Self Expression Magazine

Memories of Beijing

Posted on the 01 October 2013 by Kcsaling009 @kcsaling

Travel-tuesday-beijing

I’ve been culling through my old portable hard drives in an effort to see which ones I need to keep and which ones can be sent to the parts box in the sky, and it’s been taking me forever – not because it’s hard work, but because I’ve uncovered a treasure trove of old photos from old adventures. I finally came across the original digital version of one of my very favorite travel photos, one that sits on my desk in a place of honor:

Sisters on the Great Wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

Sisters on the Great Wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

My sister and I traveled to Beijing, China, shortly before the 2008 Olympic Games were held there. Karen was presenting at a conference, and I had just completed a grueling 28 months of company command {to give you some perspective, company command tours in Hawaii last 18-20 months, and I hadn’t just done company command – I had several other additional duties on top of that}. It was the perfect excuse for a sister getaway!

It was also the first chance for us to travel - really travel – together since we’d left the house for college. Before then, we’d traveled internationally on several occasions with our parents, and we’d been a couple places individually, but we hadn’t been able to travel together. It was a great chance for us to not only see some wonderful things, but to reconnect as sisters and connect for the first time as grown-ups, and to become friends all over again. That more than anything is the memory I treasure from this trip.

I attended some of the conference events with Karen, but my job during this particular conference was to arrange all the outside-of-conference tourist activities. I might have gone a little bit over the top, because we went everywhere.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, the seat of the Emperor of China, lies right smack in the middle of Beijing. I still don’t think Karen has forgiven me for my idea to walk there all the way from the International District, but we did it. We explored the beautiful architecture several times during our stay in Beijing, sometimes under blue skies and sometimes under the gray cloud of mixed pollution and dust from the Gobi Desert.

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Forbidden City (c) KC Saling, 2008

Still learning to shutterbug (c) KC Saling, 2008

Still learning to shutterbug (c) KC Saling, 2008

Jiangjin Park

The nearby park, once part of the Emperor’s private gardens, was full of people of all ages walking about, playing, practicing tai-chi or water calligraphy, or playing kick-back with weighted birdies. An older gentlemen invited us to play with his group and I took him up on it. I still have the feathered birdie he gave me after the game, and I still play now and then with my husband. It’s a heck of a workout!

Jiangjin Park (c) KC Saling, 2008

Jiangjin Park (c) KC Saling, 2008

Water calligraphy (c) KC Saling, 2008

Water calligraphy (c) KC Saling, 2008

Playing kick-back in Jiangjin Park (c) KC Saling, 2008

Playing kick-back in Jiangjin Park (c) KC Saling, 2008

The Summer Palace

We visited the Queen’s Summer Palace on the north-west side of Beijing – and in the process discovered how easy the taxi service is to use, and how much easier the taxi ride is to take if we cover our eyes. The Summer Palace was absolutely beautiful, and we spent almost a full day taking in the sights and exploring the nearby zoo.

Summer Palace (c) KC Saling, 2008

Summer Palace (c) KC Saling, 2008

Summer Palace (c) KC Saling, 2008

Summer Palace (c) KC Saling, 2008

Historic Sites

It was amazing to me to visit historic Tiananmen Square. Everything was unprecedentedly open to the public during the preparation for the Olympic Games, although we did see signs of monitoring. We did our best to behave ourselves, because who would want to miss the opportunity to see this? We also managed to visit many of the Olympic sites under construction and tour Beijing’s ancient city wall, which still stands around the perimeter of the old city.

Tiananmen Square (c) KC Saling, 2008

Tiananmen Square (c) KC Saling, 2008

Olympic Fever (c) KC Saling, 2008

Olympic Fever (c) KC Saling, 2008

City wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

City wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is one of the most beautiful structures I’ve ever seen in person. From the polished blue tile to the intricate details, it was absolutely amazing, especially considering that it was built in the 1400s!

Temple of Heaven (c) KC Saling, 2008

Temple of Heaven (c) KC Saling, 2008

Temple of Heaven (c) KC Saling, 2008

Temple of Heaven (c) KC Saling, 2008

Dining

Karen and I are both big time foodies, as you’ve probably figured out if you’ve spent any time on our blogs, so we loved having a chance to tour the food of Beijing. One thing we definitely wanted to do was to try the city’s classic meal, Peking Duck. Eating Peking Duck in Peking? Sign us up!

We also discovered that Pizza Hut is offered up as a gourmet experience with a much different {and tastier} menu than you can find in the States, that there is no such thing as a single course meal in traditional Chinese dining, that there are a huge variety of both local and international restaurants available that are all extraordinary, and that the tea is fabulous and keeps flowing wherever you go. And the Peking Duck definitely deserves its fame. We stopped at a little restaurant recommended to us by the local staff at our hotel and were not disappointed!

Pizza Hut is a gourmet experience in Beijing (c) KC Saling, 2008

Pizza Hut is a gourmet experience in Beijing (c) KC Saling, 2008

Downtown Beijing (c) KC Saling, 2008

Downtown Beijing (c) KC Saling, 2008

Vietnamese cuisine in China (c) KC Saling, 2008

Vietnamese cuisine in China (c) KC Saling, 2008

Fine dining (c) KC Saling, 2008

Fine dining (c) KC Saling, 2008

Peking Duck in Peking/Beijing (c) KC Saling, 2008

Peking Duck in Peking/Beijing (c) KC Saling, 2008

Peking Duck (c) KC Saling, 2008

Peking Duck (c) KC Saling, 2008

The Great Wall

One does not simply come to Beijing without seeing the Great Wall. The only manmade structure visible from space, the Great Wall is definitely worth a look. Or a hike. In our case, we decided not only to see it, but to hike up as far as we could. The view – and the experience – was worth it!

Great Wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

Great Wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

On top of the Wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

On top of the Wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

Sisters on the Great Wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

Sisters on the Great Wall (c) KC Saling, 2008

This, by far, was my favorite accomplishment. Not because it was physically difficult – which it was. The steps were no joke. This particular section climbed high into the hills, with thirty steps or more between each tower. And there were seven towers. We climbed them all.

But it was especially meaningful because when we first got there, Karen had looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested we hike all the way to the top. We both knew it was going to be hard, but I told her, “Seriously, do you want to say you came all the way to the Great Wall of China and didn’t hike all the way to the top? Don’t you want the full experience?” She grudgingly agreed to come along with me, and stepped right through it all like a champ. And when we got to the top, she looked at me and said, “You’re right. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this.”

It was the first big trip we’d taken together since we’d both left the house for college, and the first huge international trip we’d taken together without the rest of the family. And it was then that we really started to bond, not only as sisters, but as best friends. We’d been close growing up, because we’d had to lean on each other a lot during hard times, but there’s nothing like knowing you can lean on each other and experience wonderful things together as adults. I’m grateful beyond measure to have my wonderful sisters in my life, and grateful that we have shared experiences like this to remember.

What trip or trips count among your favorites and why? I’d love to hear your stories!

KCS

 

A Compass Rose

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