China #8 Section 2 – Walk on the Wall (11/09/15 Part b)

This Walk on the Wall is About Helping Others to Help Themselves

On and on and on went the wall. On and on we plodded. But all in a very good cause. At some of our rest stops we reminded ourselves just why we were doing this; why we were putting up with aching legs and other muscles that were finding us out. We were doing it to help others who are doing it tough in other ways in their daily lives… every day… and without the views.

DSC00425 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00425 © DY of jtdytravels

And as I stood in this crumbling ruin, I remembered so many others who did it tough…

the men who built the wall in the first place all those centuries ago;

the soldiers who lived in these towers to guard their country from invaders.

I was here in this magnificent landscape for but a brief time.

No wonder I could smile.

DSC00430 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00430 © DY of jtdytravels

And it was not only the construction of the wall that I found amazing.

 So too, were the many small things I found.

Just look at the incredible construction of this caterpillar

DSC00432 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00432 © DY of jtdytravels

…and the way this flower is formed… delicate but intricate.

DSC00435 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00435 © DY of jtdytravels

…and another quite stunning caterpillar… just don’t touch!

DSC00437 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00437 © DY of jtdytravel

…and here’s a piece of architectural and engineering ingenuity displayed in a caterpillar!

Tiny but quite wonderful.

DSC00436 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00436 © DY of jtdytravels

When you think about how pines conserve water with those needle like leaves

and hold their seeds in cones until just the right moment

Nature is very inventive, isn’t it?

DSC00438 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00438 © DY of jtdytravels

I think these are Sedum sp.

DSC00439 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00439 © DY of jtdytravels

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DSC00440 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00440 © DY of jtdytravels

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DSC00442 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00442 © DY of jtdytravels

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DSC00446 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00446 © DY of jtdytravels

Looking up and out again… the Wall does seem endless.

DSC00450 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00450 © DY of jtdytravels

Just the floor of a second story watch-tower, the rest had disappeared over the Centuries.

But, it still provided an elevated platform for a better view.

DSC00451 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00451 © DY of jtdytravels

Great care was needed on some parts of the path… like this piece…

a steep drop off awaited anyone who slipped.

DSC00453 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00453 © DY of jtdytravels

The distance between towers was not far on this stretch of the wall.

DSC00454 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00454 © DY of jtdytravels

Iris sp.

DSC00455 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00455 © DY of jtdytravels

A view to the side. No Wall in sight.

DSC00456 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00456 © DY of jtdytravels

The distance between towers might be shorter but the steps seem to get steeper.

And those steps are not restored. Difficult going here.

DSC00460 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00460 © DY of jtdytravels

At times the wall branches. Which way to our bed for the night?

We’re getting weary. It’s been a long, hard day.

I’m so pleased that I put in the months of training to be fit for the task!

DSC00461 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00461 © DY of jtdytravels

More steep steps. But we were almost there… or so we were told.

DSC00463 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00463 © DY of jtdytravels

And at last, our end point for the day…with a rather magnificent statue to greet us.

End of day two of the walk… only three days to go!

Does anyone want my spare lactic acid?

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/50kmFor50Years

our other travel sites

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China #7 Section 2 Walk on the Wall (11/09/15 Part a)

This Walk on the Wall is About Helping Others to Help Themselves

http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/50kmFor50Years

The goal for the second day on our Great Wall Walk was to conquer the Simatai section of wall which is 5.4 km. (3.5 mi.) long. That’s not so far, I hear you say! But this section contains 34 beacon towers and that suggests a lot of ups and downs between towers, does it not?  And so it proved to be. This part of the wall is divided into two parts – the somewhat gentler western section with 18 well-preserved towers – and the eastern, much steeper section, with 16 more crumbly towers. I have also divided my musings for the day into two sections – part a and part b!

To tackle the day, we needed a good breakfast. Annie knew what she needed; she’d supplied it for herself. Vegemite! That black goo that many Australians are fond of. But… how do you spread Vegemite on toast when there’s not a knife in sight? Watch the clip.

Clip #10

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DSC00378 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00378 © DY of jtdytravels

We’d spent the night at the 300 bed ‘Hyangya Mountain Villa Guesthouse’ a ‘designated place’ to stay for foreigners and Chinese alike. 120 km from Beijing, it’s located near the city of Tianjin in ‘the Eight Diagrams city of the Great Wall scenic spot.’ The hotel is described as being a “typical quadrangle courtyard with opening character, which can ease your business tension, relax and enjoy your tourist life.” Why bother writing my own description!

DSC00381 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00381 © DY of jtdytravels

T’was time to begin our day’s walk.

I looked back along a hotel path bedecked with garden flowers

and hoped that I would find wildflowers in those mountains beyond the hotel.

DSC00379 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00379 © DY of jtdytravels

As we left this rather imposing entrance to the guesthouse,

we knew that we were leaving behind any vestige of comfort for the rest of the day.

 

DSC00388 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00388 © DY of jtdytravels

The first task of the day was to hike up the hill to get to the Wall.

Clip #11

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DSC00389 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00389 © DY of jtdytravels

This section of the Wall is denoted as the gentler section across rolling hills.

It is NOT restored and at times is little more than a rough path.

Clip #12

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DSC00392 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00392 © DY of jtdytravels

That’s me decked out in my UoN Great Wall Walk T shirt. Fetching, isn’t it?

And yes, I had just walked down that path, sometimes 30 cm wide with a drop off.

