27 September 2010. Beijing.
Just a month after my Singapore adventure in August 2010, I once again packed my things for an eight-day China trip from the 27th of September to the 4th of October. Dora, my backpack, was abused due to the packing and repacking of clothes. I was backpacking China, and the stuffs I would be bringing with me would determine the outcome of my trip. This was my first time to go international backpacking for more than three days. No, wait…this was my first time to go international backpacking, period. I was therefore at a loss so I flooded Google with ‘how to pack light for an eight-day trip’. In the end, I just threw caution to the winds and went with my instinct. My China trip must not be dictated by the clothes I would be wearing.
Funny thing, I was informed that Beijing’s weather in October was just like Baguio’s. I can definitely handle Baguio weather, I thought to myself, so I packed accordingly. When I arrived in Beijing, however, at around midnight of the 27th of September, it was cold…icy cold. My cousin and I looked at each other and we laughed. It looked like we would be wearing a week’s worth of clothing for just one day.
From the airport, we took the cab to Leo Hostel, strategically located in the middle of old and new Beijing. On one side is the high-end shopping district, on the other is the hutong. It took us about two room changes before we finally settled in, and we snoozed the rest of the morning. I could not sleep; Beijing was calling.
Breakfast was the first order of the day, and we found an eatery just a few meters from the hostel. Luckily for us, my cousin’s friend, Jen, is fluent in Mandarin. She ordered for us and we chowed on wanton and dimsum. As soon as we finished breakfast, we headed back to the hostel to book our Xi’an and Guangzhou transport. It was difficult to book our trip because we decided to visit China on its national holiday. We were competing with local tourists who were on holiday and who probably wanted to explore their country too. Initially, we wanted to backpack as many Chinese towns as we could in eight days. Given this development, however, we settled for Beijing, Xi’an and Guangzhou. The end result therefore was a 12-hour train ride to Xi’an, and a plane ride from Xi’an to Guangzhou. The hostel arranged everything for us, including haggling for discounts. We likewise booked our Secret Great Wall Tour for the next day, and I thought I’d sample a Chinese opera the evening after.
Everything settled, we hit the streets of Beijing. I took everything in, Chinese people and Chinese sights. Stores line the streets which were crowded with locals and foreigners. Across the shopping district was the Tiananmen Square, where we spent the rest of the afternoon. Tiananmen Square, according to my limited readings, is said to be the largest city square in the world. It not only has a great cultural significance, it is also the site of several important events in Chinese history. I know Tiananmen Square because of the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy nationals who held their protests in the square.
Images of the streets of Beijing: