The Capital

Sean and I recently made a short trip to Beijing, taking an express train there and back. We hung out with some very cool people (though sadly JPhan had to leave the day we got there); checked out some parks and hutongs; hiked the Great Wall from Jinshanling (金山岭) to Simatai (司马台) complete with cable car, rope bridge, zipline, and boat ride; and had both disappointing duck and delicious 东北 food.

Some sights from the trip.

Friday:

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Entrance to Forbidden City by night

Saturday:

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We were very surprised that Bimbo bread made it all the way to China (and on a bicycle too!)

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Sean expresses our shared unhappiness about the continuing demolition of hutongs.

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Serious or ironic?

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Inside the Palace Museum

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Now we can all be emperors!

Sunday:

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Taking the cable car at Jinshanling up to the Wall

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Great Wall at Jinshanling (note the beautiful lack of crowds!)

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My two lovely fellow companions, Sean and Matt

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One of the 20-something towers we passed, this one a little worse for wear than the others

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STEEPNESS. (stepth?)

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Looking out the window of a tower.

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:)

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Nearing the end: looking down onto the rope bridge

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Hour-long wait for a table + hour-long wait for food during which a Happy Birthday remix played on repeat in the background + (200Y not-so-great duck + 8Y/person condiments + 60Y pot of tea) = worst Peking duck experience ever! But a hilarious bonding experience in hindsight, esp. as it was redeemed by dirt-cheap take-out dumplings.

Monday:

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There's no escaping Haibao.

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Don't these look potentially delicious? Like crepes...

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Guards galore at Tiantan (天坛), following the appearance of some Swiss minister who came to visit.

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Tiantan at dusk

There seem to be some very strong opinions about Beijing vs. Shanghai, at least among some of my friends, but I have to say that judging from the short time I’ve been in either city, there is no clear winner. At several points during the trip, strolling down Beijing’s generous streets and relaxing in one of its many pretty parks, I did think that maybe I could live there–until the intense pollution, cab drivers who knew less about the city’s geography than we did, and hints of a long and painful winter to come reminded me that the unyielding crowds, motorbike swarms, and tacky glitz of Shanghai are but mere inconveniences.

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