More like mountain goat country than our usual notion of the Great Wall of China.

DSC00393 DY of jtdytravels

DSC00393 DY of jtdytravels

A quick rest, some water and a photo op. at one of the towers.

It was overcast and very humid.

DSC00396 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00396 © DY of jtdytravels

The view ahead… more towers; more ups and downs; more rough paths.

This was not going to be a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon.

DSC00397 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00397 © DY of jtdytravels

But for the horticulturist in me, there were many delightful compensations.

How could I not stop to enjoy Campanula; blue bells… with dew drops?

DSC00401 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00401 © DY of jtdytravels

As you’ll find in these musings, there was a wide variety of plants to enjoy.

I think this is a Sedum sp.

DSC00402 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00402 © DY of jtdytravels

 Berries of a Berberis sp.

Red is one colour that’s often hard to get right in a photo, especially a shiny red.

My new Sony (HX90V) captured these red berries just right.

DSC00403 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00403 © DY of jtdytravels

The team plodded onwards and upwards to the next ridge.

DSC00404 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00404 © DY of jtdytravels

Another delightful bloom belonging to the ‘pea’ family.

DSC00405 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00405 © DY of jtdytravels

Four Chinese guides accompanied us on the walk.

Not another soul to be seen. We were on our own on the Great Wall of China!

DSC00406 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00406 © DY of jtdytravels

How could a pollinator ignore this flower’s ‘guiding runway’?

Nature is quite wonderful, if we take time to look at the detail in the small things

as well as the grandeur of the wider view.

DSC00407 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00407 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s been said that “The Great Wall is the best of Chinese buildings, and that the Simatai section of the Wall is the best of the Great Wall.” It certainly provided amazing views.

DSC00408 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00408 © DY of jtdytravels

Dianthus sp.

DSC00409 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00409 © DY of jtdytravels

Another ‘pea’ flower.

DSC00410 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00410 © DY of jtdytravels

As usual, the humble daisy is represented amongst the wildflowers here.

How perfect is this flower?

DSC00411 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00411 © DY of jtdytravels

This plant is unknown to me. If you know it, please let me know.

DSC00412 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00412 © DY of jtdytravels

Another plant unknown to me.

DSC00415 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00415 © DY of jtdytravels

The delicate blue bells of a Campanula sp. enhance an already magnificent view.

I’m looking back at the tower we had come through earlier (photo 407).

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DSC00416 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00416 © DY of jtdytravels

Aconitum sp. known commonly as Monkshood.

DSC00421 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00421 © DY of jtdytravels

Daisies inevitably attract bees.

DSC00422 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00422 © DY of jtdytravels

Another climb; more unstable, crumbly path; another tower.

But what a view from the top!

 

DSC00424 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00424 © DY of jtdytravels

From here, we were about head into the steeper section of the day’s walk.

More of that anon.

David

All photography Copyright © David Young of jtdytravels

http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/50kmFor50Years

Link to our target charity: “Shaping Futures” for UoN students in need

 

 

China #6 Section 1 Walk on the Wall (10/09/2015)

This Walk on the Wall is About Helping Others to Help Themselves

http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/50kmFor50Years

By now our team of seventeen had learned each other’s names, seen a little of Beijing and rested after the long flight from Australia. But the time had come to begin the task of testing ourselves on a tough five day walk along the Great Wall of China in our bid to raise funds to help students who are doing it tough in life while they study for their degree. 

So let the walk begin.

Entrance Sign DSC00364 © DY of jtdytravels

Entrance Sign DSC00364 © DY of jtdytravels

The Great Wall of China is 21,196 km in length. Yes! Twenty-one thousand one hundred and ninety-six kilometres (21,196km; or 13,170mi). That’s the precise total length of the Great Wall, the whole of which was included as a World Heritage Site in 1987. But, yes, you’re right. We weren’t going to attempt to walk all of that! In fact, this trek would cover approximately 50 km of the Wall. And then there were more kilometres to be walked up and down hills just to get onto and off the wall each day. We’d been warned that the parts of the Wall that we were to walk are not for the faint hearted; constant ups and downs; many, many steps of varying sizes and steepness of incline. Some restored parts; others parts we would find to be very rough.

We began our walk at the Taipingzhai Gate, part of the ‘Huangyaguan Great Wall’, located in a scenic but precipitous mountain area 120km from Beijing. This section of the Wall is 42 km (26 miles) long; constructed along a mountain ridge at an altitude of about 736 m (2,415 ft). It’s part of, but really just a fraction of, the 8,850 km (5,500 mi) of the wall that was built during the Ming dynasty(1368–1644). Everything about the wall is BIG.

DSC00368 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00368 © DY of jtdytravels

The very first set of steps tested our fitness. I, for one, was glad that I had trained hard.

Until 1987, much of the wall here was in a bad state of repair. However, from 1984 – 1987, the people of the nearby city of Tianjin repaired just over 3 km of the main wall. This was the section of the wall we traversed for this first day of our wall trek. This was to ‘break us into’ wall walking. It’s one thing to train on tracks and on roads, but these are steep steps!

DSC00366 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00366 © DY of jtdytravels

Scott celebrates making it to the watch tower at the top of the first set of steps.

