The last couple of weeks have been hectic for myself and Rachel. We spent two weeks in Beijing and when we returned it was straight into Easter and Ireland’s 1916 centenary celebrations. Then a week later, I hopped on another long haul flight to Boston, MA. As a result, we have numerous blogposts to catch up.
In this one I hope to discuss my experience in Beijing. I had a great time, a real once-in-a-lifetime experience but I struggled with the cultural differences possibly a bit more than I had expected. At the time, this was very difficult and it affected my mood and how I saw China while I was in the centre of it. However, on reflection, I have been able to see that even the tough days, the tough moments, the cultural differences that made me uneasy or feel sick (alive scorpions on sticks and stinky tofu) actually made it a once-in-a-lifetime trip because not everyone gets the opportunity to experience Beijing with all its ups and downs with their best friends. It was my friends that got me through the tough moments so that I really appreciated the amazing moments such as attending the Irish Embassy for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, haggling on Snake Street without a word of Mandarin, eating ice-cream, climbing the wall, taking numerous selfies and visiting some of the most breath-taking temples and parks I have ever seen. I count myself very lucky to have been given the chance to see and experience them. I don’t think it ever hit me that I was in China. I don’t think it ever will. It still seems like a dream.
So, what about the famous sites? Since, I have returned, everyone keeps asking me about the Great Wall and I have to echo the words of Karl Pilkington it is more like “the alright wall of China”. I mean don’t get me wrong, go see it but there is so much more to see that words can’t even describe. The Summer Palace was majestic, I could have spent the whole 10 days in there or in the Temple of Heaven. A few people told me not to bother with the Temple of Heaven and I can honestly say I am so happy we ignored them because I actually think it was my favourite place in Beijing. It is this park, almost the size of the Phoenix Park, with temples and other sites tucked away in it. You are in the centre of a city of 20 million inhabitants and yet I felt as if I was miles out into rural China. The smog didn’t even seem that bad in there, logically that is probably because of the 800+ trees in the park and realistically, I was probably just in too much of a peaceful and serene mood to even notice the choking and tightening grip that Beijing’s Smog has on your lungs.
The Great Wall The Temple of Heaven The Summer Palace The Art district
So, would I recommend Beijing? Absolutely! But, I think 10 days is too long, break it up and spend 5 days in Beijing and 5 days elsewhere. You can get all the main sites done in 5 days. If you are a picky eater, you will have to open your mind a little…trust me. I tried stuff I never thought I would and I will admit the food was probably my least favourite part but my friends loved it so it is really what suits your palette and of course that is perfectly alright. We split the food between traditional Chinese food and I found stuff I liked like these scallion pancakes they were delish and then Western food.
The other thing, that at times was a tad distressful, was the staring and photos. If you plan to go to China prepare yourself, we ignored the warnings and were shocked about how, one too many times, we were the main attraction- the sneaky photos, the awkward photos and the constant curious eyes on you all the time is draining and I think we all found our sassy sides because of it – of course for myself and Rachel – they missed our sassiness cause it was in English but our friend was able to be sassy in Mandarin and that satisfied us all.
I am forgetting so much and I hope to write a few more posts on Capitalism versus Communism and maybe a more detailed post about what we did etc. over the next couple of weeks. On top of that I will be writing 4 blogposts about Boston at the end of each week. So, watch out for them J