Every year around October, its always the same question on my mind, “Where do I go for the Christmas break?” After a two hour call with my friend, Chand, we had made up our mind. We were going to CHINA!! Soon we started chalking out our plans which especially involved great research on the availability of vegetarian food. By mid November we had the entire itinerary planned out and were well into flight bookings. We had even started the annoying work of applying for a tourist visa which is a big downside to having an Indian passport. Initial hiccups with the visa and normal travel jitters aside, we finally arrived in Beijing on the 13th of December to an amazing airport with cool body temperature sensors. The Chinese do take their health seriously, but to be deported from a country for having a wee bit elevated body temperature is one of the worst nightmares that even the drama queen in me had! Boy, was I glad when there were no sirens and alarms as I walked through the sensors and no one had asked me to stop! I quietly looked back at an official who was by now wondering why I had stopped to stare at him. I quickly looked ahead, picked my bags up and was on my way.
The city of Beijing was huge, which meant the European in me, who liked exploring a place by walking around, felt like a fish out of water. Winter in China is extremely cold! This necessitated wrapping yourself in layers and thick boots because there was snow everywhere. Our first stop was Tianánmen Square. Standing in this old square one could easily see that it was the power center, every big government building was in the area, the roads were clean and massive and even the zebra crossing alone looked like a 3 lane road. The sky was gloomy but the presence of so many police/military officials gave it a regal aura. The day was quite packed with us visiting the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and The Museum of Architecture.
Over the next couple of days, we even stumbled upon a replica of the Central Perk Coffee house (F.R.I.E.N.D.S) that reminded us of the hours wasted watching reruns of our favorite show.
A trip to China without stopping at the Great Wall is a trip simply wasted. Extending from Shanhaiguan to Jiayuguan, The Great Wall was simply huge! It could be seen from different places with the most popular one being Badaling. The view in itself was astounding; with its snow covered walls - it was truly mesmerizing. The climb on the other hand was scary as the steps were slippery with wet snow. The snow could be cleared only to an extent which meant the signs, ‘Climb at your own risk’ were obvious. The rest of the day we visited a pearl factory, where I learnt that one oyster can contain up to 40 pearls, and the Beijing Olympic stadium.
In the night we headed downtown to party with my brother’s Chinese friend, Feifei and her colleagues. Karaoke is big in China and unlike in Europe, here we could reserve a Karaoke room where we sang all night and headed back home croaky voiced after breakfast at 4 am in the morning.