This section of the Wall was begun during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550 – 557), that’s over 1,400 years ago.  In those days the wall was mainly built from locally sourced earth, stones and wood.  Such a wall could withstand attack by simple weapons like swords, spears and bows. However, over the years, warfare changed and by the time of the Ming Dynasty, (1368- 1644), gunpowder had become available. From then on methods of warfare changed radically. Soldiers began to use cannons and muskets. It became more and more obvious that a much more solid wall was needed.

DSC00361 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00361 © DY of jtdytravels

Statue of Qi Jiguang

In 1558, the chief commanding officer of the area’s garrison, Qi Jiguang, was charged with the task of repairing the wall with stone and bricks. He had six extra watch towers built which vary in style from square to round, and from solid to hollow; some inside the wall, others outside. The work was done by manual labour and many lives were lost.

Despite the loss of life and the extremely hard work in this difficult terrain, the local people felt so indebted to Commander Qi Jiguang for his great contribution to the peace and stability of the area, that they honoured him with an impressive statue.  I believe that this 8.5m statue is a newer statue placed at the start of this section of the wall, maybe at the completion of the reconstruction in the 1980s.

Qi Jiguang was revered not just a wall builder. In 1553, at the age of 26, before he started the wall reconstruction, he was given the task to “punish the bandits and guard the people”. In effect that meant taking on the “Japanese” pirates which were attacking China’s east coast. This part of the wall is not far from the coast.  A Biography of Qi Jiguang states that:

“When he started, the tide was against him for the local troops were inadequately manned, poorly trained and easily bested by the trained and armed pirates… (But) Qi lead his troops to victories even in situations where he was outnumbered. In the next ten years he kept the pressure up agains the pirates… He (eventually) defeated forces that had earlier decimated Chinese fighters by developing four innovations: he upgraded his equipment; began vigorous and organized troop training; strengthened his defensive tactics and trained for organized and concentrated manuevers.”

(http://www.plumpub.com/info/Bios/bio qijiguang.htm)

Apparently, Qi’s wife assisted in some of those manoeuvres! Her story is part of the book “Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Tang Through Ming, 618 – 1644” by Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles and M.E. Sharpe published in English in March 2014 (Amazon)

DSC00370 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00370 © DY of jtdytravels

Not all the remade sections were restored to the same degree. A bit tricky.

DSC00372 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00372 © DY of jtdytravels

” Stop and catch your breath” moments gave us time to enjoy the scenery.

DSC00369 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00369 © DY of jtdytravels

And, as usual, I was on the lookout for flowering plants.

DSC00373 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00373 © DY of jtdytravels

We were promised that this section was much easier than the rougher sections we would come to later in the week. But it was still not ‘a walk in the park’! It was still very much up and down hundreds of steps, following the ridge line. We were learning first hand that a trek on the Wall is not for the unfit or for the fainthearted! And this was just the first day.

DSC00374 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00374 © DY of jtdytravels

Signs along the way exhorted us to be careful and not to climb on the wall.

DSC00375 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00375 © DY of jtdytravels

It was strange to find ourselves walking on this historic Wall on our own.

We’d thankfully left the tourist hordes behind in Beijing.

And that was good… very good.

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DSC00376 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00376 © DY of jtdytravels

By the time this photo was taken it was 19:33.

Almost time to get off the wall and climb down to the waiting bus.

It would be good to find a feed and a bed for the night.

More anon.

David

This Walk on the Wall is About Helping Others to Help Themselves

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China #5 The Eastern Qing Tombs

Today was the start day for our walk on the Great Wall of China. But first we had one more historic site to visit. It was almost on the way and close to the section of wall for the first day’s walk, so why not delay the start of our arduous trek for just a few more hours?

Map to Qing Tombs

Map from Beijing to the Eastern Qing Tombs

While in Beijing, we had visited the Forbidden City, the Palace of Emperors, and we had walked in the Garden for Emperors, at Jingshan Park, and we would spend five days walking along the Great Wall built in Imperial times.

Now, we travelled 125 km east of Beijing to the East Qing Tombs, the largest and most complete complex of imperial tombs in China. At this huge site at the base of an arc of mountains, are the tombs of five of the Emperors of the Qing Dynasty, four Empresses including two Dowager Empresses, one princess and five tombs of imperial concubines.

 

 

 

Entrance walk to Tombs; DSC00297 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00297 © DY of jtdytravels

Everything about this tomb site is BIG. The  site covers 80 square kilometres and it’s  just not possible to see it all in one visit. The entry way alone is five kilometres long. This path, known as the ‘spirit path’, is guarded by a large number of stone animals such as horses, camels, elephants and unicorns and human figures which represent courtiers and military officers. It’s all on a grand scale, as befits emperors. The pavers are now very uneven and it was rather rough walking. Fortunately we didn’t have to walk the whole way.

Along the Walk ; DSC00298 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00298 © DY of jtdytravels

A look through the trunk of one of these stone elephants gives some impression of size.

Entrance to the Tombs ; DSC00299 © DY of jtdytravels

Entrance to the Tombs ; DSC00299 © DY of jtdytravels

The ‘spirit path’ leads to the red gate, the main entrance to the Tombs. A sign states  “Officials Dismount From Horse Here”. Well, that didn’t apply to us as we didn’t have horses. A small section of the original wall can still be seen on the left of the gate.

DSC00301 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00301 © DY of jtdytravels

Each of the guard stones is intricately decorated.

You could spend a whole day just photographing these stone sculptures.

