Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beijing (Day 2)

We woke up the next day and took a good look at our hotel/hostel our room was the size of a small storage unit at public storage. We had two small twin beds with a nightstand in between. We had an attached bathroom that we discovered was absolutely filthy (I thought Latanya was going to vomit on sight)let's just say it was not what we pictured but hey we only had to sleep there. We woke up early at 7:00am got dressed quickly took a shower with the lights off and made out way to Tiananmen square. We wanted to get a head start because of the celebrations the day before we knew it was going to be crowded. From our hotel it was a seven minute walk to the square we quickly discovered that China has a heck of a lot of people. The crowds were massive and it was only 8am we waddled our way through the crowds towards the square. The first thing we saw was the gate towards the Forbidden City with a giant portrait of Chairman Mao. We knew right then that we were standing in history. We were speechless for several minutes and just took in the amazing scenery around us. From our vantage point we could see that Tiananmen Square was enormous. We walked under the main street to enter the actual square itself there were huge lines going through security check points. We made our way through one of the check points there was pushing and shoving galore this was the first of many times on our trip that we felt like cattle. After the checkpoint, we walked around the square once again we realized how massive this place was. They had all the floats from the parade celebrations the day before on display. The decorations were so beautifully done we must have taken twenty minutes to do a full circle around the center of Tiananmen Square. We tried to visit Chairman Mao's mausoleum (where his body is displayed) but unfortunately it was closed because of the celebrations. We made sure to take many photos and made our way to the Forbidden city. Before we left the square, we had started to notice many people not taking pictures of the sights but taking pictures of us there attempts to be sneaky was obviously obvious it was quite funny. This would be the first of 2 million photographs of us in China (they must have heard of our fame all the way from Korea).

As we made the way to the Forbidden City we realized it wasn't as easy to find the entrance as we thought. A short 45 minutes later we found the entrance to the walled city. We bought our tickets and entered through a gigantic gateway. The Forbidden City is fully equipped with a mote, many palaces, gardens, thousands of tourists, and many more of our fans. The creativity of their picture taking ability seemed to get better as the day went on. For example, they would pretend to be taking a picture of something behind us while in reality they were zoomed in on our faces. That did not distract us from seeing such a grand and beautiful place. The Forbidden City was closed off to commoners for over 500 years it was special to think for the day that were apart of royalty. Our feet were hurting by this point so we made our way to McDonald's to eat lunch and sit down for a while. It was good to have some familiar food and rest up a bit because we had much more to see.

Next on our itinerary were the Olympic sites. We had to catch a subway in order to get to the Olympic park. Now that it was early afternoon the crowds had increased even more. As soon as we stepped into the subway station Latanya started to hyperventilate. We attempted to buy subway tickets there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Latanya freaked out so I had to step up and plow my way through the sea of Chinese people and buy the tickets. After a great deal of struggle I was able to obtain two subway tickets. This was only half the battle we now had to make our way down to the subway itself. We were now apart of a river of people that flowed down the stairs to the train. Once on the platform we were again elbow to elbow with many people. After the train arrived we were not surprised to see it completely full. When the doors opened only a few people got off and we shoved ourselves with the crowd onto the train. I was pulling Latanya's arm so we could stay together and we squeezed our helpless bodies onto the train. Obviously, it was standing room only we did not have to worry about falling over because we were being held up by the other thousands of people next to us. It was such an experience to get on the subway. Two transfers later we arrived at the Olympic Park.

When we got out of the subway station we saw the Bird's Nest. Latanya kept talking about all she wanted to see was the Bird's Nest she was so excited. The stadium was breathtaking, the architecture was so modern, and the scenery was so serene. Across from the stadium was the water cube. We decided to take a tour inside the cube and stadium. It felt so amazing to be under the same roof where Micheal Phelps won his 8 gold medals. After the water cube, we took a tour of the Bird's Nest. Being inside the stadium was such an amazing feeling to know that the world's greatest athletes all stood here about 13 months ago. Also, to be in the same place as the Beijing opening ceremony brought back all the excitement we felt watching it from home. We then made our way to the top of the stadium where we would be greeted by many more of our fans we had a 15 minute photo shoot with people lined up to take pictures with us. They must of realized that we too were Olympic athletes that participated in the 2008 Olympics. After our photo shoot we headed out of the stadium and took a nice leisure walk around the area. It was growing dark, we got back on the subway and headed to our hotel. We knew we had to wake up early the next morning for we were to go to the Great Wall of China.

