I arrived in China on 26/10/14 and I’m now 2 1/2 months into my first English teaching contract here. It was harder than I expected to settle into the new life or even get used to just being here. This is my first post from China and this photo was my first view of the country in daylight. I arrived late on a Saturday night, into Beijing International Airport. That place was massive! It was so immense and cavernous that I felt like I had stepped into a sci-fi movie . Ultra modernism blended with classic ambience, the huge space was filled with a slight haze that must have leaked in from outside. The taxi slid through a dark, damp opacity to The Emperor, my hotel in Beijing’s Dongcheng Central. It was late. I was tired. Check-in was a little slow. But The Emperor couldn’t have been better. Stepping into the foyer was like walking into an intimate art gallery – very modern, sharp lines, lots of stone and glass, artworks and stylish minimalist furnishings. My room was on the ground floor (first floor here) so no stairs to take my suitcases up. As with many places in China, the is no elevator and the stairs are many. It was amazing! The bed was so comfortable, wi-fi good, free mini bar with water and beer…sleep. I had been expecting Beijing to be very polluted (I realise now that I didn’t have any real clue of what that is!) but when I opened my blind for that first view of my new country in the morning – blue sky, wispy little clouds, green leaves everywhere. The Emperor is a boutique hotel situated at the end of one of Beijing’s famous Hutongs – original little residential lanes.
It was a great base for my 3-day stay because I could wander around lots of interesting places and get a feel for the history and the culture of the place. I had read that The Emperor overlooks the Forbidden City. Testament to my ignorance, I mistakenly thought those tiled roofs in the first photo were part of the Forbidden City gate walls. I had, and still have, a lot to learn about China! This is the Forbidden City gate:
The Emperor dining area is upstairs and has a roof-top bar. From there I got my first glimpse of the real forbidden city and some of those other famous sights.
It was breathtaking and I couldn’t stop being grateful for the brilliant weather. Apparently the air quality (a term I have become familiar with now) had hit dangerous levels the previous day, but rain and wind had washed it all away for my stay. You can see a panorama of Forbidden City roofs and walls, Jingshan Park and Beihai Park on the far right…but look at that blue sky and those green trees!
Another surprise – Beijing is a very leafy city with lots of green spaces.
The next 3 days were spent exploring. I didn’tcover anything like the area I expected, but I did get to visit the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, lots of Hutong walking and had an amazing Peking Duck dinner. Greatest impressions on my first few days in China:
- The massive size! Of everything!
- The people – so many!
- The tree lined streets and lanes in Beijing.
- How little I know about China in general.
- The food – variety, restaurants everywhere, people eating at any time.
I’ll finish with a few more photos of the area around The Emperor, and my first few steps on Chinese soil.
It’s so weird, but when I added this picture, Irealised I now own the identical tea pot and cup set I drank from on my second afternoon in China! I didn’t realise at the time I bought it, I just knew I loved it – just as I did when this elegant cup of tea was served at the Crown Plaza, after an exhausting day of traipsing around the streets and stone paved squares of the enormous ancient, Forbidden City. Did you know the Forbidden City has a new name? Yes, it has been renamed by the Chinese government as part of the modernisation process so evident everywhere you look. China is a fascinating place.