Manhattan Beach International had just finished and I found myself at LAX but not on a flight home to Calgary, rather on a flight to San Francisco where I would catch my connection to Beijing, China. Belinda had invited me to go to China with her and meet her parents/family and I said that I would. I would also try and get in some training as well while there, it is China after all and home to badminton. I was already planning the trip when I thought I would be in Thailand the week before and it would be easy to fly over from there but when that got cancelled I still decided to go to China anyways. I would be there during Chinese New Year which is something that I haven’t experienced in Asia as of yet.
Day 1 – Arrival
The flight to China is nothing new to me, I have gone there and to Asia many times before so the 10-12 hour flights isn’t something I dislike or stay away from. The flight over was standard as usual in terms of my routine, sleep half of it and watch movies for the rest according to the time in China. Once I arrived I was greeted by a driver that Belinda’s family had hired to pick me up and take me to the hotel. The family and she would arrive the next day as they were in Lingshui, Hinan province for Chinese New Year. I had just gone to Lingshui January 2015 for the China international challenge. So I had a day and a half to kill before they arrived back to Beijing and I was in luck with the location I was at.
Across the street from the hotel was the second largest mall in the world called the Golden Resources Mall, funny enough the first largest mall was also located in China just in another city. It was true this thing was huge and it barely fit into a panorama, nothing compared to any mall in Canada or anywhere else in the world. So I spent quite a few hours exploring that as well as getting my food and groceries too. After all that walking it was time to call it a night and prepare for the following days activities. Located a little walk from the hotel was a park or rather palace park. It was the emperor’s summer palace and highly recommended by Belinda to check out so I planned to spend the following day there. I would be greatly surprised by the sheer size of the area when I got there.
Day 2 – Self tour of the Summer Palace
Day broke and the weather wasn’t terrible, despite all the fireworks going off the night before the air was pretty clear and the sky wasn’t overcast. Being February it was still winter in China and I thankfully brought my winter jacket which I definitely needed that day as well as one more layer underneath. So I started the walk down the canal towards the Summer Palace and it was just a few kilometers away nothing to bad and I love to walk so it’s always a pleasure for me. Boy was I in for a full day of walking, climbing up and down stairs and walking through ancient buildings/temples. The river was still partially frozen but getting closer to the park there were people swimming in it. I paid my entry which allowed me to see everything in the park and then walked in, at first I didn’t grasp the size of the area. Walking in and seeing the emperor’s palace all the way at the other end of the lake I was just thinking wow the royal family was incredibly lucky to have all this to run away to. I could just think how lucky the kids of the royal family would be to have all this space and so many cool things to explore and play around.
|The place had amazing buildings and all the details mind blowing|
I had a lot of ground to cover, thankfully I had almost the whole day as the park or well access to the buildings closed at 5pm and it was only 11am in the morning. Start walking I did and did I ever walk, I ended up taking the “shortcut” which cut through the lake and that a lone was filled with many little buildings and bridges along the way. Some of which were turned into restaurants for people to eat at. Despite it being Chinese New Year and lots of people left Beijing to go back to their home provinces the park was still packed and there was lots of tourists…Chinese tourists not so much foreign ones (I saw less than 10 foreign tourists the whole 6 hours I spent in the park). I brought my DSLR with me and started taking pictures of everything, there was just so many intricate details on everything and such beauty in the architecture. I always liked Chinese history and Japanese history as they are so rich in cultural experiences, events that took place and the physical sites still around, we don’t have the same kind of history or historical sites in North America.
I decided to save the palace for last or well almost last instead of just going straight to the main attraction. So I walked around back where there was a sort of shopping area set up down on the water, it was cool to walk around the narrow edge and see all that was there. Following that I went up the back way of the palace and saw some of the beauty in the artistic detail on the buildings, each roof piece had the same carving in it. All the artwork on every beam of the ceiling it was amazing and must have taken a long time to do all of that. I came to the palace from behind and made my way down the hill seeing all the auxiliary structures and temples/statues. Now time for the main attraction, walking up there was a lot of stairs that needed to be climbed but these didn’t feel like normal stairs they were steep. Making the way to the top was a statue of Guanyin and in all its glory in front of us. Of course it said no photographs but every single person was taking pictures so I snapped a few as well. Making my way back down I visited all the various other rooms seeing how they were set up and the history behind what they were used for. The view from the top was amazing you could see over the entire lake all the way to the entrance and that’s when I truly appreciated the size of the park and the palace itself.
