As usual, I am delinquent with my blog posts. I am stealing away a few precious moments during my first week of orientation for my MBA program to write this blogpost, because I want to make a conscious effort to have balance in my life in the midst of all this crazy “networking” (i.e. socializing, all the time).
Thank goodness I don’t mind small talk, because even though we have a very small program (only ~300 people), it still feels tiring to meet an endless number of people, make introductions, and still be energized to have the same type of conversation 300 times. Thankfully everyone in the program is super cool and interested in social issues, so it hasn’t been hard to have meaningful conversations. But, for as much of an extrovert as I am, I am BONE-TIRED at the end of the day. We have already done one intensive presentation (case-competition), and have been forced to think about what really matters to us and what we’re passionate about. And, there’s so much participation. I am grateful that I ended in a good place at my last company where I had no fear in always speaking up, and it’s translated well here (in undergraduate I was often too lazy…or worried about what I would sound like to participate). It’s such a big part of the experience (versus problem sets or readings) that I think it’s been a great warm up. Now we’ll see if I can actually make it to class 😛
So, thus officially begins my first blog post written during my MBA, about the end of my trip this past summer to Asia – Beijing, China!
M and I took the train from Qingdao to Beijing, and arrived a sweltering night to the train station in the middle of the city. Immediately, I could notice the differences between Beijing and places like Shanghai. Although Beijing is a major developed city, it was clear that the city is very internal focused. As the hub of all traditional Chinese culture and politics, I was much more aware of my status as a foreign tourist here. Plus, I felt that most people didn’t speak English as well as people in Shanghai – I had a really hard time helping my taxi driver navigate to our hotel, which was a major hotel in one of the most popular places in Beijing (WangFuJing Street). Everything is pretty spread out in the city, so although we were as close as possible to the Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square, we still had to take subways or taxis almost everywhere.
We were here during the week of July, and it was SO HOT. Even though Beijing is more north than Shanghai or Qingdao, it felt so much hotter because of the geography. Also, the streets just don’t have very many trees…
Our first day we powered through the Forbidden City (bring your student ID for a significant discount), and don’t buy tickets from anyone except the ticket office or the official website online. We entered the City from the South and walked North, which I highly recommend so that you can go visit Jingshan Park afterwards. From here, you can see a great view of the Forbidden City from above – plus, it’s so much less crowded (and shaded!). This was the highest point in Beijing for many hundreds of years.
The next day we took a day trip to the Great Wall. Badaling is the closest to the city, but we visited MuTianYi. This was only a quick public bus ride, plus a quick 20 minute taxi ride (the total cost should be around 60 yuan. Black taxis will try to rip you off.) We were really glad to come here because it was much less crowded that the other popular sections of the wall, PLUS there’s a luge you can slide down!!
We opted to take the ski lift up, walk around for a few sections (SO MANY STAIRS), then take the luge down. It was SO FUN. Unfortunately I couldn’t hold my GoPro or cell-phone on the way down, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was really fast and really long (in a good way). There are some shops and restaurants on the way down. Be sure to barter if you’re buying any goods here. It was difficult getting a taxi back to the bus station, since they’re not allowed to wait around the area. Either pay your taxi to wait for you, or negotiate a return time for your taxi. We did neither and ended up getting into a random man’s van and trusting him to take us to the bus station for 50 yuan. Thankfully I spoke functional Chinese to get us there 🙂
We also made the trek to visit Olympic Park, to try to squeeze in a swim in the Water Cube. Unfortunately information was really misleading and we couldn’t enter either the Bird’s Nest or the Cube, except on an expensive tour. It’s not worth it to wander around the really huge, slab of concrete that is called Olympic Park.
The Temple of Heaven was really beautiful. You can spend a lot of time wandering all the temples and the beautiful park that they’re situated in. We were just so tired after visiting the Great Wall that we only visited the main temple, and sat down and people watched the rest of the afternoon.
One night we had Peking Duck at Quanjude Restaurant. It’s definitely the most pricey and touristy, but pretty good – there was just so much food! They cut up the duck in multiple different ways, which was fun to eat in our little thin pancakes.
One of our favorite finds was BeiHei Park at night. You can go boating at night on this beautiful lake, which is ringed by shops, street food, and cool vendors. We would’ve wandered here for hours if we weren’t so tired from walking around all day in Beijing! Transferring subway lines is really difficult within subway stops – not in terms of clarify, but because of how FAR away each line is away from the other, even though technically they’re supposed to be in the same stop. I think we probably walked 0.8 miles underground everytime we had to transfer lines, which was exhausting.
The only thing I felt like we missed was the Summer Palace, which takes around 1.5 hours to get to by public transport. But, I think we did pretty much all the touristy things in Beijing while being able to enjoy our afternoons at our hotel in our jacuzzi/pool (#coupletime), so we felt like we maximized our time well. At night we wandered around WangFuJing looking for street food, which was harder to find than in Shanghai, but was certainly there on the sides if you exit the main ritzy street.
On our last night, we went to a condensed Peking Opera, and wandered around Qianmen Street Food Market. It was really easy to visit Qianmen after Tiananmen as they’re both in the same area. Tiananmen was a little startling to visit – you really feel the vastness of the government and how small you are in comparison, in the midst of all that Soviet architecture.
Our trip to China was so eye-opening. It was cool being in the center of all the culture and politics. The pollution really wasn’t very noticeable except that my eyes got drier faster. I think we felt like we spent ample time here, so the next time we visit China we can visit all the thousands of all the other amazing cities in the country that are a bit less touristy!
Upcoming blogposts: Puerto Rice (my first trip during FUNEMPLOYMENT), and the Pacific Coast Highway!