After we made it back to Beijing, feeling a lot better, Lisa started her sightseeing tour to discover Beijing. As she was here for about 2 more weeks, I could not take the whole time off. So during the week, Lisa went out to explore Beijing and I worked. Poor me!!! But we had an amazing time and quite a few things happened that we will still talk about in 20 years, I am sure.
As usual, we took some great pictures, so check out the Discover Beijing Gallery below!
The first incident happened the day after our arrival. Lisa and I were sitting in a cab, ready to discover Beijing. We were waiting at a traffic light and what does our lovely cab driver do? He rolled down the window and spat outside. Luckily, the car next to us had its windows up, because the green, slimy spit of our beloved cab driver ran down the window, leaving an icky trace. The funniest thing about this incident was, however, that I did not even think this was funny! Lisa cracked up laughing, but for me, this stuff has become so normal, that I did not even notice! I guess it’s good I am leaving soon, or I might get into trouble when I spit on people’s windows in San Diego!
Beijing Opera – Private Performance
Another experience of a lifetime: Lisa and I, the culturally interested people that we are, wanted to see the Beijing Opera. I had asked my colleagues where to go to see the Beijing Opera and they recommended the Chaoyang Theater, the same place where the Acrobatics show is. So Lisa and I meet up at the Chaoyang Theater after work and bought tickets for the show. Interestingly, the admission fee included a snack pack, so we were already kind of curious going in. When I went to see the Sichuan Opera in Chengdu, they offered us peanuts and tea, so I thought here it would be something similar.
You have to know, the Chaoyang Theater is a large Theater, seating about 500 people in their main show room, where the Acrobatics show takes place. So Lisa and I were quite a bit surprised when we were led to a small room with an even smaller stage and told to sit down.
We were the only ones there, except for some elderly Chinese in the first row, so we thought the show had been postponed… not too uncommon in China. So we chit chatted until all of a sudden, the lights dimmed and the Chinese people in the first row pulled out their instruments and started playing. WE WERE ALL ALONE! Lisa and I looked at each other in disbelieve. There were at least 30 people involved in the show, including the Chinese orchestra, which did not have an orchestra pit and was sitting in the front row. I am not sure, whether they gave us a short version of their regular show, but the show lasted more than 1 hour. It was simply amazing. Oh yes, half way through the show, they brought us our snack pack! It was a plastic bag with two bottles of Iced tea, and two cookies. The lady that brought it to us must have run to the store to get this for us. It was a hilarious night!
Discover Beijing – Great Wall of China
Another highlight of our Discover Beijing adventure was our trip to the Great Wall and the Ice Festival. Actually, Lisa and I had planned to go to Harbin to the Ice festival for the weekend. However, this did not quite work out as planned. Let me just put it that way! It was yet another typical and frustrating encounter with the Chinese culture. I had asked my colleagues weeks before whether it was a problem to take the train to Harbin for the weekend and they said it was no problem. Well, about 3 days before I flew to Shanghai to meet up with Lisa, I found out that going by train would not be possible. Interestingly, in China you cannot purchase round trip tickets for your train journey, but you have to buy your return ticket in the city that you are leaving from. Well, and as it was not sure, whether there would be any tickets available for us to go back on Sunday, airfare was too expensive and we did not have time to organize anything on such short notice, we canceled the trip.
Luckily, my Chinese teacher told me that there is a smaller Ice festival in Longqing, close to the Great Wall! So we decided to go there. My awesome boss even had his personal driver take us there! So on Saturday morning, we were picked up and first went to the Great Wall at Badaling! It was amazing! It had always been Lisa’s dream to stand on the Great Wall of China and when she had a great time! We took some amazing pictures and even I loved it! The sky was blue, I was not sick like the last time I had been there and we made a smart decision: Instead of walking up the top, we took the gondola sky ride to the top and walked down! Ha!
If you want to read more about the Great Wall of China and see some beautiful pictures of this ancient monument, check out the post from my fellow travel blogger Laura over at Savored Journeys.
UPDATE: I just recently found out that you now can camp on the Great Wall of China. How cool is that? Next time I am in Beijing, this is definitely on my travel bucket list for the trip!
Ice Festival in Longqing Gorge
After that, we drove towards the little village of Longqing Gorge, where the Ice festival takes place. The area is also referred to as the “Little Three Gorges” and known as the winter sport destination of Beijing. We wanted to see the Ice festival after dark, as they light up the ice sculptures, so we went for a yummy lunch with our driver. It was quite funny, as our driver did not speak a single word of English and my Chinese, well hm, lets not talk about it, ok? Luckily I brought my Chinese phrase book, so for example, when we told him a meeting time, we just showed him page 11 and then page 15 and he got it that we will meet up at 11.15! Smart hm?
After lunch, we went to a small ski resort and all Lisa wanted to do was get a board and slide down the slopes. They even had a little cottage, just like in the Alps and we warmed up with some nice hot chocolate. When it was getting close to dawn, we headed over to the Ice festival and it was simply amazing! The sculptures were breathtaking and at night, they illuminated them so they glittered in different colors. They had a huge St. Peter’s place, the city hall of Moscow and other famous sights. Of course, the 2008 Olympics were another popular theme! The Ice festival topped off a truly great day!
Shortly after, Lisa flew back to Spain and I had only one week left in China.
Want to read what after our Discover Beijing adventure?