Ameijing (*wink*)

You'd think that on a travelblog, a trip to Beijing, China would be worth a few posts, wouldn't you? Apparently not. Not yet, anyway. We've been busy lately with a job search, trips to Key West and Saskatoon and a real, live social life outside of Facebook.

There's a lot to talk about, but I'll start with what is by far the most amazing place I've ever been to, Beijing. We took a bus from Daegu to the Busan International Airport, and then a two hour flight to The Capital City of China. We'd gotten used to the confusion and disarray of Korea, so the chaos that awaited us at the Beijing Int'l Airport was almost overwhelming. I was on the verge of a panic attack when I realized I couldn't communicate with anyone other than the clerks at the Information booths who wanted to rip us off on our taxi fare and hotel accommodation. Culture shock wasn't something I expected on our way home from Korea. But we'd done enough research to know which taxis were legitimate, so that was okay. But, explaining to our driver where our hotel was was another matter. Luckily, by some miracle, the Chinese guy getting into the taxi next to ours spoke perfect English and translated to our driver. Then it was the best hour-long traffic jam I've ever experienced as we drove through the city.

Our hotel was a tenminutewalk from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and five minutes from Wangfujing. We only had three days, so it was impossible to do and see everything we wanted to, but it was an extraordinary experience. It's hard to describe the character of the city. It's massive and modern, but crowded with groups of old men in fedoras and people riding 50yearold bicycles.

This, I think, is my favorite photo of the city. It best captures our experience of Beijing:

It's almost a shame to have to make such a quick schedule out of seeing some of the most significant and historic places in the world, but we made the most of it. In the morning of our first full day we walked to the Forbidden City. It was already overcrowded at 9:00 in the morning. I hadn't realized until we got there that the Square and the front wall of the City are separated by an eight-lane-wide road and are joined by tunnels. Tiananmen Square is actually totally isolated so it can be closed at night. Also, it's enormous. Like, really, really huge. Here's a view of the City from the Square:

That's the National Flag of China in the middle, which stands at the front of Tiananmen Square and is raised every morning in ceremony at sunrise. The Square is heavily patrolled by military and police. In fact, you can't go a block in the entire city without seeing at least a few uniforms.

That's the Monument to the People's Heroes above. The intersection to the right of that is, I think, the sight of the Unknown Rebel.

Our hotel was surrounded by hutongs, which are alleys lined with small shacks. They are the traditional style of homes in Beijing and are quickly being wiped out to make way for modern apartments. At the risk of sounding ignorant, I can't believe people live in these:

Since we didn't have a long time to spend in the city, getting to the Great Wall was going to be difficult. But we found a great tour guide who picked us up at our hotel and took us to the Mutianyu section of the wall, which is far less visited and much older than the popular Badaling area. The drive to the wall was a surreal experience in itself, taking us through a few small villages and the beautiful countryside of China. Along the way our guide told us the story of the Wall and how it was built. Every man, from the age of 16, was required to help build, and thousands died in the process. Their bodies are buried beneath it. Chairman Mao once said, "We are not heroes until we've climbed the Wall." So every Chinese person feels obligated to visit at least once in their life.

Later that day we went to the Temple of Heaven:

We got a bit of shopping in too. The rumours are true - stuff in China is cheap. Dirt cheap. Bartering in Wangfujing Market was exhausting, but it worked and was actually sort of fun. Prices would start at around 250 Yuan and I'd end up paying between 15 and 30. And, to be perfectly honest, I was still getting ripped off.

We definitely didn't have as much time in Beijing as we would've liked, but I've made a promise to myself that we'll go back some day. We'd even consider living there for six months. It's certainly a possibility. Actually, a lot of things are a possibility. I guess we've learned that over the last year. It makes settling down a bit more difficult. But, as some of you know, we've got another two feet on the way, so settling down is priority one at the moment. I still have to give a debriefing of our time in Korea. It'll take a bit of thought but I'll get to it ... soon. There's plenty of other stuff to talk about too. But until then, here are a few more of my faves from Beijing.