All Categories - My Journey to the East
 
So about 300 years ago the Emperor decided to build a temple in Beijing for the Dalai Lama. It as an amazing plethora of Hindu, Tibetan, and Mahayana Buddhism. At the end of the temple there is a buddha that is probably about 40 ft. high and carved out of one entire white sandalwood tree. It's ridiculous to even think of something like that let alone see it. Besides the giant Buddha they also have multiple rooms with multiple Buddhas. It's a great place and some great scenery.
After the Dalai Lama Temple we went on a 胡同tour. Hutong's are simply small alley ways that, in Old Beijing, were the conduits and sources of life. Nowadays, as development occurs and more modern things come to pass, these alleyways are now a historic monument to how people used to live in the old capital. With what meager photographic skills I have, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 
 
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Before we went to the Front gate, my teacher was nice enough to invite my classmate and I to an interpretive dance performance that thankfully had little Chinese in it ;p. It possibly was one of the best choreographed dances ranging from martial arts and ballet, to swing and ballroom. It was an enlightening experience. I just threw in those pictures with this post because it was easier; we saw that performance on a Wednesday and wen to 前門or The Front gate on Friday. This place, used to be the foremost outer barrier to the Forbidden City. From royal passageway to family owned shops to high-end, trendy shops and restaurants, Qianmen has become a nice spot to get some local snacks, original Peking duck, or even silk. It was a really surreal to see things like Starbucks and high end clothe stores in traditional style architecture. Anyways, enjoy the pictures below. Miss you all! :)

 
So pretty much it feels like I've walked all over China. We had arranged tours at the same place of the Great Wall I was last time. It was fantastic this time around :). We had 2 hours and climbed to the highest part, overlooking the astounding Chinese scenery. Also, let me just say right here: I officially apologize for whatever grammar mistakes I have in my English. Not only is my grammar despicable in English already, but has continuously gotten worse as I learn more Chinese. Because I am lazy and not a historian, you can find information about the Great Wall(actually called long wall in Chinese)here.

Ming Tombs

The ming tombs are a series of tombs dedicated to the emperors of China, started of course by the Ming emperor(hence the name). It's actually more of a somber park with a bunch of pine trees. Beautiful, but somber. Enjoy, it's a nice and completely lavish place.
 
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Wonder why there's no cake? Click this pic to find out more!
As a separate post from the Temple of Heaven(which will be uploaded soon, I promise!) I wanted to dedicate this one to an amazing teacher and person: Professor Zhang. He's been there ever since I've learned Chinese and has given me expert instruction, that without I would be utterly nowhere. Coincidentally, do to the 90 year birthday of the Chinese Communist Party, the entire country was throwing a party too... all in favor of Professor Zhang! ;) 
Happy Birthday Professor!!

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So to celebrate the illustrious Professor Zhang's birthday, we all decided on Peking Opera. Well… things never go as planned as there were complications and miscommunications from the theaters and performances(not uncommon in China), but mostly due to the birthday of the Communist Party. So in an effort to reconcile, Professor Zhang recommended a beautiful, endless place called Temple of Heaven. This was the first time I had been there so I was, needless to say, beside myself with excitement. We took some public transit, rode the subway, and walked… for what seemed like years in the forests of the Temple of Heaven. As the night went on, after we ate at the restaurant in the last post, we were all a little disappointed to hear that our new destination for Opera had changed their performance schedule due to the celebration, and the show was now beyond our measly level of comprehension. Dejectedly walking back through the Temple of Heaven was a little less bright this time, until…we heard a noise. ;)

 
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So again excuse for the late update... I'll probably be saying that a lot more. Professor Zhang's Chinese language has not only been extensive, but excruciating! It's about 6-7 hours a day of just Chinese, so there is little time to run around, let alone update frequently(with a sub-par internet connection). Regardless, this the second time in Hou-Hai, a very affluent, foreign, trendy bar spot with a night life that can rival ANY city. It is also close to the world famous narrow alley ways known as 胡同(Hutong). The significance of these "small, living lanes" are that they used to be the conduits of Old Beijing; the very veins of the older city. It is where people lived, worked, and traveled before the end of the dynasties. It is really a nice place today, especially after walking for 3 hours previous to coming, as we did. It is a man-made lake in the middle of the city, out the north side of the Forbidden City. It was just part of the royal grounds that has been converted into a park, that you can even rent a boat on!! Which is exactly what we did. I hope you enjoy the scenery as much as we did :).