You can look at the rest of our pics using the link below- Enjoy

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beijing (Day 1)

Well we are back from our Beijing trip safe and sound. Let me start by saying we had an amazing time. We originally were suppose to leave Korea at 8:00am on Thursday. The early departure meant we had to get up at around 3:00am. Fortunately our flight was rescheduled for later that day at 1:00pm. So we got up at our normal time and made an identical journey like Thailand to Incheon Airport. Because it was the Chuseok Holiday (Korean Thanksgiving/Harvest Festival) there was expected to be a lot of traffic. On the contrary, in the morning it was a typical drive to the airport. Before we took flight Latanya and I made a traditional Korean fan in the airport. They were having a cross cultural experience center, free cross cultural experience center that is, and we thought it would be fun. At first is was great and then we realized we do not have too much patience for art.
We arrived in Beijing at about 3:00 in the afternoon. The flight was only an hour and a half, however we were delayed over an hour in Korea. When we arrived we made our way through customs and met our shuttle driver, so we thought. She was not the driver but took us to a waiting area for the shuttle. After about twenty minutes the van pulled up and we hopped in. The Beijing sky was so blue. It was such a nice afternoon. The temperature was a little warmer than Korea. The Van ride lasted only about a half hour or so.
We then arrived at the New Dragon Hostel. Hmm...but isn't our place called the Forbidden City Hotel, it sure is. What in the world? We asked the driver why we were where we were, and he said that our hotel was closed for the day. You see China was celebrating their National Day (much like the Fourth of July). Not only their National Day, but it was the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Regime. So one could say it was a big deal. Well anyways our hotel lies with in a mile radius of Tiananmen Square (giant parade grounds). The mile radius was completely closed off to anybody not involved with the festivities, which were the commoners, us.
So the driver told us that we should stay at the hostel until maybe 9pm and that they would take us there later. He said we would definitely get there by midnight. We obviously had other plans. We did not want to stay cooped up in there for 6 to 9 hours, we wanted to see Beijing. So we grabbed a map and made our way towards the festivities.

Shortly after we headed out we started to realize that our backpacks were rather heavy. As the minutes passed they grew heavier and heavier. But we knew that this would not stop us. We walked towards our hotel and were met with crowds of people just standing around looking towards Tiananmen Square. All the shops in the nearby malls were closed. As a matter of fact everything was closed with the exception of a few small restaurants. We zigged and zagged our way down many streets to try and reach our hostel, because at this point we did not know that there was a strict barrier closing everything off. After countless failures we rested for a while on the sidewalk. We had some food from a local restaurant and ate it on the curb, literally street eats. It was delicious. It was simple, rice and a stir fry of veggies in a spicy glaze sauce.
Finally night came and more people gathered on the streets still looking in the direction of Tiananmen Square. Shortly there after we heard some loud booms. We were like, are they firing the tanks from the parades. We sure hope not. We stood up quickly and realized it was not gunshots but fireworks, many fireworks. We could see them just over the buildings in the direction of Tiananmen Square. So now we knew what everyone was looking for. The fireworks display started out like a Disney show but then grew to a magnificent extravaganza. There were fire works of different shapes, sizes and colors. We were impressed. After about 45 minutes of fireworks the festivities were officially over.

We attempted to cross the barricade but were told that we had to wait another hour. We did not want to take no for an answer and tried to weave our way to our hotel instead. Once on the other side of the barricade we attempted to find our hotel. It was like being behind enemy lines, very sneaky and exhilarating. We finally found our hotel and ran inside to check in. We were exhausted from caring our backpacks the whole day. It turns out that our hotel was only about 100 yards away from where we were standing watching the fireworks, so close. We were so tired we did not even look at our amenities and passed out. It was not until we woke up the next day when realized what we got ourselves into.

You can look at the rest of our pics using the link below- Enjoy