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Beijing, China – Part One: The Great Wall of China

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The Great Wall of China

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My first trip to China, in fact Asia, was an exciting idea; beside believing I knew the cuisine (which I disliked after countless experiences of it in Australia), and a small amount of knowledge of the Chinese political system I had no other preconceived notions of Chinese life, culture or history.

After a four hour layover in Suvarnabhumi Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand, and 15 hours of flying over an ever-changing landscape of rice fields, deserts and what appeared to be snowcapped mountains I finally landed at Beijing Capital International Airport.

The usual process of Customs and Immigration were similar to other airports I’ve travelled through, however one thing that I believe is unique to Chinese air travel is the infrared-thermal imaging cameras used throughout the airport to identify travellers who may be entering the country with a communicable diseases and sickness, so maybe avoid Chinese airports if you’re running a fever.

By the time I left the airport is was dark so I headed for my hotel, the Beijing River View Hotel in the Dongcheng area of the city. From my hotel I found a local restaurant and had my first experience of authentic Chinese cuisine and boy was it good! I had no idea what I ordered, my Mandarin-illiterate-self just pointed at the tastiest looking pictures on the menu and attempted to communicate to the wait staff that this is what I wanted. The food was cooked fresh and was nothing like what I expected; putting to rest my previous thoughts on Chinese cuisine.

The view from the Great Wall of China is spectacular

The view from the Great Wall of China is spectacular.

The next day I travelled to The Great Wall of China, similar to the Eiffel Tower in France, the Taj Mahal in India or the Grand Canyon while in the States, the Great Wall of China is a definite must see for anyone travelling to China!

Located roughly 70 kilometres (43.5mi) northeast of Beijing and situated on the peaks of an enormous mountain range; the Mutianyu section of the wall is one of the few sections of the wall open to the general public. Short on time, I caught the gondola to the top of the wall rather than take the some 4,000 steps to the top. Seeing the wall for the first time is quite striking and the history surrounding the wall is equally as impressive, with the original wall being built during the Northern Dynasties period in the sixth century, rebuilt and upgraded over the last 1,500 years.

The Mutianyu section of the wall winds for 2,250m along the mountains.

Spending more than two hours here is necessary, especially if you want to walk along the wall, getting to the wall around 9AM or earlier (opening time is around 7AM, depending on the season) is the best time as there are less people on the wall, allowing you to take uninterrupted photos of the wall, the surrounding environment and mountain range.

Despite being out in the regional areas of China, the view from atop the Great Wall is still impacted by the heavy amount of pollution produced from China’s capital, albeit, a lot less than in the metropolitan areas.

For more information on the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall click here

I’m Back!

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Well that was quite a break from the online world.

Obviously I didn’t disconnect myself from the Internet, that’d just be silly… right?

What a year I’ve had! It started in the wintery city of Boston in the United States, where I was living and studying on exchange at Northeastern University. Here I made some great friends and had an absolute blast enjoying a completely different university lifestyle to what I am used to here in Australia. I travelled to Mexico for Spring Break where I spent eight brilliant days in the Caribbean resort town of Cancún where I partied with my friends and drank possibly too much

Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls, Canada

tequila (if that’s a thing?). I came home looking like I visited the Sun instead with some nice permanent sunglasses. Once my time in Boston came to an end I travelled to Washington D.C. and fell in love with this city and I can’t wait to return. I then went to the city that never sleeps, New York City, where I met my parents who had flown over to spend some time travelling with me. From NYC we went on a whirlwind trip where we drove north to Canada, spend a week in Canada visiting Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and finally Niagara Falls.

After Canada we drove back down the Eastern Seaboard through New York state, Pennsylvania, and Maryland until we returned back in Washington D.C., I just had to return! From here we travelled further south through North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana where we stopped in some famous cities such as Nashville, Memphis, Jackson and New Orleans. After New Orleans we headed back east along the Gulf of Mexico to Florida where we stopped in Orlando, and of course did the theme parks and visited Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.

Key West, FL

Key West, FL

Heading south once again we stopped in Fort Lauderdale and finally Miami where we stopped for a few nights to check the sights before driving through the Florida Keys to the southern most point of the United States, Key West before heading back up to the mainland for the next leg of our trip.

From Florida we flew to Sin City, Las Vegas, where we spent the better half of a week enjoying the sights and standing in awe at the Mars-like landscape and the even stranger casinos. This place is definitely worth a visit and would be a lot of fun if you weren’t underage like myself.

Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, USA

Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, USA

From here we headed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and took a helicopter ride over the magnificent natural wonder. After this we headed to California where we stopped in San Diego before driving up the Southern Californian coastline to Los Angeles, where we did all the tourist things like visiting Universal Studios and Santa Monica Pier etc.

Los Angeles marked the end of our trip to the United States and when it came to saying goodbye to my adopted country of six months I found it quite hard. Don’t worry I shall be back!

