We took a day tour yesterday visiting the Great Wall at Badaling and then to the Olympics compound. In between, we’d also stopped by a wax museum featuring the Ming Dynasty period. While learning about the Ming, I noticed many important historic events taking place in and around Beijing. I really wished I had brushed up on my Chinese history before roaming around.
Following the 2008 Olympics, the Water Cube was closed for remodeling, with the goal of making it more usable to the public. After two years, it re-opened with water slides, a wave pool, and other water rides. With it lit at night, it is even more beautiful.
Tons of Chinese people visit it at night. Peddlers also litter the area selling light snacks, kid toys, and memorabilia. I was impressed some vendors offering to take a photo and print it onto a mug – all within about 10 minutes! This must be capitalism with Chinese fervor. Mind you, this was around 9:30pm at night. I have never seen such product/service anywhere else in the world
Adjacent to the Water Cube is the National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest. (Here is a post back in August 2008 with sequence of images showing various stages of the stadium’s construction.)
While having been to Wangfujing, Qianmen Dajie, and now the Olympics compound, doesn’t matter day or night, it feels like Beijing is endless in venues for visitors and residents alike.
The Great Wall was first built during the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC) under the reign of Qinshihuang. Its purpose was to protect China from northern nomadic tribes. In subsequent dynasties, the wall gradually expanded. The Badaling section was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to protect against the Mongolians.
If anything that stood out during our trip yesterday it was the fact that there were so many Chinese tourists. I recall the very first time I visited Beijing in the 90’s, I felt the proportion of visitors to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City were higher of foreigners than compared to today. This time around, Chinese visitors make a flood. Foreign visitors seemed like a trickle, even though tourism statistics show their numbers are increasing steadily each year.
It is interesting to see the Chinese visitors reactions to these landmarks. There is no doubt they are proud. This group is generally forward-looking; they are the more successful ones who have taken advantage of the growth in the last 3 decades.
While on the tour bus, it felt like the different parts of China are finally talking with each other face to face.
(Some of you might wonder if we were dragged to shopping. We did, knowing that day tours are subsidized that way. I can imagine one day there will be a day tour that is “free.” China may be a first place to do that.)