My first trip to Beijing was in the summer of 1992 as I flew to Asia for the first time to teach in a summer English course in the northeastern city of Dalian. We were fortunate to stop-over in Beijing during both ways of our trip.
The Beijing of 1992 is certainly a far cry from the post-Olympic model which has swelled to more than 21 million people and is famous for the smog which leaves a permanent blanket over the city. I can’t speak to that image of Beijing, but I can speak to the one which has left an indelible mark on my mind because of the grandeur of history which sat before my eyes.
For me, visiting Beijing was like looking into the past and trying to understand an ancient culture which my country boy, Pennsylvania eyes had trouble comprehending. But I did enjoy the trying.
I remember standing in the middle of Tienanmen Square just trying to understand the scope of what I saw. The large portrait of Mao. The elaborate Forbidden City. I remember our tour guide taking us into the labyrinth of buildings with the curved roofs. He said, if my memory serves me right, that one could sleep in a different room in the Forbidden City each night and wouldn’t duplicate one until they were 60 years old. It was awe-inspiring.
But then we went to The Great Wall and took a picture on the wall which my mother had framed. It was one of those moments in life that you just want to last forever, to take a deep breath and take in the wonders of the world, both natural and man-made, and try to understand the scope and scale of things which enabled them both to be.
Visiting Beijing and the surrounding region was indeed one of those magical times for a boy never imagined an opportunity to take in the roots of an ancient civilization such as China.
Whatever else Beijing is to others – a mecca for food, shopping, modern culture and development, to me Beijing is about history and heritage thus making it one of my favorite places in Asia.
To review the list so far:
10. Malacca, Malaysia
9. Chiang Mai, Thailand
7. Hong Kong
6. southern Vietnam
5. Sabah, Malaysia
4. Beijing, China