I have to confess that Chinese history always put me to sleep my senior year of college. My professor, who happened to be my advisor, constructed lectures that doubled as lullabies. Almost every Tuesday and Thursday at 1:15, I could be found on the second floor of Jackson Hall sound asleep as a Chinese man went on about his country’s past. I think subconciously I majored in history to impress girls with my vast knowledge of the subject. Unfortunately, I did not impress Lindsay as she drilled me with lots of questions this week about China I couldn’t answer. Had I discovered the power of coffee then, I think my life would have turned out differently. Not only that but I am sure I would have been some kind of History Hero to Lindsay (and those within earshot) had I been able to tell her a more detailed account about Mao Zedong’s rise to power.
Though I could not recall much about that history course, it did little to detract from our trip to China. The week was absolutely amazing. We spent a bulk of our time touring Beijing(it means “northern capital”). Even though Beijing is China’s equivalent to most countries’ big cities, it was filled with lots of interesting small streets to explore and it was also only about an hour and a half from close parts of the Great Wall.
We took in all the major sites such as the Wall, the Zoo, the Olympic Stadium, the Summer Palace, Yong He Gong (a Tibetan Buddhist temple), Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. And thanks to a friend and his girlfriend(a Beijing local) we were able to see parts of the city not necessarily in the guidebooks. Ian and Maggie graciously put us up for a few nights and took us to some excellent Beijing restaurants. We got to try the Beijing roasted duck and a Muslim restaurant run by a family from a minority group of China. These folks come from Western China and are not exactly favorites of some Eastern Chinese. They look very Middle Eastern, speak a different language and make some awesome food. It tasted like a mix between traditional Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern food. Amazing. Lots of the Chinese dishes were very good. Far sweeter and a more oily than Korean food, sometimes making it feel heavy on our Korean stomachs.
China was a great country to tour. We were never hassled by government officials or any Chinese. The only time I felt uncomfortable was at the Silk Market where vendors literally grabbed you and tried to sell you something “for friend price.” And despite being there during bone chilling cold and a very busy travel season(the Lunar New Year had many Chinese going home) our time in Beijing was perfect. Our only regret? Not making it to see Mao’s frozen body in Tiananmen Square. No matter what we did, we just couldn’t make it. I can only assume that the government knew about me disrespecting their history ten years ago, and they did their best keeping us from viewing the Chairman.