Since I’ve gotten back to Australia, I’ve moved from Hawthorn to Southbank, and started back at uni, where I’ve been ever since! Now that semester is drawing to an end I thought it best to update everyone on what exactly I’ve been doing since my last post, so there it is!

What’s the plans for the future? Well later this month I’ll be heading up to Sydney where I’ll be the newest work experience kid on Channel 7’s breakfast show Sunrise, yes the show that made me want to be journalist! After that I’m off to China for two weeks where I’ll be travelling through Beijing and Shanghai. Any suggestions on what to do in these cities is greatly appreciated!

Shanghai, China     Source: linked

Shanghai, China Source: linked

Anyway, let me know how everything is going with you and any feedback on the new layout of my blog by tweeting me @ben_hansen

Three Weeks

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Three weeks

It’s just ticked over three weeks since I’ve been here in the US and I have to say, it’s been a great experience!

The first week on-campus was a bit iffy – I was placed into an essentially off campus property, however this was quickly fixed by the university and I was moved into one of their new properties, International Village.

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My university for six months – Northeastern University!

My first week of American classes was an eye-opener! I now know what it’s like to be a true ‘full-time’ student. My class schedule requires me to be at university everyday from 9-5 – no longer do I have days off or one-lecture days, although I am studying five classes.

The view from my new apartment - International Village.

The view from my new apartment – International Village.

Goodbye to lectures as I knew them – American college classes are a hybrid of what most Australians would know as lectures and tutorials, and you’re encouraged to create debates and question the professor. Oh yeah, and at college, you call your teacher ‘Professor’ unless they permit you to call them anything else. (and I thought they only did that at Hogwarts?!)

The first three weeks have been a whirlwind of moving in, discovering campus, exploring Boston and being a true tourist, and don’t forget harassing the local wildlife!

This little guy kept us Australians occupied for quite some time.

This little guy kept us Australians occupied for quite some time.

I’ve also been checking out the Varsity and NBA games in Boston. Northeastern’s varsity teams are called the Huskies and Boston’s NBA team is the well-known Boston Celtics.

Boston Celtics V Indiana Pacers

Boston Celtics V Indiana Pacers

I’ll be sure to keep the updates coming more often, and I’ll be posting about my trip to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library soon!

Catchya from the US,

Ben!

Boston I’m coming!

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Boston CBD and Boston Harbour

Summer is well and truly here, although for me, I only have four weeks left of summer… I’m off on exchange to BOSTON!

For those who don’t know where Boston is, it’s the capital of Massachusetts in the north-eastern tip of the United States, about three hours drive north of New York City.

A = Boston

I’m leaving Australia on the 29th of December and will be returning mid 2013 with my parents who are coming over for a business/holiday trip. I’ll be flying into a frozen Boston and experiencing my first snow capped city and a winter New Years Eve. All in all, I’m pretty excited

I decided to go to Boston after I met some Bostonians back in August who were on exchange at Swinburne. I’d never really thought of going on exchange while studying at university but I thought it’d be a perfect chance to travel in the US while also studying at a highly sought after university, Northeastern University.

One thing I plan to discover while I’m living in Boston – was the Boston Bun invented in Boston?

Is the Boston Bun originally from Boston?

So my blog will now also be featuring journalistic pieces as well as a travel blog that people can follow and keep up to date with what I’m up to while in the States. I hope some of the posts will make you want to embark on exchange to the US also.

 

Some places I’m keen to visit?

  • New York City
  • Washington D.C. (yay politics!)
  • Niagara Falls
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Quebec City, Canada
  • Toronto Canada
  • Philadelphia
  • Miami
  • The Bahamas and Caribbean
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • New Orleans
  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Southern California region
  • San Francisco
  • Las Vegas (I’ll be considered underage in the US ☹ )
  • And Chicago

Got any other recommendations to visit or tips on surviving the US? Let me know in the comments!

One More Year

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At a party with some friends

Benjamin Hansen – @ben_hansen

One more year has passed. One more to go.

It’s crazy how fast time flies; it only felt like I was starting my first semester of my degree a few months ago, now I’ve completed four semesters with only two more to go.

I can now call myself a final year journo student, crazy huh? And yes I have already updated my Twitter bio 😛

I’m now on my second day of holidays and enjoying being able to sit back, relax and not have to worry about writing another essay, news article, or read another darn text book. It’s all over for a couple of months – I can finally take down my study schedule and classes timetable!

I had a premature holiday moment when several of my friends and myself went for a night trip down to the coastal town of Torquay, it was good fun, but I had to come back to the city and finish off my politics essay the next day. Not cool I know, but I got it finished.

I’m heading to Sydney this week with some friends, and have no idea when we’ll be back, that’s the bliss of having a car and a friend who you can stay with up there.

It won’t be long before I’m off back to my parents for Christmas, and then my next big ‘thing’ – which you’ll hear about in my next post – and then classes will be back on.

Want a clue about my next big thing? Here you go.

By the way, if you’re looking for some decent coffee in Melbourne CBD and surrounds, check out Bean Here Melbourne!