Ne Hau - Back from the Heart of the World!
Home at last. Home? Who are we kidding, I still live in Korea. This isn't home, well, I guess it has to be...for now. Anyway, I'm back from China. I spent nine days chillin between the cities of Beijing and Xi'an (pronounced Shi Ann).
Warning, this might be a long blog ;)
Our trip began in Beijing, not before a really weird morning in trying to get to the airport.
Ok, so we left a few minutes late and caught a cab from the subway station. I hand him a piece of paper with Korean writing on it (supposedly it should tell him where to go). He has no idea where this place is, we're trying to get to a bus stop that has a shuttle to the airport. So he starts driving and eventually pulls over to ask a random person for directions. As it turns out, we know the guy he's asking, he is the ex-vice president of our academy. So the guy (Mr.Yu is his name) walks us to the bus stop and chats with us along the way. He leaves and we're waiting for the bus. A cab driver (different one) pulls over and stares at us, then gives us candy...SIMULTANEOUSLY Rob gets crapped on by a bird.
Finally, the bus comes, we get on and start our trip to the airport. The bus driver appeared to be pretty dang angry at a cab driver and he was throwing around Korean profanities like nobody's business. He's pretty angry, so he busts down a small alleyway (in a huge bus) and almost clips a car. He's attempting to lose the cab driver. He comes out the other side of the alley at the next bus stop, and the cab driver is waiting for him. Wonderful. They both exit their vehicles and I kid you not, Mortal Combat ensues. They are beating the crap out of eachother. If I was still new to Korea I would think this weird, but seriously men do it all the time here. It was just annoying cause we had a flight to catch. Crazy Koreans and their Taekwondo.
When we finally arrived in Beijing we started off seeing the Summer palace. We went right there without checking into our hotel. We decided that since we only had a few days that it would be best to book a tour for at least 3 days so that we could see everything that we needed to see. The summer palace was pretty cool, it was located on a lake and it would be a cool to live there...if you were an emperor.
We saw Tian'anmen Square, which is the largest public square in the world, and very much designed in communist fashion. They had the big sign as a countdown to the 2008 Olympics as well, they get it just before we do! From there we saw Mao Zedong's Mausoleum. Basically this dude was a huge communist leader in China and they loved him so much that they have frozen his body and put it on display for people to "pay their respects" aka have a little look see. It looked like he was made of wax and sort of like he had a lightbulb inside his head because it was glowing when we walked in.
After that wonderful experience, we headed to the Forbidden City. This was another place the emperor liked to hang out. It had 9,990 rooms in this place, so they like to think of it as a city within the city of Beijing.
At the end of the day we were pretty tired, but we still had tickets to the Acrobatic show. This stuff was crazy. Girls were balancing on wires by their teeth and holding hundreds of glasses on their feet and other appendages. We were both quite amazed.
The day finally came for us to climb the Great Wall. Rob and I were both pretty excited to get out there. The drive took a while, because clearly that thing is massive and it's not running through the city. There were quite a few tourists at the area of the wall that we were taken to and it was a billion degrees outside. Anyway, it took about an hour to climb up about 1,550 stairs to the highest point of the entire wall. It was pretty amazing to look back at some of the other sections of the wall and imagine what it would have been like a long time ago.
After this excursion, we had tickets to the Beijing Opera. I wasn't too sure what I'd be getting myself into, but it turned out to be pretty fun. There was a screen on the side of the stage that translated what the singers were saying into English.
We were finished our tour and decided to hop on a night train to Xi'an to see if we could check out the Terracotta Warriors. The train ride was pretty good, we had soft sleeper seats, which is basically in a room of four bunks with tv's and air con. We arrived in Xi'an at around 7am pretty tired and were approached by a couple of people who had a hostel, so we decided to go there. We signed up right away for another tour (we were trying so hard to get everything in so hiring a driver seemed to be the way to go). We were able to see the Hot Springs, a Museum of Relics and Artifacts, and the Terracotta Warriors. I was pretty impressed by them. Basically there is a huge excavation site where these clay life size warriors were found. There intention was to guard a tomb that is nearby. There are thousands of clay soldiers and horses who came complete with real weaponry. They weren't discovered until the 1970's when a farmer attempting to dig a well realized that there was something more underneath the soil.
We hopped back on the train to Beijing after checking out the Drum Tower and Bell Tower in Xi'an and headed back for another couple nights in Beijing. The train ride wasn't bad and I met some dude from the Netherlands who had been travelling for a about 7 months. I'm jealous.
We arrived SUPER early back to the city and tried to find somewhere to stay. I had a 2002 Lonely Planet book, so it was a little outdated. The first place I tried had moved, so we walked for a while to try and find it with no luck. The second place we tried was no longer a hostel and had transformed into a full fledged hotel. So, third time's a charm right? Got in a cab toward place number three, but the cab driver didn't know where to go (it figures) but he actually stopped to ask for directions. We finally got there and it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for. We checked in and went shopping!
Woo hoo, June 25th, my birthday. Nothing happened for my birthday, no partying, no celebration. So don't worry, I was a good girl. I spent the entire day shopping for stupidly cheap stuff. I ended up with about 40 DVD's ($1 ea), a snowboard jacket ($20), North Face pants that zip off into shorts ($7), and a purse with Mao Zedong's head on it and some Chinese lettering ($7). So as you can see shopping in China is pretty dang cheap. I guess in a way I bought myself birthday presents.
Woke up at 5am, caught a cab to the airport, caught a plane to Korea, took a bus into Seoul, took a subway ride to my part of the city, then walked the rest of the way home. I was exhausted to say the least and kinda sad that my trip had to end so quickly.
I saw a ton of stuff, but there's still more in China that I could have seen. It's very different than Korea. The food, the language, the people, the landscape. In the end, I was glad to be vacationing in China and living in Korea.
My favorite part of the trip was probably the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors, which are the two biggest tourist attraction sites, but I can see why. They're both pretty incredible.
I'm back to work now and it's two more months until my next trip. How will I survive? ;). Things here are still really good. It's been four months now and I'm still going strong. I miss you all lots, thank you to those of you who sent me birthday emails!