Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beijing Day 3: Giant Pandas and the Birdnest

Blog Entry #48: Beijing Day 3: Giant Pandas and the Birdnest

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Colors at Tsinghua University, Beijing
Our final day in Beijing dawned with beautiful fall sunlight on the yellow gingko trees lining the streets.  We were off to the National Zoo to see the Giant Pandas!
Ready for the Giant Pandas!
Like the acrobat show the night before, I wasn’t sure we really needed a visit to the zoo, but actually being there and watching these amazing creatures completely changed my mind. 

Off to see the Pandas!
Panda watching at the Zoo
I can see why the World Wildlife Fund uses the Panda as their mascot and symbol of threatened wildlife: I was simply mesmerized by watching them for the hour we were there. 
SAS students at the Zoo
It is virtually impossible not to anthropomorphize these apparently cuddly creatures, and we watched 14-month old twins play together in their pen.
14-month old Twin Giant Pandas at the National Zoo
The Birdnest
Then we were off to the 2008 Olympic Grounds with its signature National Stadium, “the Birdnest”, and the nearby “Water Cube” natatorium where Michael Phelps won his 8 gold medals three years earlier. 
The National Stadium or "Birdnest" in Beijing
The National Natatorium or "Watercube"
Pat in front of Birdnest
One gets the sense of the importance of building projects of monumental scale to the Chinese: once again a vast public space with captivating architecture and beautiful waterways, though this time completely modern.

Traditional Gate at Tsinghua University

Tsinghua University Canal
Toshiba Environmental Research Center
We had time for one more walk through the Tsinghua University campus on our way to the airport; this time the sun was out and the fall colors made it feel like the day of a homecoming football game at an Ivy League campus.  Simply stunning.
Steve Jobs remembered... even in Beijing
Our flight to Shanghai was delayed long enough that it took place at night, once again depriving us of a view of the Chinese countryside.  However, flying over first Beijing, and then Shanghai, and seeing endless blocks of lights gives one some sense of the scale of these two mega-cities, each having over 20 million people.
Shanghai skyline from the MV Explorer
Dan & Pat with Fuchan at the Birdnest
Commuters in Beijing
Fuchan leading our group through Tsinghua University
Our trip to Beijing was full of the usual tourist sites, which were indeed interesting and help to put a face on the place and its history.  But the richest part of the trip for me was the time we spent with our gracious host, Liu Fuchan, and warm and enthusiastic Ying Chong and Emily and the other students at Tsinghua University, hearing of their hopes for China and for their families, putting a human face on Beijing and China. 
Beijing Reflections

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