Pandas and Mao and Beijing, Oh My!
欢迎到中国来 I left for Beijing, China with 10 students and a colleague for the 20th Model United Nations hosted by the International School of Beijing. The trip to the airport can take up to 2 hours but today was Nypee, the Balinese New Year, and very few cars were on the road so we were at the airport in just over 30 minutes with plenty of time to spare before the red-eye flight to Beijing. Six and half hours later and we had landed in Beijing just as the sun was rising over the capital. Lily, our guide for the day, warmly greeted us. Having had very little sleep and brazing the cold but sunny day, our tour began. Our first stop was Tiananmen Square. Most notably in the Square is The Great Hall of the People and Chairman Mao’s mausoleum. Walking around, I recalled the bravery of a young college student who, in 1989, refused to get out of the way of a tank and stood up to the military might of the Chinese army for the sake of democracy!
The next stop on the tour was the Forbidden City. Architecturally, the Imperial Palace was stunning. The reds, golds and blues that painted the buildings were vibrant in the bright China sun. Pressing against the crowds, I was able to get a glimpse of the Throne room and the throne where the emperor conducted the business of the empire and tried to imagine the pomp and circumstance of Imperial days gone by. Intrigued by the story of the Last Emperor. I wondered about how the last days of his life played out as his reign came to an end and the revolution took hold and forever changed the history of China. We left the Palace through the Imperial Gardens where the emperor would stroll with his concubines amongst trees that are now between 300 and 500 hundred years old!
Tired and hungry, we headed off to lunch for some local cuisine before the one-hour and a half journey that it would take to get to the Great Wall of China. The current length of the wall is 8,851.8 km but we visited Badaling that is the most famous section of the wall. The climb was steep and the winds were cold but the journey was magical almost surreal. The stones along the pathway, worn down, marked the history of those who had traveled along the same way long ago. This was the highlight of the tour for me.
The tour ended here and after a full day of exploring Beijing and being up for almost 20 hours, I was ready for bed!