Monday, May 21, 2012

Of Beijing and dealing with Jetlag;

I set off for China with my big backpack crammed full of a few changes of clothes, power adapters/chargers, a potpourri of just-in-case medicines, and one large University of Washington Marching Band uniform. I guess I'm not the most efficient packer, but I was mainly happy that I didn't have to deal with hauling my heavy tenor sax around China with me. My flight was direct to Beijing from Seattle so all I had to deal with was a 12 hour flight and time zone change of 15 hours.
As we flew over Alaska I was able to get some good views of the Eastern Aleutian Mountain Range from my window.
I arrived to a wet and rainy Beijing evening. It was easy getting from the airport to the correct subway stop to find my hostel, but after I getting back up to street level I was completely lost. Since it was dark and cloudy I couldn't figure out which direction was north. All I could do was show people the Chinese characters for the address of my hostel and go the direction they pointed me in. I also discovered how hard it can be to cross the street in China. Cars don't really stop for pedestrians in China so you have to plan out how you'll get across there street. Sometimes you can make it across quickly, but other times you'll end up standing in the middle of the road with cars buzzing by on either side of you.

Eventually I found my way to the SanLiTun Youth Hostel and got myself checked in. By this point it was about 8:00 PM and I was dead tired from my long flight and the 15 hour jump of timezones. I went down to the hostel's common room/bar to get a beer and chat with the other travelers. A got a bunch of suggestions of which places are worth seeing in Beijing, but it wasn't long before my eyes were slowly closing due to my lack of sleep and jetlag.

I'm not sure how big of a problem firecrackers are, but I saw a lot of these signs in China.

I woke up the next morning wide awake at 5:30 AM and could not get back to sleep. I got up and prepared my little daypack with maps, cameras, and my Lonely Planet China guide before heading out to see the city. It was still early, but since the rain from the previous day took down all of the smog, it was clear and sunny out.

Breakfast street food! It is a crispy fried pancake with and egg cracked and fried on it. With a sauce, meat, and lettuce inside. It was really good.
From my hostel I started walking south and got to Ritan Park also known as the Altar of the Sun. It was first built in 1530 as a altar for the emperor to make sacrifices to the sun. Most of the park was built up in the 1980s since the Ming Dynasty building were destroyed in the 20th century, but there are still several ancient cypress trees dating back several hundred years. The park is no longer used for animal sacrifice, but when I went through, it was packed with old people doing tai chi, singing, or preforming group dances for their morning exercises.

The Ritan Park gate

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