 
Something I forgot to add! At Hou-Hai there are all kinds of snacks, foods, and drinks. Here, even though I've seen cotton candy spun before, was very interesting because of how she made it, and what she spun it with. 
 
"When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world" - George Washington Carver

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So this was a fascinating escapade. District 798 as it's known to the locals, has to be my favorite place in Beijing by far :). During the Cold War it used to be the central factory area of Beijing. The most unique about this place is though, some 25 years later it has been converted to be the artistic heart of Beijing ever since its inception. There is just graffiti and art, by definition, littering the sidewalks and walls, but none of it... is bad. In America graffiti and tag is usually seen as a negative thing or something that people in gangs do, thus making it of a lower-class nature(so-to-speak). But the feelings I got( and hope others get too) are not those of fear or ignorance, but more so... enlightenment. During the Cultural Revolution stuff like this was forbidden and shunned, but now in the very capital can you find things like this!? To me, that is remarkable. The art galleries(although pricey) were fantastic. I recommend ANYONE who is in Beijing to tell your cab driver 七九八区, and get whisked away to an amazing piece of Beijing, that(I believe) has become the essence of what this wonderful city will become. Pictures are worth more words than this entire webpage, so I'll let them speak :) 

 
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Inner peace...
So, first and foremost I'd like to apologize for such an agonizingly long time in between updates. It has been most difficult to secure a stable connection as well as, help my friend deal with a rather frightening sickness, and see her home safely. I will now be updating regularly!! I have LOTS of stuff!
The picture to your left is my Shanghai friend and me in Shanghai railway station. There are multiple things wrong with this picture and I'll point them out. 1) My BLONDE classmate and I are in SHANGHAI railway station. 2) This station is where most of the migrant workers leave for their hometowns, and where there are not too many foreigners, much less blonde ones. Needless to say, we got a lot of stares. 3) We're meditating in a train station, on towels(more stares??).Now before I go on, I want to establish that I am not badmouthing immigrants, or the railway, or anything like that. These people are hardworking, have families, and are just trying to scratch(a very difficult) living. I am only saying that, to be a minority, felt...bizarre. In America we frequently take for granted the plethora of faces and colors we see on a day-to-day basis. But what happens when your face is the only face not congruent in the crowd? Who do you look to? There is no reassurance, especially with the fact that my Chinese is pretty much deplorable. We can't blend in, how would we? We look perfectly like foreigners.
           Buying a ticket in China is FAR different than that in the U.S. My advice: Don't wait till the last day, expecting to catch a train that night, because most likely it'll be sold out. The railways are the most highly used transit system in China, followed closely by metro, and (soon to be surpassed by) the car. We had to suffice with an early 动车, or "Fast-Train" at 7:10 am on Saturday morning; AFTER we our stay was up in the dorms on Friday night :\. So for some reason, something possessed my friend and I to attempt to stay the night in the station. But around 11 pm things became real strange, and my friend Karen(the one sitting with me in the picture) insisted that we stay the night at her house. Her mother and she... were just ridiculously kind and again fortified my belief that Chinese people are some of the most hospitable people on this planet. Her mom, no joke, was like a living Buddha, and she WOULD NOT let us leave until we had enough water, food, and money for a cab. Truly I could not have been more humbled. Well.. that's the train ride... and I'll let you see for yourself where 11 hours on a train can get you ;)

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*Disclaimer*- For the video below, yes I look like complete crap and I'm not sure if I had a fever. However, from the distance traveled above... you can understand why I look terrible ;)

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    This portion of my trip is where things get better; get interesting. I'm on my second wind in Beijing( a city I definitely prefer) and I'm ready to buckle down and learn some Chinese!

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