The weather had warmed up a bit and the sun was shining in an almost cloudless sky. I began walking back towards the entrance on the opposite side of the lake this time when it happened. I turned to see the palace looking at me across the lake with some boats in the water. I thought it would be a cool shot and I snapped a few pictures not thinking too much of it. Later when I was sorting through all the pictures there it was the picture that I had taken and I just couldn’t stop staring at it. Instantly it was my favorite picture of the trip and just the way that I captured the scene blew my own mind.
I still had one more little island to visit before heading out and it was a peaceful little place, sitting in the lake you could have a view of everything in the park. I was just thinking about taking a swim in the water come summer haha it looked like it would be such a nice thing to do. Alas the time in the park had come to an end, I spent roughly 6 hours in there walking around and seeing everything that I could. Time flew by and I couldn’t believe how long I spent let alone how many kilometres I must have walked within the park that day. Time to walk the canal back to my hotel, it was still light out but getting slightly colder again so I put some gloves on and started the trek back to my temporary home…with a stop at the mall for some food first. Belinda and her family flew back in that night and of course I was able to see her that night, it was so nice and she also told me about the plan for the following day what we would go do and see.
Day 3 – Tea in Beijing
We awoke that morning and got ready to head out bright and early, there were more fireworks the previous night as it seems people were still celebrating. First on the agenda was to go to see the Forbidden City so we figured its best to go early as there was only a limited number of tickets available for the day. We jumped on the subway and headed towards the center of Beijing, switching lines a few times in order to arrive. Once getting there and stepping outside there was a lot of smog and fog in the air, it was really hazy and limited visibility. There was also a ton of people with the same idea of going in to view the city. Again it is one of those things that you can’t fully comprehend the size until you are standing there and can see the size of things with your own eyes. There was a lot of walking and once you are past the iconic front wall of the Forbidden City you get into the bowels of the area, unfortunately for us the tickets were all sold out for the day so we would be unable to go inside the city. That was alright at least I got close enough to it and gives me another reason to come back to China in the future.
We left the Forbidden City and walked out past Tienamin Square as well as one of the national museum’s which had a line wrapped around it of people waiting to get in. We kept walking towards a small little area that was filled with shops and more importantly places to eat food, I had worked up quite the appetite at this point. So we walked around the area and saw lots of goodies for dessert afterwards but food first. There were a few places but the lines were crazy long so we eventually found a quiet little spot which had amazing food. It was at that moment the reality sunk in that I was in China after being in North America. But this time it was different, I have always traveled for tournaments and although I just played a tournament this was kind of like a vacation and a nice time away from badminton for a few days. After we had late lunch we walked around some more and got dessert and headed to see some shopping before meeting up with Belinda’s parents later that night for dinner and a show at a famous tea house.
|Nom nom nom all the desserts|
The darkness crept over the city and with it came some rain but the bright lights of Beijing and amount of people out would have you think otherwise that it wasn’t nighttime. We met Belinda’s parents at a little restaurant and had some nice traditional Chinese dishes. After dinner we walked over to a famous tea house where they display a bunch of different performances from Chinese culture for foreigners. Many famous people have passed through those doors from former USA presidents to actors/celebrities from all over the world. The show started and they of course gave us some tea and various snacks to munch on throughout the show. We sat and watched the variety of performances and what would be somewhat spectacles. They were very impressive but all did tell a part of Chinese history which has happened for generations and generations, some of which still are practiced today. Upon the end of the show we got some pictures and looked around the little museum like house which was the theatre. There were lots of historical items present as well as many kinds of tea for purchase. The rain had more or less passed at this point and we went for a little drive before Belinda’s parents dropped us off at the hotel.
|Performances at the tea house|
Three days had passed just like that, I had done so much already and see so many things. Not to mention eat a lot of delicious authentic Chinese food, yum. It was time to call it a night and then the adventure would continue the next day…or well in the next blog post for you.