Beijing, China(北京, 中国)

Leaving Nanjing for Beijing:

Two weeks and an unforgettable experience, the day had arrived to leave Nanjing. After final presentations and cake, it was time to leave the place and the friends I have grown attached to.  Out of all of the places I had traveled to, Nanjing was the most difficult to say goodbye to given all of the really close friends I had made during my short stay. Around 4 PM, we were taken to Nanjing South Rail Station where we boarded a high-speed train bound for Beijing South Rail Station.

The high-speed rail from Nanjing to Beijing far exceeded my expectations. Called 高铁 (gao tie) locally, the speed of the train traveled at a sustained speed of  350 kilometers an hour. Despite such speed at which we were moving at, the train ride was quite comfortable. It was surprisingly quiet inside of the cabin and interior was modern, clean, and spacious. After three and a half hours, we arrived at Beijing South Train Station just after 10:30 PM where we were greeted by our tour guide for the next few days.


We had a very early start to our first full day in Beijing as we met our tour guide at 8 AM headed for the famous Tiananmen Square. Once inside, we walked through its entire length, passing by The National Museum of China (the largest museum in China), The Great Hall of the People (building where the government convenes), The Monument to the People’s heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong (building which holds the body of the former chairman Mao).

Adjacent to Tiananmen Square was the main entrance to the world-famous Forbidden City. The Forbidden city had seven different sections each with their own gate signifying their entrance. As we walked through each section, I was amazed at how similar each section looked to one another. By the time we reached the middle of the city, it was impossible to tell if the next gate was the end of the city or if it just marked the beginning of a new section.

The next morning, Sunday, we headed off to The Great Wall of China. The section of the wall visited was the 八达岭 (Ba Da Ling) section of the wall located about an hour and a half away from Beijing city. It was super foggy when we arrived, and it never cleared completely. Everything was damp, making the walk up and down the very steep inclines and staircases difficult. Despite all of this, I still had a fantastic time walking one of the Great Wonders of the World. The fog kept the air temperatures down around 20 degrees C, allowing me to explore more of the wall than if it were 40 degrees C and sunny. It was astonishing to personally experience how people, 600 years ago, during the Ming Dynasty were defending China against their invaders.

In the afternoon after a lunch break, we visited Summer Palace where the Emperors of China used to spend their time during the summer months. The palace was immense – around 4 times larger than the Forbidden City and very beautiful with 昆明湖 (Kun Ming Lake) located directly in the center of the area. We were only able to see a small fraction of the palace before it closed for the evening and we headed for dinner.

Of course, our Beijing experience would not be complete without trying the local food so we were brought to QJD (全聚德) restaurant where we had Peking Duck. Having eaten Peking duck elsewhere in the world, it was a special experience having it in the city the food was named after.  This was a great to end an unforgettable trip to China!

Entrance to the Forbidden City from the Direction of Tiananmen Square
The Ba Da Ling Section of the Great Wall

Part of the Summer Palace with Kunming Lake in Front

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China (南京, 江苏省, 中国) Part 2

Mausoleum and Museum

The packed schedule continued on Sunday when we met early in the morning for a bus trip to the mausoleum of Sun Yat Sen, the first leader of the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist party). Once there, our tour guide led us to the bottom of a very long staircase at the base of a hill that contained the actual mausoleum.  We climbed all 392 steps of the staircase to the top where there was a fantastic view. On the way down after visiting the mausoleum, we stopped by some damaged metal cauldrons by the side of the walkway. The tour guide explained that the cauldrons were damaged by bombs dropped by the Japanese during World War II. The cauldrons were kept unrepaired as symbol of remembrance for all of the lives lost during the Japanese attack and subsequent massacre in Nanjing.

After lunch, we gathered again, this time headed for the Nanjing Museum. Once we got inside of the main exhibit hall, it became very apparent that the museum was very large with many different exhibits. I personally explored a few exhibits about ancient Chinese pottery and metallurgy, seeing many ancient artifacts along the way. There was also a section of the museum that was set up to replicate the streets of Shanghai during the early 1900’s. I did not have a chance to see all of the museum since it closes at 5pm.

