definitely an experience to tell the grandkids. Sorry for the long post. Enjoy the rest of the pics!
Many pics stolen from Sarah's blog: 180withS.