Saturday, August 28, 2010

China, Day 1: The Olympic Park

We left Seoul and flew into Beijing on August 2nd. We were meeting up with my friend Sarah and leaving Beijing that night, so the first few hours in China were a bit crazy. We needed to go the train station to store our luggage, we needed to have our tickets to store our luggage, we needed to find Sarah who had our tickets, we were at the wrong train station, etc. etc. Around and around we went, and it was 2:00 by the time our luggage was safely stowed and we made it to the restaurant for lunch. In addition to Sarah, two other friends from high school were also visiting Beijing at the same time (it's a small world after all), and we all met for lunch at a pizza place near Wendy and John's hotel. It was great to see them again, and so strange that we should all happen to be in Beijing of all places.

After lunch, Wendy and John left to see the Temple of Heaven and Mom, Leah, Sarah and I went to the Olympic Stadium. My brother is a huge fan of the Olympics, and Mom wanted to visit so she could tell him about it. Leah and I wanted to visit because we knew it would kill him just a little to know that we had been and he hadn't. (We're sisters, not saints.) Sarah came, I think, because the Water Cube has air conditioning.

I moved in the middle of the 2008 Olympics and missed pretty much the whole thing, but even I know what the Bird's Nest looks like. It was cool to see in person, all post-modern and grandiose. We spend twenty or so minutes walking around the stadium, dodging groups of Chinese tourists. I was surprised that almost two years to the day of the Opening Ceremonies, there were still hundred of tourists at the Bird's Nest. Of course, I would quickly learn that this is China and there would be hundred, if not thousands, of Chinese people milling about everywhere I went. Wikipedia tells that the Chinese government plans to turn the Bird's Nest into a shopping mall and hotel, but for now it's just a tourist destination.

Bird's Nest

Next to the Bird's Nest is the Water Cube. Part of the complex has been turned into a water park (which officially opened a few days after we visited) and much of the upper levels has been devoted to gift shops selling official Water Cube merchandise, but we eventually found the pool where Michael Phelps won all the gold medals ever. The pool was delightfully air conditioned, there was a video showing the highlights of the 2008 Olympics and we had an hour to kill before we left for the train station, so we camped out by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Not a bad start to the trip!

Pool @ Water Cube

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