The Capital

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June 9th 2010
Published: June 11th 2010
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The grand capital of China, through countless dynasties and seemingly infinite history, the city known as Beijing. I stayed at Leo Hostel, the overly comfortable stay in just 800m from Tian'amen square. Movies played constantly on a large TV in the common room, the food was really good, and interesting characters were abound. Saul was a fifty something American orphan, and fed up with the states and having no family, moved to China to try to change the system and educate the masses. He told me quite a few stories regarding life lessons and various adventures in China. He also had an affinity for illegal substances. Dale, also American, just graduated and came for a short stint in Asia. He kind of reminded me of Jack Black and was fun to hang out with.

Alright on to the sites, of which there are loads here in Beijing. Firstly there was the nearby Tian'amen square, made infamous for the 1989 student massacre. Of course you won't find anything commemorating those events, and in fact you can't even search for the event online as they're all censored, which begs the question, do Chinese really know the actual happenings of the tragedy? It turns out that no, they don't.

Next was the Forbidden City, right across the street from the square. It was built around the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty and was off limits to the public for over 500 years. The emperor only allowed his highest and most trusted officials to lay eyes on the inside, along with his numerous concubines, who were hand picked across the vast distances of China. A few hours were spent checking out the main buildings and temples, and it really was big. I then moved up to a place called Prospect Hill (at least in English), giving me a great view of the Forbidden City and some of the rest of Beijing. I walked some more of the city and checked out some hutongs. A hutong is a cramped alley neighborhood. You can easily get lost and spend hours within, really seeing locals going about their lives. The evening was spent with different movies, drink and an unlikely game of scrabble with Saul, Dale and some others.

I went with Dale and a few British lads to the Summer Palace the following day. We took the metro up, and even with this transport it still took an hour to reach it, changing at various lines. That just goes to show the size of this city's metro system. With similar building architecture to the Forbidden City, it was nothing we hadn't seen before. All I know is that the fake student ID I picked up in Bangkok is saving me loads here in China. The Summer Palace had a decent lake in the middle, and we rented a pedalo to explore it. We charged at other pedalos with war cries and had a blast messing with them, all we were missing were some mock swords and a pirate flag. We had the foresight to bring some beer with us, and had them in the middle of the lake and then headed back until our pedalo's chain came off, and we then spent some time trying to repair it.

After the palace we went to the financial district of Beijing where there was silk market, not only selling silk but many things. I detest places where the vendors try to cling to you if you simply glance their way and this place fit the bill perfectly. Many calls of "Handsome, sexy need T shirt?" I got so annoyed I eventually yelled out "We are not walking dollar signs!" That evening we were going to go out but instead played poker. It was only a twenty yuan buy in, and although I was doing well, I always got beaten by the most unlikely of hands.

We were in Tianjin the next day for the carrier party, but the following day, since I wasn't really hung over, I visited the Temple Of Heaven. It had an elegant park, as well as the obvious temple space. In the evening I went to Banana Bar with some other hostel folk. Like in other clubs, Chinese were keen on giving us drinks, a great way to save some cash. After some dancing, they lowered a cage with a hot Chinese chick who practically stripped naked. You can see that China is changing in many ways.

Beijing was really fun place to visit but after a week here I need to kick my ass into gear and get moving. The hostel was awesome too although when you start walking around in your boxers it's a damn good indication that you've gotten too comfortable.

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