Map of Tomb Site; DSC00303 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00303 © DY of jtdytravels

The tombs are situated at the base of an arc of four mountains. The map shows the way the tombs were set out in order of the status of each Emperor. The tomb, known as ‘Xiaoling ‘, the tomb of Emperor Shun Zhi (1638-1661, the first Qing emperor to rule China), is aligned with the axis of the main apex of Changrui Mountain. That indicates that he was the most important in the group. Other emperors lie on either side of Xiaoling in a fan pattern from east to west according to the position each person occupied in the family hierarchy.

There’s a legend that the choice of this burial site was made by Emperor Shun Zhi. It’s said that, one day, when he was out riding on a hunting trip, he came to the foot of the Changduan Mountain. Here, he reigned his horse in to admire this place of quiet and beauty in it’s setting among the green mountains. He took off his archer’s thumb guard (called a banzhi) and, throwing it into sky, he told his bodyguard that, wherever the banzhi dropped, that would be his burial place. And so it came to be.

Sign on a Tomb; DSC00305 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00305 © DY of jtdytravels

Emperor Shun Zhi’s tomb, the ‘Xiaoling’ or ‘Qian Long’ mausoleum, was indeed built here two years after his death. It was built under the instructions of his successor, Emperor Kang XI. This marked the beginning of the Qing Dynasty East Tombs.

One of the lesser tombs DSC00306 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00306 © DY of jtdytravels

Those who came to pay homage at the tombs, changed their clothes in this pavilion.

That was then, not now.

DSC00308 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00308 © DY of jtdytravels

Tomb entrances were built on a grand scale.

DSC00310 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00310 © DY of jtdytravels

A tortoise was often put at the base of burial monuments. It carries a stone block on which the Emperor’s name is inscribed. Due to their long lifespan and their sturdiness, tortoises are a Chinese emblem of longevity, power, tenacity and stability.  The flat plastron and domed carapace of a totoise parallels the ancient Chinese idea of a flat earth and domed sky

Main Tomb Pavilion DSC00313 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00313 © DY of jtdytravels

I became unsure, at this point, just who was buried where! It all became very complicated to take in over a short space of time. So I just took the opportunity to take photos to share that will at least show the ambiance of the place. It is an impressive place.

DSC00315 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00315 © DY of jtdytravels

Intricately carved stone slab on stairway up to a tomb.

Uneven walkway! DSC00322 © DY of jtdytravels

Uneven walkway! DSC00322 © DY of jtdytravels

Fortunately we didn’t have to walk on these old and very uneven pavers.

Decoration ; DSC00324 © DY of jtdytravels

Tomb Decoration ; DSC00324 © DY of jtdytravels

An intricate wall decoration.

Consort burials DSC00326 © DY of jtdytravels

Consort burials DSC00326 © DY of jtdytravels

Consorts and favoured concubines were buried in these vaulted tombs.

DSC00328 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00328 © DY of jtdytravels

A very detailed wall mural and much Tibetan calligraphy adorned the walls.

Almost all of the movable items have been removed by tomb robbers over the years.

Bridges over waterlily ponds DSC00349 © DY of jtdytravels

Bridges over waterlily ponds DSC00349 © DY of jtdytravels

Bridges cross the Yudai (Jade Belt) Stream, also known as Dragon Beard Ditch.

Water Lilies; DSC00312 © DY of jtdytravels

Water Lilies; DSC00312 © DY of jtdytravels

Water lilies fill the waters under the entry bridges.

DSC00350 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00350 © DY of jtdytravels

Another entry… another tomb!

DSC00316 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00316 (taken through glass) © DY of jtdytravels

The most elegant tomb belongs to the Empress Dowager Cixi.  Although she wasn’t born into the Royal family, she was a great beauty when young and became a Royal favourite, an Imperial Concubine. Never an Empress in her own right, she ruled ‘behind the scenes’ for 45 years during the reigns of two Emperors, Xianfeng, and her son, Tongzhi. Her tomb took six years to build and was adorned (then) with much gold, the symbol of royalty.

DSC00355 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00355 © DY of jtdytravels

 Decorations in the tomb of Empress Dowager Cixi.

DSC00358 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00358 © DY of jtdytravels

Dragon figure decorations in the halls of Empress Dowager Cixi

DSC00359 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00359 © DY of jtdytravels

Sloping up to the Empress Dowager Cixi’s “Hall of Grand Favour’ is a sculptural stone ramp. It’s a rather stunning work of intricate images depicting dragons and phoenixes.

Much more about these East Qing Tombs can be read on the following web site.

http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/atam/115430.htm

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DSC00334 © DY of jtdytravels

Empress Tanya; not entombed here and very much alive! Just playing dress-ups! Tanya is a member of staff at the Foundation Unit of the University of Newcastle. She spent many long hours organising this tour to China as part of the University’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Thank you Tanya!

More anon

David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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China #4 Beijing Out and About

With three millennia of history, it’s not surprising that Beijing boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites:  the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian and the Grand Canal. On our only day left in Beijing before the start of our walk on the Great Wall, we decided to visit Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City. I’d been there before but many of our group hadn’t, so that was the plan.

Security check; DSC00213 © DY of jtdytravels

Security check; DSC00213 © DY of jtdytravels

A vast crowd had the same idea, it seemed. Just to get through the security barriers took quite a lot of time. There was time aplenty to compare this visit to those in previous years.

