First of a couple posts about my BU Destination China Trip:
Days 1, 2 and 3 were spent in Beijing mainly doing tourist type visits and getting a feel for the Chinese culture.
Due to flight delays we had no time to check into a hotel so we got on the bus from the airport to a restaurant for lunch, first time with Chinese food and because I had not eaten for a while it was easy to learn how to use chopsticks quickly!
After this it was straight to Tiananmen Square, this is a great way to be introduced to the city, it serves as a reminder of China’s modern history as well as showing the vast numbers of people that live in Beijing. The square is adjacent to the Forbidden City, it had been a lifelong dream to visit and it does not disappoint, it is a fantastic testament to the Chinese ability to build some of history’s most beautiful buildings. Not only this but the juxtaposition of the square and the city is really striking.
After a small amount of sleep we were up early to visit the Badaling section of the Great Wall, it well was sacrificing sleep. The wall is something that is difficult to comprehend even after visiting. Until you visit you really don’t realise how you ‘climb’ the Great Wall rather than walk, some steps were a foot and a half tall, and the slopes felt like they were 45 degrees at times. Perhaps why at the summit of the section there were many people selling medals and licenses but the shop selling cold water and ice cream when we climbed back down proved much more useful!
Then we visited the summer palace, which is much more reminiscent of an English stately home, a beautiful lake, temple and garden it really was a tremendous sight. The aptly named long corridor served as a beautiful promenade to stroll down and take in the atmosphere. Here it was most evident of the Chinese culture of happiness and peace. As we strolled we saw people sleeping under trees, families enjoying a picnic and we were greeted by a guard as he walked down asking people to take their feet off the side.
In the evening we visited Wangfujing Street something like Oford street only much much larger. We shopped around a bit, but the brands are mostly the same designers we have in the UK. After this we spent a couple of hours in a German themed pop up bar and met some of the interesting characters that were also visiting Beijing from abroad.
Day three was a great chance to visit Xiaomi a smartphone company, as a field I would love to work in in the future. What was so great about Xiaomi was their commitment to making life better and more affordable for its customers. Bit smartphones is really the tip of the iceberg for the company, they had a whole range of products from a rice cooker to high end TVs. We met with an executive in a casual shorts and t-shirt who told us that the best way to experience the culture of Xiaomi is to go to the shop and try the products. And it was hard to disagree, the phones (from what i could tell from the Chinese spec sheet!) were comparable to iPhones and similar products yet they were available for 800RMB (Approx £80) and up.
What was so impressive was the innovative and broad spectrum of products available as many people are now saying such as in this article, apple has not really made a new innovation in a long time. In contrast Xiaomi has a wide range of home appliances, portable speakers, a Segway like device and health products such as a blood pressure monitor (or a sphygmomanometer for those that like long words!). This was just further showing their commitment to real innovation, and of course all of it was affordable for the Chinese market.
The afternoon was a trip to a very old Chinese market (reminiscent of Camden) this is a great way to finish our stay in Beijing the contrast between old and new is striking here, and makes the industrious nature of the Chinese people much more impressive to know that it has been consistent throughout its thousands of years of history.
I recommend looking up pictures of all the places I mentioned if you are not familiar but if you ever have the opportunity to see them first hand I couldn’t recommend it more.