It was hot and humid when I stepped outside the airport, but the excitement of exploring the ancient city of Beijing drowned out the heat like a cool summer rain.
My friends, Zach and Alisha were there to meet me and thus began my adventure. My friends educated me with the Chinese greeting, “nÇ ä½ hÇŽo å¥½” which means “Hello” and is pronounced, “Knee How.” I immediately felt at ease and enjoyed greeting those I passed.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
We caught the underground subway to their apartment; which was an experience in itself. The government, to minimize the road travelers, subsidizes the subway system in China; which makes it an affordable mode of transportation and extremely crowded! However, it is a convenient way to get around a very large and heavily populated city. Upon entering Zach and Alisha’s home, I learned that the Chinese people remove their shoes when entering someone’s home. Travel Tip #1: Learn some of the language and traditions – It will allow you to show honor and respect to the local people.
We walked to a local restaurant and enjoyed a traditional Chinese dinner of sweet and sour pork, rice, egg drop soup, and duck. This was the first time I had ever tasted duck and it was delicious. However, this was tame compared to the other food I tasted later on in the trip – ostrich, donkey, snake, and, the strangest thing I have ever put in my mouth and chewed up, fried scorpion! Travel Tip #2: Taste the local cuisine – Don’t be intimidated to try something unusual or different.
After a good night’s rest, we set out for The Great Wall of China. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about this phenomenon, but I was excited to experience an important part of China’s history. A chair lift took us to the top of the mountain and we walked on the wall for miles. There were brick guard houses that provided cool relief. I was fascinated by the structure and came home to educate myself on why and how it was built. I learned it was originally built to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups. And, the entire Great Wall, with all its branches, stretches for 5,500 miles. That’s incomprehensible!
We left the wall and went to Tiananmen Square – the second largest city square in the world. It has great cultural significance, as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history. Across the street was the Forbidden City – the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty – which now houses the Palace Museum. Travel Tip #3: Educate yourself on the history – Come away with something you didn’t know before your visit.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, was the shopping. Everywhere we turned, markets were packed with clothing, shoes, and accessories. The best part was that I, the shopper, was expected to bargain with the sales people! I talked the sales clerk down from $30 to $15 for a pair of Nike tennis shoes — I thought I had gone to Shopper’s Heaven! Then, I discovered an hour massage and a pedicure for only $9; I was so excited, I could hardly breathe! If only we had this in the U.S.!
I highly recommend a visit to Beijing. There is a lot to see and do and the Chinese people are very friendly and helpful. As they say in Beijing, “dÄi å¾… huì ä¼š ér å„¿ jiàn è§”or, “See you later!”
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