By Gabe Dumoulin ’17:
Sunday, June 19th, was one of my favorite days of the trip. Although the day was packed tight with activities and traveling, it was one of the most enjoyable.
All of us got an early start and met in the hotel lobby at 6:45 and were on the road to the Xi’an Bei railway station. It was hard to say goodbye to Xi’an. This city was my favorite location because of all the great memories we created here, like biking 18 miles on the city wall and visiting the Terracotta warriors.
We headed to Beijing on the newly installed bullet train. Hovering around 300 km/h, we were zooming by! I had a good time on the train, we had tons of room compared to the plane and a lot of time to fill with whatever we could. We discovered lots of different ways to pass the time when we were traveling. And on the bullet train we watched multiple movies as well as playing a variety of games.
We arrived in Beijing a couple hours later and met our new tour guide Lucy. We got right on the van and went to the Temple of Heaven. Designed originally as a place to worship the heavens, the temple is now a place where local citizens go to pray or to practice Tai Chi early in the morning.
We walked through the gates and right away the beauty of the temple was apparent. The roofs were a sapphire blue and the ceilings were decorated with intricate golden dragons. Nature is also a major part of this temple, filled with old trees such as the nine dragon tree which unlike the other ones around it, was twisted like a dragon rather than smooth.
The trees also had red and green tags on them so it was possible to tell the age of the trees. On the inner part of the temple we visited what the Chinese believe to be the closest place between heaven and earth where in ancient times, the Chinese emperor, on the winter and summer solstice would come to pray. Next we visited the echoing wall which was a particular favorite of mine.
Some of us would stay at one part of the wall and others would move down to a part farther away and when speaking into the wall, each of us could be heard by the others. The temple of heaven was mostly in circles and rings unlike the Temple of The Earth located in Northern Beijing which was designed to be a square.
After visiting the temple, the place we went next was a favorite among the group. We witnessed the romantic love story of the pandas LongLong and JieJie as well as being treated to a spectacular show of KungFu. One of the coolest parts of this was that some of the performers were little kids and seeing some of the stunts and acts that they could do was incredible.
Before going to the hotel we stopped for dinner at a local restaurant which was one of my personal favorites. The food was AMAZING, this is hard for me to say because we have been to a lot of spectacular restaurants on this trip. Using our Lazy Susan we passed around portions of chicken, fish, pork, noodles and vegetables. I really liked this dinner because unlike others so far, all of us were able to sit around one table and really enjoy each other’s company. We talked and laughed and finally at the end planned the events of our last few days on the trip that many of us wished would never end. After dinner many of us were exhausted and once we arrived at the hotel and got in our rooms went right to bed.