Bei-freaking-jing, babyyy!!! The highlight of my exchange experience, no not really. I’m not sure what the highlight is now. I’ve been blessed with so many experiences there. But still, when I left for Hong Kong, I could not wait to go to Beijing! Treasures in my heart. ❤
Juyongguan Great Wall, Beijing, China. November 18, 2011. I have been imagining myself walking on The Great Wall since I heard somewhere that it’s the only structure on Earth that can be seen from the moon. How awesome is that? To have something built in the old old days with no high tech machines, and ending up with something that massive and that resilient is something to marvel about, I think. That’s why inside the car (we had a car because our tour was awesome), I felt like Rapunzel waiting in the boat before the ‘floating lights’ appeared. Oo, cheesy ako. But, honestly, I was thinking what if it’s not as awesome as I’ve always imagined it to be? And with my imagination and excitement, it would be quite challenging to match. But as we drove nearer and nearer making the stone formations more visible, I was so in awe of everything that I saw. The thing is indeed looong and I couldn’t see the end of it (which should have been the case given the facts but still). My mind went blank for a while as I stared at the magnificent thing we were approaching.
I was extremely happy to see the place – but in a different way. I was happy that I was there and it looks exactly like what I’ve seen on the web and that I know I am standing on something historic. But I didn’t immediately feel the, um, “spirit” of the place as I expected (I can’t find a word to describe what I’m trying to say, so I settled with spirit. Haha.) The place was packed with people and for safety reasons, while climbing I was more concerned to look down on where I was stepping instead of looking around.The steps were not uniform, some were high, some narrow, some too wide. It was exhausting. I thought walking around Hong Kong would be enough training for it but I was wrong. I kept saying, just keep climbing til we reach this ‘tower’ but no matter how high I climbed up, it still looked very far. So, Kathleen and I gave up somewhere along the middle, found a peaceful spot and took our pictures. This was where I appreciated it the most. I was just standing near the wall and looked out. It had a great view. It wasn’t the best view in the world (I think) but what makes it great is that wherever you looked, you could still see the wall spiraling towards someplace we were too tired to reach.
So my dreams for that place didn’t exactly jive with what I actually experienced but it was perfectly okay. Maybe this is one of those place (for me) which is most appreciated by taking a step back. It was perfect just enjoying what I was standing on, leaning on, and the view of what I’ve walked on and what I didn’t get to walk on. I guess it emphasized even more that this awesome structure is massive; which I know everyone knows but it was something I wanted to see it to believe it – and, most importantly, to bask in the feeling of seeing it.
Trivia. Apparently the Great Wall cannot be seen on the moon and is just a common misconception (but still it’s awesome). The Juyyongguan section is the nearest part of the Great Wall to Beijing and is one of the three greatest passes of the Great Wall (kinabaloo.com). Some tours offer trips to the untouched sections of The Great Wall with less people and of course the original stones and all. I would have loved to go there but our tour did not permit us and we had limited time (that one’s much farther I heard and you had to hike to reach it). Next time, baby, next time.
Forbidden City, Beijing, China. November 18, 2011. We visited The Forbidden City the same day. At this point, I was already pretty tired going through all the places but was still pretty excited. This would be another check in my list, after all. I wasn’t excited for this as I was for The Great Wall though. I’ve always thought the temples looked a lot like other temples in China whenever I saw pictures of it. But the size of the place was again overwhelming and unexpected. I thought when we entered this main square, I was already looking at the whole of it. I was so wrong. Apparently, it went on and on through the temples I could see from that plaza. So maybe my surprise came because of my lack of information on the place but I guess this worked to my advantage. I enjoyed the Forbidden City, maybe even more than the Great Wall. This is so ironic since we only got to see a small part of it and we spent a lot less time here than in the great wall. I guess what got me was when our tour guide said that the floor has never been renovated. These were the exact same stones since it was built – which was in the 1400s!
That really fascinated me. After hearing that, I just stared at what I was walking on and imagined Chinese people walking on the exact same spots six centuries ago. Amazing. I think I fell in love with those stones more than anything that I saw in Beijing. The buildings in the Forbidden City were obviously repainted and all but those stones… so awesome. I sound strange now but doesn’t that give you goosebumps? It definitely gave me a lot. So again, life has surprised me by giving me the feeling I hoped for in the Great Wall, in the Forbidden City – and in its stones at that! Haha. Now, I’m even more convinced I should go back to the great wall just to see the un-restored part. I wonder, now, how that would feel.
Trivia. Forbidden City is called Forbidden City because no one was allowed to enter or leave the place without the emperor’s consent. It has 980 buildings and is the world’s largest surviving palace complex. Also, the layout of the complex as well as small details such as the roofs, are designed according to philosophical and religious principles. Interesting. (All from wikipedia, do not kill me.)
The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.