Monday’s Trip to The Olympic Green
Vacation’s over and I’m back in class. I didn’t follow through on everything I said I was going to do over the break (i.e.never opened my textbook to review), but on the whole I’m pretty happy with how it went. I decided to do a photo documentary of my week and the places I went to see, and since this will make posts a little longer, I’m dividing it up into 3 parts so you won’t want to poke your eyes out after 5 minutes.
I figured it was about time to find out the Chinese name of the breakfast wraps I get every morning, and so on Monday, that’s the first thing I did. I usually just say “that one”, and it this point, when the girl that works there sees me coming down the street, she already knows to start getting it ready (actually 2 of them). It’s called guan bing (not to be confused with jian bing) and it’s one of the best tasting things ever created – essentially an egg pancake, this sauce that I also don’t know the name of, lettuce, and some random meat that comes off a skewer and into my sandwich. It probably has more calories than a Big Mac, but at least it’s quality food (sort of).
The rest of the day was supposed to be spent at the Olympic Park (北京奧林匹克公園), but I had some troubles with the ticket man at the subway station and didn’t get there until after 3:00 in the afternoon. Wasn’t a big problem – I’m on vacation which means zero time commitments. I’m not a tour guide, and I don’t even know if there’s a right way to go about seeing the whole thing, but here’s what I did.
|This is the 60-meter-wide road that runs from south to north up to the park itself. In the center, there’s an 11-meter-wide road which is paved in imitation of the axis of the Forbidden City. There’s a subway line, number 8, that runs up and down the entirety of the park, but it was closed the day I went. It’s a nice walk so you’re better off skipping the subway if you can anyway. This is a good spot for karaoke and roller skating if you’re in the mood. Just like any other touristy place, the Olympic Park has its peddlers that stalk you, trying to sell you these ridiculous kites, panda hats (quite the fad these days), and plastic gold medals. If you firmly tell them you don’t want it, they’re not too persistent.|
|This is Beijing National Stadium (国家体育场) or “Bird’s Nest” (鸟巢). I didn’t go in because I didn’t have the time, but it’s only 50 RMB ($9 US). Although I’ve heard it’s not really worth it (and that it’s possibly falling apart), everyone I talked to there said you should go in if it’s your first time. Events are still held there, and on a few occasions in the winter, they fill it with snow. Interesting fact: Ai Weiwei, an artist who helped design the stadium, later claimed that it was a “pretend smile” of bad taste, and has become a pain in the rear of the Chinese authorities.|
|The Beijing National Aquatics Center (国家游泳中心) or “Water Cube” (水立方). It originally had a capacity of 17,000, but was later reduced to 6,000 after the Olympics. (Makes you wonder how safe the extra 11,000 people were – even if they were planned to be temporary seats.) It’s located next to the National Stadium, but you can tell the Bird’s Nest got the better deal when it came to location. It’s 30 RMB ($5 US) to go in, but unlike the Bird’s Nest, I don’t think I’ll be making an effort to see the inside of the Cube. After the Olympics, it underwent a 200 million Yuan (roughly $30 million US) revamp to turn half of its interior into a water park.|
|The Ling Long Pagoda or Linglong Tower (玲珑塔) which houses a part of the International Broadcast Center (IBC). I was having a hard time finding a good description of this thing online (maybe it was just me), but I got some of the basics: the structure is 128m tall, with 6 occupiable pods, each an equilateral triangle. It was a little disappointing because, from pictures I’ve seen, each pod is supposed to light up a different color. This obviously didn’t happen while I was there, but it could’ve been like the Eiffel Tower which only lights up every hour. No biggie, I live here and can go back any time.|
Getting to the park late in the afternoon was actually a plus. This time of year you can take shots while the sun’s still out, then of course when it starts to get dark, the park is lit up.
Like I said, one of my goals last week was to talk to a random person in Chinese for an hour our so every day, and I actually ended up accomplishing that, at least on Monday. I was standing in front of the Water Cube when this older man started eye-ing me a little bit. He came over, and as most conversations do, it started with him asking me what country I was from – 你是哪国人 “Ni shi na guo ren”. I told him I was from America, he didn’t mind, and we chatted about life for an hour.
That’s the type of thing that makes me value this experience. Not necessarily because it was with a 69 year old retired math teacher, but hanging out in the Beijing Olympic Park chatting it up in Chinese for an hour – 2 years ago, it’s something I never thought I’d be doing. Good times.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!