Written by Lance Hilderbrand
Our first day of the seminar began with a walk to Tsinghua University, where the Stanford students met the Tsinghua students for the first time via orientational exercises that showed the diverse urban backgrounds within the group.
Afterwards, the Stanford and Tsinghua students walked over to the Tsinghua University cafeteria for some lunch. Well, some students preferred a scooter over walking.
The food was pretty good!
After lunch, the group took a bus over to inner city Beijing to get suited up for our bike tour three hour bike tour to orient us to the city - make sure your brakes work beforehand!
Our first leg of the tour took us through the Yu'er Hutong. A hutong is a is a form of dense urban neighborhood, consisting of very narrow streets and alleyways.
The homes in the hutong are without bathrooms, so the community shares communal restrooms and shower houses. It was regarded as a traditional custom for the local Beijingers, but not for all the Chinese students.
Biking through the hutong is a great way to test your agility!
Because of the area where those hutongs land - the center of Beijing, all of those old buildings on the sides of hutong deserve more than millions of dollars, which could prove how important role the location of real estate play in affecting the house price.
Our next stop was at the Bell and Drum towers. Both towers lie along a north/south axis, in line with each other and the Forbidden City, among other landmarks.
We then biked along the Ten Temple Sea (actually three lakes).
It was here we tried our hand (or feet, rather) at jianzi, a sort of Chinese hacky sack.
From the Ten Temple Sea, we biked over to the Forbidden City gate to snap a photo before heading onto the widest street in China.
The widest street in China consists of fourteen lanes total, two for bikes. Crossing this behemoth of a street was daunting enough on a bike, I can only imagine what it would be like as a pedestrian!
Some policeman stopped our bikes and cut off the traffic when we were about to cross the road. At first we just thought that there might be some important politicians or visters using the road, and then after a black car coming across the road and entering the Sea Palace, together with a row of police cars, we came to realise that it was Chairman Xi who was in the black car. It could be an interesting coincidence in our tour.
Why did the students cross the road? To get to the National Center for the Performing Arts, of course! This unique building, often dubbed "The Giant Egg", is surrounded by a moat and contains Beijing's finest opera house.
The performing arts center was the last stop on our grand bike tour of inner city Beijing. After returning to Tsinghua University, students split their different ways to find dinner. Some of us decided hot pot would be a nice way to conclude our eventful first day in Beijing - bon appetite!