China Unicom and Suning

Early Monday morning, everyone got together to visit the headquarters of China Unicom located in a newer district of Nanjing.  After being greeted by a company representative, we were all given a guided tour of a section of their building, learning about the company and the extent of their technological capabilities. After the tour, we were given an opportunity to board a special bus to experience the next generation of technology in the world. We were driven around the local area to experience the 5G (fifth generation) technology in action, on the bus, with unbelievable internet speeds and download speeds of around 2 GB per second.

In the afternoon, we split up into two separate groups that visited two companies located in the city.  I was part of a group of 17 students that visited the headquarters of Suning (苏宁), an enormous fortune 500 company with assets in many different markets. While there, we were able to interact with some of the company’s latest and greatest technological inventions including a smart mirror and automated vending machine that utilized WeChat to both unlock and automatically charge the customer based on what they bought. We also were able to walk through one of their company owned shopping centers. Inside, we found many different shops including a supermarket where we bought some snacks and drinks.

That night, three of the Chinese students took all of the US students to a fancy shopping mall where there was a restaurant that specialized in 杭州 (Hangzhou) regional cuisine.

We had the most famous dish in 杭州 cuisine 东坡肉 (dong po rou) – a type of slow braised pork belly that was literally melt in your mouth tender. We also ordered duck sushi, local green tea, and a bunch of other fantastic tasting dishes. The best part of it all was that the entire meal was only 65 RMB (~ 9.40 USD) per person. So little for such a memorable meal!

Steps Leading up to the Mausoleum of San Yet Sen

The Main Entrance to Nanjing Museum
The 5G Bus

A welcome to Suning

The super delicious 东坡肉 (dong po rou)

Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China (南京, 江苏省, 中国) Part 1


We landed early in the afternoon on a Friday after a two-hour flight from Hong Kong.

After passing through immigration and picking up our luggage, we were greeted by the head Chinese volunteer of the program.  She guided us to the small bus that would take us to our hotel close to campus. An hour or so later we arrived at the hotel, got checked in, and were able to rest for a while. Dinner that night was at the restaurant located on the second floor of the hotel. Our first proper sit-down meal in China included bamboo shoots and wood ear fungus along with some pork belly and a type of Tibetan cabbage. After dinner, we all went to bed early as we had a long day ahead of us.

Salt Lake City

On the first full day in Nanjing, we met up with three Chinese students and a tour guide who were all nice enough to dedicate a day of their weekend to accompany us on our first adventure in China. We all boarded a small bus and an hour and half later, we arrived at a location named Salt Lake City. The name of the place confused me as when we arrived I saw no evidence of a salt lake or a city.  As the tour guide later explained, the location was not actually a true “Salt Lake” but rather just a lake with a replica ancient Chinese settlement build around it.

The area which this lake was located just happened to also contain many salt reserves underground. Thus, the name Salt Lake City was given to the place. While there, we got a first-hand experience of what life was like in China during ancient times. We were also able to buy souvenirs from the shops located in the ”city”.

Xuan Wu Lake (玄武湖)

On Sunday, we met the other Chinese students who we would be working with for the next two weeks. After morning icebreaker activities, we all walked to one of the most famous lakes in Nanjing, Xuan Wu Lake. The views as we walked along the lakeshore were spectacular. I was able to get some very beautiful pictures of the Nanjing skyline and enjoy the sunset before we headed off for dinner.

Gujiming (古鸡鸣) Temple

After our first week of classes, we gathered on Saturday morning to explore more of Nanjing. At 8:30, we headed out towards Gujiming Temple. We took the local public bus most of the way to the temple and walked the rest of the distance. During the walk our group met a man from Ohio walking on the street. After talking with him for a few minutes, I discovered he was a fellow Plastics Engineer in Nanjing for business. Meeting him was the last thing I expected.

When we arrived at the temple complex, we all received 3 complimentary incense sticks and told to keep them with us until we reached the top of the hill where the temple was.

After climbing many stairs, we reached the top where there was a room for everyone to light their incense. The room was extremely hot and crowded with all of the fire and number of people inside. After lighting my incense, I made my way with everyone else to the front of the temple where I made 3 wishes before placing the incense sticks in a cauldron.  The rest of the time at the temple complex was spent observing the beautifully crafted architecture of the place.

The Lake at Salt Lake City
View of Nanjing Skyline from Xuan Wu Lake
The Main Building at Gujiming Temple