For the holidays this year my little sister flew into China via our week together with our brother in Japan. We took a break to hang out in Shanghai, even sticking it out over Christmas- when we climbed to the top of the JinMao Tower and walked around both the east and west banks of the Bund, before shopping and grabbing a nice Chinese meal for Christmas dinner.After the festivities of taking morning pictures we decided to trek to the Shanghai train station where we purchased tickets to Beijing the following Saturday.
The night trains are the only way to travel in China. You board in the evening (ours was at 8:30pm) and arrive the following morning after a night in a tiny bunk 12 feet off the ground, ready for your next adventure. Once in Beijing, we strolled to Tienanmen Square to gaze at the smog filled walkway and gateway to the Forbidden City. Afterwords we headed to a friend’s house, where we dropped off our heavy packs and then ventured out again to HouHai Lake, in Northwestern Beijing. The lake was frozen over, and skaters skidded across the ice, unsure of themselves. We strolled around watching them slip and slide about the lake before eating a massive Chinese dinner and heading to Sanlitun, the bar street, where we picked a quiet place for a few quick drinks before the long walk home.
The next day we saw the Forbidden City- a wonderfully intricate red, green and blue structure where emperors had once ruled. Two years in China, and I’d never been! I was happy to walk around the frozen palace, though the wind burn began to make smiling difficult after the first two hours. We then headed to Yashou– a shopping mall for antiques and other nick-nacks where we had foot massages to heal our sore feet. In all, we had walked 13 hours that day.
The following morning we relaxed a bit and headed to the Temple of Heavenly Peace, where we walked for hours around the gardens, surrounded by black crows and a few other brave tourists. We then did a self guided tour of the rebuilt hutongs along south Tienanmen.
The next morning was the 31st- the last day of 2008- and we got on an early morning bus to Badaling, a section of the Great Wall quite near Beijing. We arrived to freezing winds and very few tourists, and for the majority of the hike we were alone on the wall. The Great Wall is really more of a climbing ediphis than anything meant to keep someone else out. Beautiful though. After a quick nap we headed back out to Tienanmen for New Year’s Eve, where we assembled at the entryway of the Forbidden City with others celebrating the new year, and counted down to midnight in unison before cheering, hugging and then heading home for a night of much needed sleep.
The night train back to Shanghai was as old and rickety as the one we had been on a week earlier. I love the train, and slept fitfully but happily, it was in all a very fulfilling trip, and a great way to spend the New Years!
-posted by lauren.