Beijing Day 1 – Tiananmen Square & Peking Duck

“That’s all for lecture today, and enjoy your four-day weekend-” the rest was cut off as the class bustled around the room to get their backpacks and supplies together. With our four day weekend, a large group of us had booked round-trip bullet train tickets to Beijing and a 3-night stay in a youth hostel. The top tourist-y spots we had planned to visit: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, The Great Wall of China (duh), and The Temple of Heaven. I am certain Beijing will not disappoint!

SH railway stationShanghai Railway Station about to board the bullet train

BJ bullet train exterior

BJ train interior
Settling into our assigned seats for the 5-hour journey

BJ train table
All ready!

BJ bullet train journey 1

BJ bullet train
Riding the bullet is perhaps the most comfortable modes of travel I have ever experienced – not to mention the reclining seats and steward service. The sleek, aerodynamic shape and clean, white exterior gives an entirely futuristic feeling. Chinese countryside flew by at a rapid, yet strangely silent pace of over 300 km/hr (nearly 190 mph). The MagLev engineering (or Magnetic Levitation between the train and the rail) of these trains minimize friction and noise allowing the bullet train to operate at such speed and smoothness.

Bj bullet train group
The group post-bullet train. We’re in Beijing!

BJ backpack
We foreigners get a lot of curious glances when walking the streets. Where is our hostel…?

BJ cart
That’s one way to get around…

BJ hostel
Our hostel lobby

BJ hostel room
Eight of us stayed in a single hostel room with four bunk beds and a few lockers, which made for hilarious, low-key slumber parties filled with story telling and games.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The group in the alleyway outside of our hostel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing such a diverse group of foreign students, we always got extra attention from the locals. People would take picture of our group – with or without permission. It was funny every time, but this time felt like paparazzi photo shoot. I’m taking a picture of them taking a picture of us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe felt like celebrities.

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On a quest to find a good place to stop for Peking Duck – a Beijing-famous dish of sweet, roasted duck usually served with sweet, tangy sauce and shredded vegetables.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARed Paper Lanterns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Duck Face-ing with Duck

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA With Beijing being the communist capital of China, the building styles are far more political than that of Shanghai.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeking Duck Dinner

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYet another celebrity moment

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Truly fascinating architectural design

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Ladies of Dorm Room 407

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPathway Lamposts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreat Hall of the People: for ceremonial and legislative events for the People’s Republic of China

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATiananmen Tower: the entrance to the Forbidden City

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe group in front of Tiananmen Tower

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Tiananmen Square’s rather recent historical significance includes the 1989 Tiananmen Protests in which intellectuals and university students alike advocated for political reform in China.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStinky Tofu: exactly what the name describes. Why so stinky? These slippery squares of mashed soybeans are fermented for days to months then fried or steamed served with chili sauce. Thankfully, this stand serves only mildly stinky tofu, so I was able to handle it. However, some stands that my friends visited served some very, very stinky batches. We all dared each other to give it a try in China, but it must be an acquired taste…

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