There are several differences it seems to me. The first is the security… I’ve never had to do this before… but that’s more and more common world wide.  The second difference is the sheer number of people wanting to get into the area. That also seems to be a phenomena at most well renowned tourist sites world wide now. A third difference is really pronounced; and that’s the number of tourists here who were Chinese… tourists in their own country, eagerly having a look at their own history. In times past, I remember there being many more foreign tourists doing the sightseeing than locals. Now, I estimate that foreigners were outnumbered 100 to 1! Travel for a lot of Chinese must be possible now that their economy is growing.

Crowds throng the Square DSC00219 © DY of jtdytravels

Crowds throng Tiananmen Square DSC00219 © DY of jtdytravels

Eventually we made it through security only to have to share Tiananmen Square with many thousands of others. It was packed despite being the fourth largest city square in the world. It’s huge, having been enlarged a number of times since it was built in 1651. And is even more impressive because it’s entirely open with, usually, not a tree or a seat in sight.

Artificial Hill; DSC00236 © DY of jtdytravels

Artificial Hill; DSC00236 © DY of jtdytravels

However, the square wasn’t so empty this time. There were vast beds of flowers and an artificial hill put there as part of the country’s recent celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Chinese defeat of the Japanese in 1945. Very impressive… as it was meant to be!

1945 sign in the Square; DSC00226 © DY of jtdytravels

1945 sign in the Square; DSC00226 © DY of jtdytravels

I thought perhaps all the flowers were there to celebrate the anniversary of my birth, 1945.

Not so! Oh well. I could just enjoy them anyway.

Flower beds in Tiananmen Square ; DSC00241 © DY of jtdytravels

Flower beds in Tiananmen Square ; DSC00241 © DY of jtdytravels

And enjoy them we did.

Apart from the artificial ‘mountains’ in the Square at present, all else remains the same. The only greenery for this square are the trees which line the outer eastern and western sides of the square. There are light poles which provide bright light at night. They also serve as CCTV mounting points; you are always being watched!  The square is always manned by many uniformed and plain clothed police. To me, these uniformed individuals all looked very young. And, of course, I refrained from photographing them!

Official buildings in Square DSC00232 © DY of jtdytravels

Official buildings in Square DSC00232 © DY of jtdytravels

Tiananmen Square is a very important and historic place for the Chinese people.  Around its perimeter are many nationally important buildings including the Monument to the People’s Heroes of the Revolution, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum and Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum which houses his embalmed body.

Mao's portrait in Square; DSC00243 © DY of jtdytravels

Mao’s portrait in Square; DSC00243 © DY of jtdytravels

Whatever we in the west might think of Chairman Mao and his leadership of China, his body is still on show here and his portrait still hangs in great prominence in Tiananmen Square. It was here that Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China on 1st October 1949, a very important day in Chinese history.

 

Entrance to 'The Forbidden Palace"; DSC00248 © DY of jtdytravels

Entrance to ‘The Forbidden Palace”; DSC00248 © DY of jtdytravels

After milling with the throngs we moved on to the Forbidden City. Many thousands of visitors all moved quietly around taking in this historical place.  Our lovely guide, Hero, did tell us though, that to see the real Chinese history, one has to visit Japan! Mao and the Cultural Revolution sure had an impact on China, even to this day.

Temple of Heaven; DSC00251 © DY of jtdytravels

Inside the Walls of The Forbidden City; DSC00251 © DY of jtdytravels

From 1420 to 1912, the 980 buildings that make up “The Forbidden City” were home to the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and, of course, their large households. It was the political centre of Chinese Government and the place of Imperial ceremonies for 500 years. It now houses the Palace Museum and is open to the paying public.

Taking photos; not easy! DSC00268 © DY of jtdytravels

Taking photos; not easy! DSC00268 © DY of jtdytravels

But, as you can see from this photo, taking meaningful photos was almost an impossibility.

 Inside the throne room; DSC00266 © DY of jtdytravels

Inside the throne room; DSC00266 © DY of jtdytravels

Compared to other visits, I found this visit to the Palace Museum very frustrating. These days, with so many people and security at such a high level, visitors find that places of interest and objects they’d like to view, are either roped off, or glassed in, or shrouded in crowds of heads, or obscured by a waving line of cameras held high overhead. However, there are many good photos of this museum on the web and I’ll leave you to find them and peruse them at your leisure. Let me just say that I have good memories of better times.

Delicious lunch! DSC00278 © DY of jtdytravels

Delicious lunch! DSC00278 © DY of jtdytravels

I was rather relieved when we left the Museum and headed by a short bus ride to a lovely little restaurant tucked in under a pavilion sitting atop a hill. The food was based on the style found in the Yunnan Provence of China. Interestingly, that was where I planned to visit at the end of my Walk on the Wall and before the beginning of my Mongolian adventure. I liked what I ate here, so I looked forward to more Yunnan food in Kunming.

I left lunch early to attend a presentation being given by Alexia Sinclair, Jennie’s first Art Travel Scholarship winner some twelve years ago. My time in Beijing just happened to coincide with her visit, so there was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity of catching up with her and hubby James. Apart from Alexia and James, I think I was the only other foreigner in the room. I estimate that there were about 100 attendees.

