Feet to move, places to roam
If moving to the other side of the world, to a city I did not even know existed until March wasn’t enough, it took me exactly one week until I got restless and found myself buying a train ticket and packing another suitcase to go and check out the city of Beijing. I was not restless because my new home in Zhengzhou is bad, however I know that there are countless cities and countries nearby that I am itching to go and see. Since China is now my home for the next little while, I do not plan on taking a second of the travel opportunities for granted. So my first solo adventure in Asia went like this:
I boarded the high speed bullet train on a Friday night leaving Zhengzhou making only two stops along the way to Beijing. I would like to say that the 3.5 hours, going 305 km/h it took to get there went by quickly, but it didn’t. When you are one of the only ‘white people’ sitting among hundreds of Chinese passengers, the constant stares and confusion by the language barrier becomes exhausting. Do not get me wrong, people were friendly. They smiled and waved at me while I sat in my seat and they walked down the aisles pretending not to stare. I still continue to wonder what they are saying about me when they point in my direction or when they ask for a photo, where are they posting it? Life in China is different, but I eventually arrived in Beijing safe and sound and that was all that mattered.
Prior to arriving in Beijing, multiple people told me what to expect or what to look out for while in the city. “The drivers are crazy in Beijing!” “Wow, I can’t believe you are going alone” “The subway system is hard to navigate”. Whatever ‘warning’ they had for me, I did not listen too. It does not matter who you are, no two people will ever share the same experience in the same country because everyone interprets travel differently. You and I could both eat a cheeseburger with all the same ingredients on it, but one of us could hate it and one of us love it. Sure, maybe people do find that Beijing or even China for that matter is a challenge, and some days it can a struggle but it does not mean that we need to stay clear of these certain locations just because someone says so or they had a negative experience. When I decided to move to China everyone always asked “Why China? Why would you want to move there?” Well, why not?
Anyway. My main mission for my weekend getaway was to tackle The Great Wall of China and so I did just that. After only a few hours of sleep, I hopped on a coach the next morning that immediately made me nostalgic of my Contiki traveling days. The coach took me and about 40 other passengers to The Great Wall. The drive was exactly an 1.5 hours outside of Beijing. Once arriving at the gate and stepping foot onto the path, I spent nearly 3 hours hiking up and back down. I definitely underestimated the hike. I thought it would be sooo relaxing and leisurely, however I was so wrong. By the end of it, my legs were shaking. I was sweaty, my feet hurt, it was hot, I was tired, but the view from the top was worth every step. Blue skies were endless which is rare to come by in China, but on this particular day, it was flawless. For doing the hike on a Saturday morning, still during peak summer travel season, the trail was not crowded with a handful of other tourists. It was still a challenge to get photographs without people in them, but hey that is what the crop tool is for.
After ticking The Great Wall off my bucket list and drooling over Google images afterwards thinking “Wow I really did that”, my hostel mate and I made our way down Qianmen Street and searched through Beijing’s night markets. We called the night off early after being exhausted from the days adventure and our legs still feeling like jello after all those stairs were climbed. Sunday morning we boarded the subway to see Beijing’s Summer Palace, the art district and shared one last meal together before saying goodbye and I headed back to reality in Zhengzhou. Although I found my trip was rushed with the limited weekend time I had, I still left feeling that two days was enough to see Beijing and the attractions I wanted.
I will be in China until June 2017 so if you have any other suggestions of places you have enjoyed around Asia, let me know!