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

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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

John F. Kennedy

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I’m in Boston, the birthplace of the United States most esteemed President – John F. Kennedy – how could I not check out a whole museum dedicated to the leader who’s reign sadly ended prematurely?

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I’d read about the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum before I’d even left Australia and it was on the top of my list of places to go in Boston. The museum is in the Columbia Point area of Boston and features an enormous glass panelled section that houses an American flag, the largest flag I’ve ever seen.

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The museum began with a video introduction to JFK and how he rose from the son of an American Ambassador to a military serviceman to campaigning for Governor of Massachusetts and later for the President of the United States.

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Then we walked through the history of JFK’s campaign for President up until November 22, 1963, the day JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

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A map of a Cuban missile camp.

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Replica of JFK’s White House Oval Office (minus the flat screens)

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This coconut saved JFK’s life when he was stranded on an island as a seaman.

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I hadn’t realised how much President Kennedy had accomplished during his reign of 1,036 days. He had handled issues such as the space race, the Cuban missile crisis, Berlin Wall, and had done a lot to bring to light issues surrounding people with mental disabilities.

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The day of the Cuban missile crisis

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A piece of the Berlin Wall.

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I very much enjoyed checking out the John F. Kennedy library and museum and would recommend it to anyone who’s visiting Boston – even if you’re not that into politics.