From Alexia's Series %22A Frozen Tale%22

From Alexia’s Series “A Frozen Tale”

The photo above is of one of Alexia’s works that we have at home. It’s from her Swedish Series, “A Frozen Tale”. Her works hang in many parts of the world in private and public collections. You can check out her work for yourselves at <www.alexiasinclair.com>

Alexia’s presentation took us through her early interest in ballet, art and photography to where she is today as probably (no she is) the world leader in the digital manipulation and compilation of photographic images. The presentation was a little tedious as everything had to be translated. I remember giving a talk under the same conditions once and the whole affair ends up being very tiring for all concerned. But I was glad I was there to support Alexia.

Straight Streets! DSC00137 © DY of jtdytravels

Straight Streets! DSC00137 © DY of jtdytravels

My next task was to find my way back to the hotel! But, for once, I knew where I was and where I had to go so I walked the couple of kilometres back to my hotel, not taking one wrong turn. Had I deviated from the straight and narrow I would have got lost as the road I had to follow was completely straight! Only move I had to make was to cross the road.

Roofs of the Hutong; DSC00290 ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Roofs of the Hutong; DSC00290 © DY of jtdytravels

Now the reason I didn’t want to get lost on my way back to the hotel is quite evident in this photo taken looking down from upstairs in our hotel. These are the roofs of the neighbouring houses in this old Hutong area of Beijing. To get lost in those narrow streets may well mean that you would never be seen again! Fascinating though it might be in there, I’m guessing that one needs a guide to negotiate that maze of streets… and I was on my own.

That evening, no-one was interested in an evening meal. I certainly didn’t need one either, so I wandered back up to the local shop and bought a Danish and a can of beer… I needed the fluid, of course, and just a little something to tide me over until breakfast.

By then it was time to pack my bag and get ready for the real purpose of this trip…

the Walk on the Wall.

More anon

David

All photography copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

Some of our other travels are on

www.jtdytravels.com

More travel photos on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

China #3 Beijing Night Markets

After our delightful walk in Jingshan Park it was back onto the bus and a return to our hotel, well at least as close as our bus could get to the hotel, a walk of about 400m away. That was OK. We walked by a 7 ELEVEN store which meant a chance to stock up on provisions like milk, a couple of cans of beer and a packet of peanuts. It was time to put the feet up.

My 950ml carton of pasteurised Whole Milk had this interesting set of words on it, “More nutritious and healthier come from purity, fashion and new technology”.  Even so, it tasted OK in tea and coffee.

After drinks with a few of the group in my room at 17h00, we set off for dinner at 18h00. The plan was to visit a local restaurant mentioned by our Chinese guide called Hero – will he be a hero or won’t he be? Only time will tell! He appeared to be a very likeable chap with a good command of English and an accent easily understood. He told us that if we went to this restaurant, we would have to point to what we wanted on the menu as this was a VERY Chinese part of town. Sounded good to me. 

Just four of us went for this walk… others chose to sleep after their long plane flight. It’s always interesting to take a walk in city streets… observing life is one of the joys of travel. 

Lady with dog! DSC00193 ; © DY of jtdytravels

Lady with dog! DSC00193 ; © DY of jtdytravels

This white pooch had just been picked up from a grooming place right opposite our hotel.  All fluffed up, and no doubt smelling like a garden full of roses, it was placed on the owner’s three-wheeled battery powered trike to be taken home.  Cute!

Door locks DSC00285 © DY of jtdytravels

Door locks DSC00285 © DY of jtdytravels

Everywhere you wander there are interesting doors and their locks.

Peeking through doors! DSC00194 © DY of jtdytravels

Peeking through doors! DSC00194 © DY of jtdytravels

Some doors are open and its always good to peek through doorways… it’s sometimes very revealing about local life. In here there were lots of scooters… not sure why!

There are still many bikes and scooters in Beijing all of which are battery-powered nowadays – cuts down on pollution. They are a faster, cheaper and cleaner way of getting around the the often grid-locked streets than by car or bus.

And while we’re talking traffic, its important for Australians abroad in a Chinese city to remember that the traffic here in China travels on the opposite side of the road to the way we drive. So we must remember to look the ‘right’ way first. And what is another trap for the unwary visitor, is the plethora of electric vehicles. They make for some heart-stopping moments. Cars, bikes, scooters, three-wheeled delivery vehicles etc. sneak up behind you without any noise what-so-ever. Before you know it a rear-view mirror sails past your elbow. And of course, vehicles can come at you from any direction. Road markings seem to be there to keep the paint manufactures in business… and as our lovely guide Hero said, traffic signals are there just as a minor distraction, on many occasions not to be taken any notice of. This is not good for an Aussie visitor’s calm demeanour. I know!

Car clamps DSC00284 © DY of jtdytravels

Car clamps DSC00284 © DY of jtdytravels

In one street I saw this car with somewhat unusual clamps attached to its wheels… not the normal sorts of clamps put on by parking police.  So why are they there? Well it seems that they are there because there are still quite a lot of dogs wandering the streets of Beijing… and these boards protect the car’s tyres from being peed upon! Believe it or not! Up to you.

We walked on. Eventually, we came to the aforementioned restaurant…  and then walked straight past. We really didn’t like the look of the place when we saw it up close. Looked a bit grubby! Not a good idea to start our trip with upset tummies! So what now?

Christian Church in Beijing; DSC00195 © DY of jtdytravels

Christian Church in Beijing; DSC00195 © DY of jtdytravels

We ended up walking about 2 km all the way back to where we had made a stop earlier in the day opposite a lovely building that was a Christian Church.

There we found a noodle house which had been spotted across the road from the church earlier. I don’t really think it was much, if any, cleaner. The vegetable noodles I ordered had a layer of nondescript grey vegetables floating on top of a dark brown broth. In the broth I found a few noodles – doesn’t sound very exciting does it? And, it wasn’t. The least said the better particularly after our wonderful lunch.

Mops! DSC00196 © DY of jtdytravels

Mops! DSC00196 © DY of jtdytravels

As we wandered out into the streets again I noticed these mops leaning against a tree. Seems like some things in the neighbourhood must at least get a bit of a lick and a clean! Or was it a clever sculpture?

Dancer; DSC00207 © DY of jtdytravels

Dancer; DSC00207 © DY of jtdytravels

This dancer, a male, was performing on a small stage in the Night Market just a short distance from where we’d just eaten.  He put on quite a show.

Night Market; DSC00197 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market; DSC00197 © DY of jtdytravels

What a hive of industry the Night Market was. Great ambience and fun to be there. And here, there were all kinds of little food stalls selling things to eat… some we recognised and some we didn’t.

Clip #2

Of particular interest were the scorpions impaled on skewers… see video clip. Many of them were still waving their little legs around; legs that were never going to take them anywhere except to the grill. I felt a bit sorry for them, but not so sorry that I wanted to put a skewer’s worth out of their misery. No. I’ll try a lot of things but I can’t quite come at scorpions.

There was a lot of paraphernalia on sale including lasers, brass door knockers, hats.. you name it, it was there somewhere. I’ll just add some photos to give you a feel for the place.

Night Market ; DSC00200 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market ; DSC00200 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market; DSC00202 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market; DSC00202 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market; DSC00204 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market; DSC00204 © DY of jtdytravels

 

Night Market; DSC00205 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market; DSC00205 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market; DSC00206 © DY of jtdytravels

Night Market; DSC00206 © DY of jtdytravels

Yes, indeed, it was a very busy place. But then Beijing is a very populous city. Coming from small cities like Canberra and Newcastle, we were not quite used to having to make our way through so many people. It was difficult not to lose your friends in the throng.

At last we began a slow wander back to the hotel, retracing the road we had come, but this time with a Daagen Haas ice-cream to help us on our way. Very good it was, too.

Light Sculpture; DSC00208 © DY of jtdytravels

Light Sculpture (pink); DSC00208  © DY of jtdytravels

There was a rather good light sculpture in the street outside the Crown Plaza Hotel.

Light sculpture (green) ; DSC00209 © DY of jtdytravels

Light sculpture (green) ; DSC00209 © DY of jtdytravels

A closer inspection as the sculpture changed colours.

And just before I finish for this musing… another observation. I’m a bit of a tram/trolley buff and am always interested in seeing how this form of transport works in a city.

So, of interest to me here in Beijing were some of the trolley buses that trundle around the streets, particularly when one realises they are running around without attachment to any overhead wires. These buses must have storage batteries that allow them to do this. On our walk back to the hotel I noticed a cowling arrangement suspended above the roadway at the beginning of a section of the usual double wire overhead. Sure enough, the next trolley bus that came along stopped under the cowling and up went its contact poles and away it went on its merry way, again connected to a ‘proper’ power source. The section without wires was in a posh area, so I can only assume that overhead wires wouldn’t look ‘nice’… so they aren’t there!

Electric wires! DSC00287 © DY of jtdytravels

Electric wires and co-axial cabling! DSC00287 © DY of jtdytravels

Electric cabling tells a lot about a place…. and sometimes they are not very pretty! Electric light poles in many places around Beijing look like the ones in India – a complete tangle of wires. The Chinese must work on the same principle as the Indians … that if something goes wrong with a connection, it is easier to string a new line than to find the fault in the existing line. There’s black spaghetti everywhere.

And that’s it for this musing.  More anon

David

All photography copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

Our other travel site is

www.jtdytravels.com

More travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

.

 

China #2 Beijing; Jingshan Park

This was the day that I was joined by the group from the University of Newcastle. We’d all come to China to hike along several parts of the Great Wall, some parts well known to tourists but many others which are hardly ever touched by hikers’ boots; some parts are in a rather decayed state. Our aim was to raise money for the UoN’s “Shaping Futures” scholarships program which assists students who are doing things tough while they study at the Uni.

I became involved in this trek because my partner, Jennie, has been a passionate advocate for and a donor to the UoN ‘Shaping Futures’ program since its inception. We’ve seen many lives changed for the better through these scholarships. These Scholars are determined to change their lives and the lives of their families through their education. Such students, of whatever age, and in any faculty, are the reason for the trek.

As a trekker I paid all of my own expenses. However, in the fund-raising aspect of the project, I’ve been sponsored by friends, family and acquaintances. Jennie and I would like to thank every one of those sponsors on behalf of the many students who will benefit. Now, through these musings, we’d like to share something of the experience. I did the training and the trek and now Jennie is pulling together my diary notes and my photos to publish on the web. We’ll try to publish an episode every second day. Please enjoy. And now, back to the story….

Our time together as a group began with a special lunch to launch our adventure and get to know each other a little better…. some of us had not even met as yet. We would need to work together to support each other on the difficult walk ahead of us. Just how difficult it would be we didn’t know and perhaps that was just as well. But the lunch was a good beginning… a nine course Chinese banquet. We would not eat like that again on the trek!

