China, Week 1

Sorry for the prolonged absence, the Great Chinese Firewall has been wreaking havoc with our blog. is permanently blocked (as is the New York Times, and intermittently, Google), so we are forced to post via email. This means no formatting or slideshows, but we’ll get more flashy post-China (and maybe post Myanmar, our next country, as they have NO internet…). For more info on the Chinese firewall, check out

Thankfully, that has been the extent of our travails in China so far. Everything else is going swimmingly. We spent a full week in Beijing. There was so much to see and do. Beijing is a walking city – as in walk ’til you think your feet are going to fall off.

Metro, walking, metro, walking, eating, walking, metro, eating, collapse = Beijing.

One of the highlights was Tienanmen Square. The government is in the midst of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress, where they are selecting a new leader, so the main area was blocked off to pedestrian traffic and the atmosphere was extremely tense. Security was much tighter than usual (according to our friend who lives in Beijing) and there were many bag searches. It gave you the feeling that some big changes were afoot, and really drove home that we were in a foreign country at a very significant time, politically speaking.

The Great Wall was more impressive than ever imagined – Zev immediately broke out into a chorus from Mulan. Hundreds of thousands of workers/prisoners labored for years on end to create this hulking structure that seems to dance across the mountain ridges, an awe-inspiring sight for even the most jaded traveler.

The Peking duck was delicious. On our first attempt we went to a touristy restaurant where we were rushed in, hovered over, and encouraged to order the most expensive thing on the menu. It was an unpleasant meal, excluding of course the crispy duck skin dipped in sugar… The second time we went to Li Qun, a smaller restaurant in one of Beijing’s famed Hutongs – small alleyway communities filled with small shops, restaurants, markets and traditional courtyard family homes. It was actually the same place we had seen on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations before we left the states. Given limitless resources, our trip would be one giant re-creation of that show. We went with a college friend who is studying in Beijing for the year and had a fantastic time. We ordered the usual duck as well as spicy cumin fried duck wings, peppery sauteed Peking duck bits, and talked international relations. It felt delightfully illicit to chat about East Asian international relations so close to Tienanmen Square.

On November 12th we took an overnight train to a town called Pingyao, an ancient walled city that seems to have retained a good deal of it’s old world charm, something most Chinese towns haven’t managed to do. Our hotel room is incredibly charming. With a traditional kang stone bed, and wooden inlaid windows, it has oodles and oodles of character.

Tonight we head to Xi’an for 3 days to see the terracotta warriors. After Xi’an, we head to Nanjing, Shanghai, Kunming, and Leaping Tiger Gorge.

Follow me on Instagram for more pics (elizaq).

2 thoughts on “China, Week 1

  1. With all of your Internet issues, it was a huge relief to see that Zev is still able to read (and, of course, comment on) VASST goings-on.

    Kate and I agreed that access to the team listserv would be the determining factor as to whether he could last a full year abroad.

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