02 December 2011

Nihao! - Part Three

Part two can be found here. In the last post we had just arrived in Beijing with quite the welcome. Today we get to visit the cool destinations of what China is really about.

Day three: Despite the trials of the last two days I could safely say that I wouldn't of wanted my trip any other way, so when I awoke I was extremely excited for what new challenges and adventures we would be having. We'd both had a great nights sleep so it was time to begin the day with no time to lose. First up, Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square!

"Good morning, Beijing!"
Intimidating looking government building. There are cameras and security guards everywhere.
There it is!

Tienanmen Square, viewed from the top of the first building at the front of Forbidden City. Sadly the mist obscures it.

It wasn't until we walked through the first building to emerge on the other side that the enormity of this place really sit in. I think I caught my breath at this moment.

The place was simply amazing. This is just one of dozens of courtyards, each with more courtyards adjacent on all sides.

To think that these carvings are hundreds of years old is remarkable.

Placed everywhere were these boards that explained the history and importance of the buildings and sculptures. The nerd in me was very pleased at this, and spent hours reading nearly every one.
We definitely took our time as we wandered around, despite the crowds it was a very peaceful place to be and it was nice to let my mind wander. Every time I read one of the information boards I would stop and try to envision how it would of been like for the people all those years ago. The emperor ruling from his throne, taking up the responsibility for his people. Did he rule with kindness or tyranny? Did he stay within the walls of Forbidden City, oblivious to the woes of the people outside, or did he mix with his people and drive them towards prosperity. I tried to imagine the years of conflict they faced between rival forces, the day of a battle where the walls would be no doubt lined with arches, the emperors armies gathering to defend their empire.

My favourite notion to think about above all others, and I highly recommend this to anyone visiting an ancient site, is to pick something small such as a brick in the flooring or walls and to think to yourself that some day, hundreds (or even thousands) of years ago, some unknown and long past person stood in this very spot, in an era of human history that I can barely even imagine, and placed that very brick down into place. It is even more astonishing when you try and place yourself in the mind and body of that person and know that as they placed that brick, they had no idea that hundreds of years in the future some foreigner (you) would be staring at it, thinking about them, their lives, and about the day that they casually placed a brick into place.

I find it can create a very powerful sense of woe, to realize that your own lifespan is but a speck of the billions of lifespans that have come before you, that will come after you, and that the smallest actions can reverberate for millenniums. Will the path I make, the actions I take, ever have such an impact?

Moving on!


Once we eventually reached the end we were surprisingly greeted with a magnificently ancient looking garden. 

It took us 2 hours to traverse from one end to the other, moving at a moderate pace, and that was only a portion of it! It wasn't until later on in the day (or even perhaps until I arrived back home) that it really started to sink in how amazing it was to be there. And I can tell you now that the pictures above are a poor consolation for actually being there.  

By now it was 4.30pm and starting to get a little dark. What's next? Well back home a few of the guys at work (who are engineers) were interested in a building that recently got built in Beijing, as our company played a part in its design and construction. Coincidentally we weren't too far to where it is located so we set out to find it.

It felt like we were on a quest!

We proceeded to look for a taxi, but again we are out of luck as the peak hour of Beijing sets in and there are none free in sight. As we were walking around I noticed how many people were on bikes (there is heaps!) and the thought occurred... let's just hire some bikes to get there!

I admit I was a little hesitant (I know Isaac certainly was) because first of all it was now dark and secondly, unless you've been to China before (or any Asian country really) you can't truly understand how crazy and erratic their roads are. Pedestrians walk out onto the road whenever they please, cars ignore red lights, buses using their superior size to dictate their driving style to force themselves through traffic... it's like an enraged ants nest of moving steel. But hell, let's go for it!

Our speed machines! You could hardly tell they had been used before =P
I couldn't manage to take any pictures whilst riding as all my energy and concentration was spent avoiding parked cars, unpredictable pedestrians and fellow bike commuters. It. Was. Insane! But soooo cool! Riding around in peak hour traffic was a blast! We stayed in the pedestrian lanes but often times had to swerve out into the road lanes to get around parked cars, coming inches within passing traffic. The force of the wind from passing buses was intense!

Crossing the roads had no logic to it from what I could see, basically the pedestrians would gather in a tight group and just move as one out onto the road right into incoming traffic, and I guess just have the confidence that their group size is enough to stem the flow of traffic enough for them to edge their way across. There was one time I got separated form Isaac (as he smartly judged that it would probably be best to wait for the lights to change before crossing) and the 'ball of pedestrians' I was huddled within got stuck in the center of the intersection, traffic flowing past us from all sides! Eventually the lights changed and we made it to the other side ha.

After 45 minutes of dodging traffic, a long chat with a local to ask for directions, and numerous consultations of our map, we finally made it to our destination; the Beijing Poly Plaza Hotel. Engineering wise it is quite impressive as the square block protruding out of the front left of the building in the picture below is actually 8 stories of floors that is completely suspended in the air and held in place by the grid of interlocking steel cables. Well, the guys at work found it interesting at least ha.

With our quest complete it was time to return the bikes and grab something to eat. The ride back was a little easier then before with less traffic on the roads. After returning our bikes we had to walk back to our hotel, but not before stumbling across some awesome locally owned shops. I submitted to buying this awesome decorative scroll for myself:

So cool!
And that leaves day three complete. 

Part four here. So what's in store for our next day? Only the Great Wall of China!


Tania said...

I have another blog I follow who made a post for every day she was in China, like 20 something, and in three posts you showed me more interesting things than she did in 20. Haha.

You're definitely a better photographer. ;)

Out of Sync said...

If there was a 'nicest comment from a follower' award I think you'd have to be in the running lol, thank you =)

I am extremely humbled that you enjoyed the post-holiday write up, I try to make them as interesting to read as possible, for both mine and any readers sake, as yes I agree at how long or tedious some post-holiday write ups can be lol.

Although to be fair, it is quite a difficult task, you have to fight the urge to write and paste up pictures for EVERY cool thing you did or saw haha.

Next part should be even cooler then this one as it covers the Great Wall =D

Thanks again!

Sue Lin said...

I love the building, its cool! And also love the way u describe bus drivers in Asian countries! Nice one, couldnt agree more!

Out of Sync said...

Thanks Sue Lin =D I like how you can agree with the buses haha

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