Danielle Thai is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A resource economics major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Shanghai this semester.
In this week's post, Danielle takes us along on the CAPA Shanghai excursion to explore Beijing.
Twenty-six point two miles – the distance of a marathon. Did I actually complete a marathon? No. Three days walking and exploring Beijing will equal walking a marathon. I am not making it up; my Fitbit tracks the distance I walk per day. I applaud those who complete a marathon within a day because my legs are sore and I had two nights to rest between the days.
The city of Beijing is more spread out than Shanghai in terms of the distance apart that the attractions are located. Although places are spread out, the more popular sights are swarmed with people. Public transportation is comparable to rush hour, but at all hours that the metro and buses run. It is always packed. To make it onto a vehicle, it is either push or be pushed. Once on, it is like packed sardines with no room to move. My body parts would be pressed against at least five different strangers and I would have to slightly tilt my head to get some “fresh” air. In China, I have come to appreciate the times where I am at least an inch from the people next to me.
FIRST STOP: BEIJING PLANNING EXHIBITION HALL
There were models and dioramas of the city in the planning exhibition hall. It was nice to see the layout of Beijing and where everything is placed from this point of view.
SECOND STOP: TIANANMEN SQUARE / FORBIDDEN CITY
Years ago, Tiananmen Square was an area where common people would gather for the ceremony pronouncing the new emperor and the empress. The Forbidden City is what I imagined the architecture and layout of a Chinese kingdom to look like. Walking through, I was amazed at the condition the buildings were in and the intricate details of the courts. Stepping through each gate to see each hall seems like inception because the structures are almost identical. The different names and items in the hall were the main discerning differences. If it were not for the signs explaining the halls, I would have felt like I was walking in the same exact area.
THIRD STOP: A HUTONG
A hutong is a narrow street or alleyway. If families were wealthy, they would own a hutong and each person would have a separate room. For poor families, the hutong would be occupied with many families and each family would occupy a room. Now, the rooms of the hutongs cater to tourists with souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, and other specialty stores inside.
FIRST STOP: THE GREAT WALL
The Great Wall lived up to all my expectations. It was hands down the best place I have visited. There are no words to explain how incredible it was to be there. Pictures do not do any justice to how amazing the wall is in person. The part of the wall we went to was not the touristy part. There were a lot of stairs. People were prepared for the hike; they had their hiking backpacks and hiking sticks.
SECOND STOP: THE SUMMER PALACE
The Summer Palace is filled with lakes, gardens, and various building structures. At every turn, the views were incredible. I would have loved to be there during the summer because there were boats that could be used in that season.
I am still in shock that I have gotten the chance to visit Beijing. It is one of the most historical cities in the world. Although a lot of walking was involved, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. We were lucky that the weekend was filled with blue skies and warm weather. We brought along masks just in case but thankfully did not have to use them.
Until next time,
Danielle's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned!