Because there is so much, I'm just going to summarize what we did by day.
5:20 a.m. bus from Gwangju to the airport
1:15 p.m. local time, we arrived in Beijing
That afternoon: We went to the Beijing zoo and saw the pandas! After the zoo, we made our way to the Olympic stadiums (water cube and bird's nest). Rachael and I were in awe of the smog. The weather forecast said clear skies, but because of the smog we could barely see the sun. It was really depressing. The weather was between 28 and 35 degrees. By the time we made it to Olympic park, it was night. The cube and nest were really cool at night.
7:00 a.m. Wake-up, get dressed, eat breakfast and go! The weather was slightly warmer than Wednesday, but still smoggy. Even though we did really tourist-y stuff, we didn't have to fight too many crowds. Most of the tourists we ran into were poor, rural Chinese farmers from the west/southwest of the country.
-Tienanmen: Tienanmen sits in front of the Forbidden city and next to China's People's Hall (similar to Capitol Hill). It is the largest "square" in the world. In the middle of the square is a memorial building for Chairmen Mao, the man that first introduced communism and the current political structure of today's China. Inside the memorial is Mao's preserved body. So we all saw his body. Pretty cool, huh?
-Forbidden City: The Forbidden City - across the street from Tienanmen - was once where Emperors and their families (and mistresses) lived. During this time, commoners were forbidden to even approach the 10-meter-tall walls. The full city only opened up to the public during the early 1900's.
-Temple of Heaven: This was pretty cool. The emperor used this temple to talk to God. Since the emperor was considered to be, essentially, a God, this was where he telephoned the big guy. Inside is a large, 3-story pagoda called the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. This is the largest surviving wooden structure in China and was built without nails. In this hall, the emperor talked to God. Hall is surrounded by other smaller structures and a very extensive garden.
-Pearl Market: huge indoor shopping mall selling the normal fake stuff as well as deeply discounted pearls.
-Chinese Acrobats: we went and saw a semi-professional Chinese acrobat show. I saw semi-professional because they were to join the professional league next year. They were still outstanding. Walking on tight ropes, throwing each other across the stage and doing some incredible tricks with umbrellas, Chinese yo-yo's and bikes. It was awesome.
-The Great Wall: The hostel we stayed at offered a tour of the Wall. It is a 3-hour drive to the Wall. So, at 6:30, we loaded the bus with about 10 other tourists. We hiked the great wall for 4.5-5 hours and then returned home at around 5:30-6pm. It was incredible! For the first hour, farmers that live near the wall followed us along the wall, try to sell us post cards and other stuff. It was annoying, so we were glad when they left. At the end of our Wall trail, we have to walk 25 minutes to the bus...or, ZIP-LINE! So, we zip-lined from the great wall to a spot about 5 minutes from the bus. It was awesome.
7:30 a.m. breakfast/leave
-Summer Palace: The summer palace was built on the outskirts of Beijing as a place for the royal family to go during the hot months. The palace is located around 2 lakes and has very thick groves of trees for shade. There are three main areas of the palace: (1) the Buddhist temple that overlooks Beijing (2) Impress Cixi's (the most influential - and last - leader of China. Probably one of the most powerful women in world history) birthday village (yep, a private village for her birthday parties) and (3) some buildings on an island. I forget why it's important, but it was.
-Silk Market: huge indoor shopping mall, larger than the Pearl Market, selling the normal fake stuff, but specializing in silk products.
-Food Night Market: This is where you can eat anything fried and on a stick. Every insect, animal and sea creature you could imagine. I partook in eating a baby scorpion. I'll stick to being vegetarian, thank you very much. The video proof is on Facebook under "Videos of Me."
5:30 a.m. depart for the airport
6:30 p.m. arrived safely back in Gurye to eat, relax and unpack. Pff. What a trip!
So, overall, the trip was awesome. The hostel we stayed at - China Backpackers - was outstanding. It was clean, they gave us breakfast, spoke fluent English and were ready and willing to help us out (no matter how disorganized and crazy our requests were). If you ever go to Beijing, check out http://www.backpackingchina.com/!
For pictures, check out my Facebook page as well as Rachael's. You can access her trip photo album by clicking on pictures of me, finding one Rachael uploaded and then clicking on the album from which the picture came. She also posted some great videos. Thanks, Rachael!