In the midst of midterms and presentations, I’ve managed to plan three consecutive weekend trips this month to Wuxi, Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain), and Beijing. Wuxi is located in Jiangsu, a province right next to Shanghai, and the trip there only took a couple hours. I went along with an (underground church that only can meet in large groups >30 through big trips like these to avoid government persecution) a group of Christians in Shanghai for their annual fall trip/retreat. About 150 people went on the trip, and I got to meet new friends, including students from Florida and Hawaii studying abroad in Fudan University, and reunite with an old acquaintance from Georgetown. Wuxi is famous for its Lake Tai, as well as its Three Kingdoms City, a filming set for a popular TV series called Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
I traveled to Huang Shan with a group of nine Stern study aways. We took an overnight train there and back, and spent two days hiking the mountain. This was probably one of the most physically demanding trips I’ve been to, but also one of the most rewarding. Despite taking the cable car (which saved us hours of hiking up), I still struggled with climbing 20,000 steps of stairs. The scenic view definitely boosted our energy during the hike up. We arrived at our hostel an hour before sunset, and half of us decided to go back to the observatory to watch it (once in a lifetime, right?). By that time, we were all exhausted, and I couldn’t feel my legs after our trek back up. We made it to the sunset just in time.
Huangshan is really something else. No regrets.
My uncle told me, “Go to Huangshan for the scenery, but go to Beijing for its history.” While I felt like a weekend in Huangshan was enough, I really wish I had at least a week in Beijing. I traveled to Beijing alone and met some of my relatives for the first time. I spent a day hiking the Great Wall (of people) with my uncle, and while it’s not nearly as difficult as climbing Huang Shan, it gets harder the farther you go. For the first hour or so, the Great Wall is packed with tourists, even on a regular weekend. But the farther you go, the steeper the steps are, and you find yourself (almost) alone in the midst of the grandeur of the Great Wall. It’s hard to believe that something as grand as the Great Wall was built by men (although most likely unwillingly under the iron fist of an emperor).
Since hiking the Great Wall took a full day, I tried cramming a bunch of destinations the following day. I visited the iconic CCTV building, Tiananmen Square, the National Museum of China, and Silk Street. The events surrounding these places had a direct impact on my family, so visiting these places had a profound impact on me. To some, Gugong might just be another palace, and Tiananmen is just another square, but knowing the history of these places makes all the difference.
This morning, unwilling to leave Beijing, I decided to go out once last time to QianMen with my cousin (lugging my luggage around and all). The atmosphere is so lively there; you have people selling tang-hu-lu (a popular Beijing snack), pulling rickshaws, and eating your famous peking duck.
I nearly missed my train to eat this.