“It was a sultry day in Beijing… 29 students are not quite as exhausted as they were the day before. Having tasted the smog, I mean, the wiles of the vendors at the silk market, they are somewhat dejected at the realization that their bargaining skills are not entirely what they imagined. Time for something different – Forbidden City, here we come! Apparently, blonde people make friends quickly. At least four of us had photo ops with a minimum of five locals. The rest of us looked on with jealousy in our eyes or maybe we were searching for the nearest bathroom. Seriously! Last nights dinner didn’t sit well with… well, most of us. Thank goodness Jayne recommended to bring Kleenex and hand sanitizer. But that’s Beijing! Correction: that’s foreigners in Beijing! The Forbidden City was unbelievably amazing. The yellow roofs represented the earth because the emperor owned the earth, and 9999 ½ rooms in all of the Forbidden City because… follow Lisa. Oh, sorry, that’s our limited understanding of our tour guide. Don’t get us wrong; we love her. She has made sure we always know where the bathrooms are. But in all seriousness, the Forbidden City was breathtaking. The intricate paintwork, the craftsmanship and the cultural heritage, you’ll have to go on next year’s tour to believe us.
Where next? Nothing less than the Great Wall itself! Yes, the dream of our childhood, the vision of generations. The section we visited was built 600 years ago. It was surreal to be standing upon one of the only manmade structures visible from space (the Oilsands and the Luxor in Vegas are some others). It definitely took a bit out of us physically though; we had to crawl on our hands and feet to ascend the stairs of the ancient structure. Nevertheless, the beer at the top tasted good. A long bus ride back to town (i.e. Beijing) found most of us asleep when we rolled into the bar district of Ho Hai. We woke up quickly however; the excitement of the place was palpable. Flashy lights, cool waters; Ho Hai is a bar district that surrounds a small lake in the heart of Beijing. There were crowds of people milling about. Friends enjoying a night out on the town, lovers arm in arm and 29 students from Alberta. It can all be found in Ho Hai. A quick stroll around the lake revealed bar after bar of live music; one such bar even got its inspiration from the French cartoon Tin Tin. The Lotus Blue was alive with an eclectic mix of heavy house music and Western pop. The sleeping man on the first floor did not dissuade us. We settled into a rooftop hideaway and enjoyed the flavors of beer, whiskey and cigars while discussing… well, everything.
Eventually, we had to make our way back to the hotel. After fending off all the cabbies that didn’t actually own a cab, we managed to enter into an arrangement with two local drivers that had “Taxi” clearly marked on the roof of their vehicles. After giving them our hotel’s business card, our cabbie was confident in our safe passage. Nevertheless, five minutes into the drive the dear driver was confused as to which way to go. A number of u-turns later and we were still not sure if we were going in the right direction. Nothing looks familiar; our cabbie has never heard of English. We are in good hands however, and we manage to make it back to the hotel unscathed…. for the most part…Day three, here we come!”
This blog post was submitted to me by Justin Darsi