A different side of Beijing
This weekend offered a new light on the city of Beijing, as well as many new activities. For starters, this was a trip that was not arranged by Dahui or Nankai University, but rather some very capable girls in our group that must be given credit. The trip was completely different than the one provided by the tour group. Despite seeing some of the same sights (Tiananmen Square) we had a completely different experience. It started with a luxurious train ride from Tianjin to Beijing. We sat in the first class area and traveled the hour + journey comfortably. Only in China can you get upgraded from the peasant class to the elite for a mere $.75. We were very overwhelmed with the entire train process as the langauge barrier and cultural differences would have left us in awe. Fortunately we had Rena! She basically walked us to our seats and made sure we were off. Next stop: Beijing.
The train station was very nice in Beijing. It, like all others buildings in Beijing, is under remodeling for the Olympics. We were immediately lost after stepping foot outside the station. This came after we purchased our return tickets on the next day's train. This was a process that required a lot of hand gestures.
Since we were all starving, we ate at McDonald's. This is not much different than anywhere else. After eating we were suckered into the most expensive bike ride of my life. It was a very fun half mile ride, but they tooks us foreigners for the real "ride." We made our way to Tiananmen square in hopes to see General Mao's mausoleum. It was closed for the day. We had just missed it.
As a group of 11, we tried to navigate ourselves to the Beijing Zoo to see the Panda Bears. After a failed attempt at getting a cab we opted for the subway. It was a lot easier than we had thought. This was after we initially got on the wrong train. We made it within walking distance to the zoo and had a wonderful visit there. We saw the pandas, elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, jagauars, etc. It was definately very interesting.
After the zoo the group split up. Seven of us made our way to the luxurious Peking International University Hostel. It was very nice. The price was great and the accomodations could not have been better. The only thing I would have changed was Wes' snoring. But I cannot complain because he would say the same to me. At this point we were with our true "tour guide." Tian helped us out so much and showed us a great time. He is very proud of his city and wanted us to really experience it. He took us to a park with a lake for dinner. A bar area with a lake that offered roof-top bars. He later directed us to other bars near the hostel that we could check out.
Finally, Tian took the three guys around all day on Sunday. We went to Mao's mausoleum, to lunch, to find an ATM, to an arcade, and then to a market where we bartered for everything. Pretty successfully I must add. He then brought us back to the train station and saw the whole group off. What a great trip, and so many additional things to see that we may have missed out on. Thanks to all those involved in the planning.