My first stop in China was the capital city, Beijing. Visiting China was a big moment for me – it’s size, population, and ever increasing role in global affairs make it a force to reckon with. I felt like it was essential to give a good chunk of time to develop an understanding at a basic level at least of China. I wanted to understand the people, the politics, the industry, and the culture.
Coming from South Korea, a flight into Beijing was the logical first step. Additionally, this put me in a good position to visit North Korea in the coming weeks. I ended up staying at combination of CS Friends places and hostels, in a number of different neighborhoods.
I split my time in Beijing between training lightly for the upcoming Pyongyang Marathon, shopping and exploring “modern” beijing, and checking off most of the major tourist attractions. I was in Beijing for Passover, and had the good fortune of connecting with the Kehillat Beijing Jewish Community group for two very very awesome Seders, as well as good new friends. Connecting with the Jewish community in Beijing made me feel so much more at home, and inspired that communities like this exist around the world. My people! :)
Got my flight to China.. AND my visa. Based on some recent renewed tourism and cooperation stimulation, Americans can now get 10-year visas for China. I can stay for 60 days at a time. Pretty good.. and it only took me 4 days waiting in Seoul to get it.
Arriving in Beijing was certianly a wakeup. As soon as I stepped out of the terminal, I was hit with dense, choking smog that could be seen from as little as 20 feet away. The air smelled like burning, and I could taste a fine grit. Certainly not great – but this was a 200 AQI day – mid-levels of pollution for Beijing.
During my first week in Beijing I stayed with a friend near Renmin University. On a clear day, the area was relatively clean and nice. Still lots of traffic, and large everything, but livable. My friend lives right across from Renmin University and next to a high end luxury mall. However, her subdivision is comprised mostly of 5-6 story apartment buildings and low single floor shacks strewn about. The area is generally fairly rundown and sort of resembles a shanty-town – but people living there seem happy. Immediately after stepping away from the gate of the housing area, high end restaurants, chain coffee joints, and luxury boutiques spring up. The contrast is striking and immediate.
Biking through the Hutongs of central Beijing. Entire families own blocks of these traditional styled homes. Some of them are actually very old, but lots of other subdivisions, like the one pictured, have been built in recent years to emulate the traditional style. They’re really brand new.
The luxry section of the expat-packed Sanlitun area. This mega mall zone has every kind of shopping convenence, including an Apple store, dark and loud Hollister, and the usual selection of mall stores.
Entering the Beijing Arts District. This wonderful area is packed with progressive galleries, public art installations, cafes, restaurants, street performers, and trendy hipsters everywhere. Strolling around is a pure pleasure, and i made multiple visits. Di and I even found a trendy sushi restaurant to stop by!
In the alleyway where my friend’s apartmen was, there were always these fun kids playing around. Fun making friends! Beijing housing subdivisions, although some more rundown than others, almost always seem like safe, fun, community-oriented places.
More fake electronics, including routers, headphones, radios, and of course, selfie sticks.
Even before the release, knockoff Apple Watches are readily available in Beijing. These cost about USD$60 a piece, and had fully functional OLED displays. THey felt cheesy, but did have a working screen that at least told the time.
Checking out fake watches at the Beijing Silk Market. This market caters mostly to Tourists, and has floors packed with knockoff clothing, jewlery, electronics, and textiles. Most of these watches they have on display are low-mid range fakes, but they’re quick to bring out briefcases of high-end fakes on request.
I love these rickshaw mopeds. They come in lots of varieties, ranging from crappy home-made ones like this, to pre-manufactured slick metal ones that resemble am airstream trailer. A friend of mine and I play an iOS game called “Pako”, and this one looks exactly like the one that can be driven in that game. Cool!
On our bikes cruising along the outer wall of the Forbidden City.
I took a bike tour around Beijing with Bike Beijing. I was joined by a very nice German family, who lived in Beijing. Our tour guide was a local girl who was super nice and enthusiastic about showing us her city. What a great time biking through the large and small streets of Beijing!
Folks playing in the central hutong area of beijing.
Playing cards in a public park.
Entering the Forbidden City
Finally, I made it inside the Forbidden City! I remember watching the film “The Last Emperor” in middle school, and seeing shots of this space. (as well as learning about it in history class) Cool to finally be there.
Orange tiles protecting the roofs of the Forbidden City fro m the afternoon sun.
I was fortunate to join up with the Keiliat Beijing community, and had a great Passover Seder with a group of 150. I love celebrating the holidays with different groups, and it’s a joy to be able to be amongst immediate friends with a similar background. Although I do love traveling and meeting new and different people, sometimes it’s nice to feel like I’m home for a minute.
Exploring the great wall. I hiked for a few hours, up and down and up and down.
A very sweet Italian couple. I took this picture of them, and then caught up to them a few minute later and traded email addresses, and sent it to them. Hope they had a great trip!
Hiking all day up and down. Good thing I havd my Salomon XA-Pro-3D-Ultra2-GTX trailrunning shoes, Darn Tough socks, and Black Diamond Modernist Rock Jeans!
Beautiful flowers bloom at the great wall.
Springtime means lots of beautiful blooming trees.
These meat skewers were really great! I’m still not sure what kind of meat, though..