Since my post last Sunday, I've only had one normal day of school (Monday, the 29th). Besides that, my week has been packed with new experiences, exploring Beijing, and catching up on sleep and homework.
On Wednesday, my vacation from school for the National Day Holiday (国庆节) officially began. The weather was terrible on Wednesday, but I still went to the Olympic park, because I had wanted to see it for a long time. Unfortunately, all the major sights like the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Water Cube were closed, but we managed to get into the China Science and Technology Museum to get out of the rain for a few hours.
On Thursday I braved the incredible crowds of people flocking to Tiananmen Square for the holiday and went see the decorations in the square, then took a long walk around the Forbidden City to Jingshan Park. The park is on top of a small manmade mountain on the north side of the Forbidden City that was built to protect the emperor from the bad Feng Shui coming from the north. There is a pavilion at the top that affords an incredible view of the city.
Friday was another rainy day, so I went to the Capital Museum to learn some more about Chinese history and, more specifically, the history of Beijing. Afterward, the weather cleared up, so I took a walk to Beihai Park, which is built around one of the ancient reservoirs for Beijing.
On Sunday, I went to the Temple of Heaven, which I thought was magnificent. It was much bigger than I expected, and there is also a large park around it with some other interesting ancient structures. After that, I went to Wangfujing St., which sells all types of bugs, from scorpions to caterpillars, for dinner. I didn’t really have the stomach for it, though, since it was a pretty narrow alleyway and people kept accidentally hitting me with their scorpions or pushing me into food stalls selling octopus tentacles. Eventually, we all decided to bail and eat at a nearby McDonalds instead! It was fun to see, but I don’t think I’ll be returning the Wangfujing.
Finally, Monday I took a day trip out of Beijing to the Ming Tombs. My Lonely Planet travel guide said the bus trip would take one hour, but it ended up being more than two and a half hours with the traffic. We also had some more trouble getting back; we had to take a bus to the outskirts of Beijing and take a subway from there. Despite our transportation issues, I enjoyed having something to do and I really liked seeing the tombs. They are mostly a series of halls leading to the burial ground, but in the second tomb we visited, the tombs themselves had been excavated, so we could go underground to see the burial chambers.
Right now it is Tuesday afternoon, and I am spending my last day of vacation doing homework and catching up on things like writing this blog. It has been nice to have a break from school, and I certainly don’t miss my daily Chinese quizzes, but I’m ready to return to school tomorrow.