An Asian in Asia for the First Time
Twenty years ago, I started my career in the Olympic Movement. Since then, I have traveled to every continent…but Asia has been my constant magnet since this work adventure began.
My first trip to Asia was in 2008 for the pre-Olympic test event in Beijing. Every Olympic sport holds an event prior to the Games in order to try out the venue and make sure technicians, volunteers and officials can run a smooth competition.
My sister (attending as an interpreter for our General Assembly) and I booked our tickets for arrival at 8 am. WTT (Work Trip Tip): If you’re traveling to a new and interesting city, ALWAYS try to get a flight that lands, ideally, at least one day before work starts or, at the very least, early the same day, so you have a few hours to explore. This WTT is purely for mental health. I find work trips stressful; they’re hard on the body (unless you’re flying first class), sleep and digestion. If you can do something that’s just for pleasure, it really makes the trip less burdensome.
We were not playing around; we took a cab to the Shangri-La Hotel Beijing (a-ma-zing!) http://www.shangri-la.com/en/beijing/shangrila/, stored our bags with the concierge and off we went, with a sort of a plan and a crappy map.
First stop, Tiananmen Square, just to get the lay of the land from a central landmark. But WAIT! What do I see over there...is that the Official Beijing 2008 Olympics Store? OK, let’s take a quick peek. Just to look. I mean, we get to see the merch 3 months BEFORE the Games!
This was a mistake. There were 3 floors of Olympic merchandise and so much cute stuff! We quickly (1 hour) grab a pair of earrings, gifts for friends and family, a backpack and stand in line for half an hour at the cashier.
Alright, seriously now, we head towards Tiananmen Square. It turns out the Forbidden City is within walking distance so we skip the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao.
Jet lag has never stopped me from taking a quick tour of any city I’m in…work or no work!
Yep…that’s me on the left, as my sister furiously snaps pics before we have to be back at the hotel for a meeting.
The Forbidden City was a MUST (if you haven’t seen the movie “The Last Emperor”, what have you been doing with your life? (Check it out here). This was the Imperial Palace of China from 1420 to 1912. We dove right in, guidebooks be damned. After walking for an hour with no exit in sight, we realized we should have rented the audio guide. It turns out the “City” consists of 980 buildings and over 8700 rooms. After a two-hour walk we finally saw an exit, so we made a run for it and flagged down a bicycle taxi because we still need to check out the Market.
The Forbidden City
Yes, that’s some shopping on my arm, don’t you DARE judge me!
We had landed that morning in China after 24 hours of flights and layovers. We were starving and dehydrated. But THE SILK STREET MARKET! The behemoth you see here is arguably THE most amazing market in Asia. Granted, a lot of the merchandise is illegal-ish. See those bags in the stall? They’re all designer knockoffs!
Come back in a couple of days for the Silk Street Market insanity, the ISSF General Assembly adventures in translation and the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range!
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