By Chip Becker and Sean O’Leary
Today we caught the 7:30AM high-speed rail bound for China’s glorious capital, Beijing. The train’s top speed is capped at around 300 km/h, which is roughly 186 m/h. Needless to say, we zipped through China’s countryside at a mesmerizing pace. It only took five and a half hours! Ultimately, we all seemed to have found a good balance between sleep and sightseeing in preparation for all the wild adventures to come in Beijing and Xi’an.
After lunch, we promptly made our way to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City smack dab in the heart of Beijing. It was hot out but that didn’t stop us from seeing what we came here to see. Indeed, the history of this location is rich and formidable. However, to some extent, it felt as if we helped make some more of its history just by being there today. Fight On!
Earlier this evening, we took a side-trip down to Beijing’s Bei Hai area to enjoy a rather interesting and energetic Kung Fu show. Giant, acrobatic pandas seemed to be a common theme throughout the performance and they managed to pull a few Michael Jackson moves near the end, which was truly icing on the cake. You don’t see a show like this every day!
You simply cannot come to Beijing without making a trip out to see the mighty Great Wall. As we climbed, the rain began to fall. But much like with the heat yesterday, the downpour did little to stop us from reaching our goal! We endured the weather, bonded with some of the locals along the way, and eventually reached the top. What a spectacular and rewarding view! All in all, it was an experience Global East Asia of 2014 will not soon forget.
After a long day, we sat down for dinner at a rather fancy Chinese restaurant. We were all soaking wet but this didn’t matter since we were far too excited for our lovely TA, Carlos, who turned 32 today. We sang, ate cake, and enjoyed a touching speech made by Carlos – indeed, a truly wonderful way to wrap up our time here in Beijing. Next stop: Xi’an!
On Saturday June 7th, we got up extra early to make our train from Beijing (北京) to Xi’an (西安.) Our local tour guide, Jesse, greeted us at the train station. He offered interesting insight into Xi’an’s history as an ancient capital of the Chinese empire. After a relaxing lunch, we drove to a place in Xi’an where people make terracotta figurines using the same techniques as were used to create the actual 2,000-year-old warriors we were about to see. Seeing the technology behind these statues and seeing miniature models whetted our appetite for the actual ancient site.
A quick bus ride shuttled us from the terracotta factory to the actual museum and site of the Terracotta Warriors. The sheer number of statues is both awe-inspiring and mind-boggling. The group was quickly divided as our independent-minded classmates journeyed to the exhibits and images they found most interesting. Everyone walked away feeling inspired and grateful to have enjoyed such an incredible experience.
After enjoying a delicious dumpling banquet we made our way back to our hotel. While some of the GEA team, exhausted from travel, went to bed early, a few bold students ventured to the Xi’an night market. There they experienced a lively scene, with multiple cultures selling food and souvenirs. The city wall was illuminated by powerful lights, creating a dramatic and impressive scene. Eventually everyone made their way back to the hotel before too late, as we had an early plane to catch the next day!