What is the first thing that comes to your mind, when you think of China? For me, it was the Great Wall of China. And yes, the Great Wall is as impressive as you can ever imagine, but there is way much more to Beijing’s charm. There are countless beautiful spots in and around the area and due to a manageable class schedule, there is plenty of time exploring the city.
Places like the Forbidden City, the Tiān’ānmén Square, various temples and of course a trip to the Great Wall are mandatory, when visiting Beijing. But who can say about themselves, that they have camped on top of it?
That is exactly what my friends and I did though, and I would definitely recommend it to every adventurous traveler, visiting anytime except in winter, as it gets very cold at night. As we hiked through the woods and climbed over a propped-up ladder to get onto the wall, we could spend our time on an abandoned part, that has only recently been restored and therefore doesn’t attract that many people. In fact, the group we’ve went on this trip with was the only one up there. While the major part of the group was getting drunk on Baijiu during the night (one alcohol I would never ever recommend anyone from trying), we hiked a little further down, lay on the ground, put on some music and just enjoyed the night sky. A truly mesmerizing experience!
One of my funniest experiences here so far was at the Temple of Heaven. Located in midst a beautifully arranged park sits another major sight of the city: the impressive Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest; a huge circular temple that previous emperors came to for divine guidance. But it is not only the colors and the well-designed architecture that made the temple a special experience for me. Of course, I have heard from multiple people before, that Asians love tall Europeans, but during one of the first weeks in Beijing I was definitely not expecting this: Already at the ticket booth there were people not only greeting and waving, but even taking pictures of us. Just after my friends and I have reached the actual Temple, we passed a Chinese tourist group, with about 15 Chinese people, following the typical tour guide flag and carrying ginormous cameras. After one of the ladies had taken a selfie with us, all of a sudden, they all became super excited and wanted to take pictures. They basically dragged us from one to the next picture until everybody was happy.
During all this time the ladies kept talking to us in Chinese and started laughing every time we tried to tell them in English, that we did not understand. But no. Chinese people generally do not speak or understand English. They usually start talking to you in Chinese, you look at them in misunderstanding, then they start their monologue again; this time just a little slower and louder. A really helpful phrase at that point might be “听不懂“ (tīngbudǒng), which means as much as I can hear you talking, but I have no clue what you are saying!
I am always wondering, what they might be doing with those pictures! Are they going to show them to their families? Are they framing them? Who knows, or how we say it here in China, “我不知道”(I don’t know.).
And as of partying: Beijing has a whole district with clubs, bars and lounges, called Sanlitun, or like the taxi drivers tend to say “Ahhh, Sanliturrrr”, when you tell them where to go. There are clubs for every musical taste and for the ones that don’t like dancing and prefer having a relaxed night with a few beers or cocktails there are plenty of options as well. And the best thing about it, once you know a promoter, you and your friends can get into the club for free and most of the time do not even have to pay for the alcohol. Sanlitun gave everybody one of the best evenings/nights here so far. And to end the night, the whole group usually goes to get some jiǎozi or bāozi. Right next to the university are two restaurants that sell those dumplings and steamed buns. One of them opens at one in the morning, the other one at 3AM, because they just rent the restaurant in between the opening times. Only in China, I know! And trust me, those are the best foods to prevent a hangover you can imagine!
I hope you have gotten a vague overview about how crazy China can be! I have come across so many abstruse, yet funny, situations during my stay here, that I will thankfully think back to forever. Yes, China is completely different to Germany in so many ways and it was a little hard to adapt to in the beginning. Nevertheless, I am very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to come here and have had a wonderful time here so far.