Chinese Lion at the gate of Park; DSC00166 © DY of jtdytravels

Chinese Lion at the gate of Jingshan Park; DSC00166 © DY of jtdytravels

We planned to use the next couple of days to get over jet lag, stretch our legs and do some exploring together.  First stop was Jingshan Park.  I’ve been to China on several occasions, but never to this park. It was good to experience something different. 

Ceiling decoration of entry gate; DSC00167 © DY of jtdytravels

Ceiling decoration of entry gate to Jingshan Park; DSC00167 © DY of jtdytravels

Everything about this entry gate is meticulously maintained; maybe a result of the Olympics having been held in Beijing in recent years.

Conifers and lawns in the park; DSC00168 © DY of jtdytravels

Conifers and lawns in the park; DSC00168 © DY of jtdytravels

Jingshan Park is a large park covering 23 hectares (57 acres) close to the centre of Beijing. The extensive lawns, though very inviting under the shade of many conifers, was simply off-limits. All of the grassy areas were roped off. It seemed a terrible waste to me but, thinking of all the Chinese who would want to use it if it were available, the lawn wouldn’t last long.

Hundreds of Paeonies; DSC00172 © DY of jtdytravels

Hundreds of Peony plants; DSC00172 © DY of jtdytravels

The highlight of the park for me were the acres and acres of peony roses. The web site for this park proudly proclaims that there are 200 varieties of peonies in the park with 20,000 peony plants in all. I was blown away. But not as much as I would be if I was to visit this park in May, in the Chinese springtime, when all of these peonies would be covered in the glory of their beautiful, blowsy blooms. I shall simply have to come back in May sometime!

My Peonies at home in CBR; P1160667 © JT of jtdytravels

My Peonies at home in CBR; P1160667 © JT of jtdytravels

Being in Beijing in autumn, I even missed out on the flowering of the peonies in my own garden in spring back home in Australia. But, at least, Jennie sent me a photo to enjoy.

Pinus bungeana ;DSC00178 © DY of jtdytravels

Pinus bungeana ;DSC00178 © DY of jtdytravels

Amongst the hundreds of trees in the park, the beautiful bark of Pinus bungeana caught my eye. It’s common name is very apt: Lacebark Pine. It’s a slow growing native of the mountains of China and can grow to 25m high. It’s a real stunner!

DSC00189_2 © DY of jtdytravels

Callicarpa DSC00189_2 © DY of jtdytravels

Being a horticulturist with sap in my veins, other plants also attract my attention.

These purple berries are the fruit of Callicarpa.

Yellow Daisies; DSC00191 © DY of jtdytravels

Yellow Daisies; DSC00191 © DY of jtdytravels

And who could not take a photo of such delightful yellow daisies? They matched the outfit worn by the man we had come here to meet, our Tai chi teacher.

Tai Chi teacher; DSC00170 © DY of jtdytravels

Tai Chi teacher; DSC00170 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the reasons we’d come to this park was to have a Tai chi lesson. Our teacher was fit, handsome and, thankfully, extremely patient. Balancing on one leg, waving our hands around in all directions, we must have looked a real sight. Passing Chinese were most amused. Since I was a participant, there are no photos… probably for the best!

Pavilion roof tiles; DSC00175 © DY of jtdytravles

Pavilion roof tiles; DSC00175 © DY of jtdytravles

When the Tai chi lesson was over, I took a moment to look at the capped tiles that covered the roof over the ‘verandah’ of that courtyard.  The ivy added a softening touch.

Close up f roof decoration; DSC00176 © DY of jtdytravels

Close up of roof decoration; DSC00176 © DY of jtdytravels

A closer look at the curved roof structure, its tiles and its decorations.

It was time to move on, stretch our legs and climb up a hill to explore more of the park that is just to the north of the one time Imperial Palace, ‘The Forbidden City’. In fact, the park was established almost a thousand years ago as the private Imperial Garden. It was not open to the public until 1928… only those who lived within the walls of the Forbidden City ever walked where we walked on this sunny, autumnal day. ‘Twas time to ponder times past.

And time to ponder just how this park came into being. For this hilly section of the park is made up entirely of soil excavated when the moats around the Imperial Palace and nearby canals were formed. One can only imagine the thousands of hours of labour that went into this project… both human and animal labour. And, no doubt, many lives were lost. 

The whole of this hill area is called “Jingshan Hill” meaning ‘Prospect Hill’. But the hill was formed with five ‘summits’ and on each ‘summit’ there’s a pavilion. Each of the five pavilions originally housed a copper Buddha statue. They represented the five tastes; sour, bitter, sweet, acrid and salt. Sadly, not one of those Buddhas can be viewed today. They were all lost during warfare in 1900. But the pavilions are restored and resplendent.

Guanmiao Pavilion ; DSC00180 © DY of jtdytravels

Guanmiao Pavilion ; DSC00180 © DY of jtdytravels

 We visited the beautiful, octagonal  Pavilion called ‘Guanmiao Pavilion’ which means ‘Wonder Appreciation Pavilion’. Fortunately for us, signage was in both Chinese and English. So we were able to learn that this pavilion dates from 1750, and that it has a ‘twin’ pavilion to the west of the central summit. The ‘twin’ is known as the ‘Jifang Pavilion’, or ‘The Pavilion of Fragrance Gathering’.  Chinese names are so colourful, aren’t they?  Both pavilions are alike in architecture and in the design and colour of their decorations. Their double eaves have jasper coloured glazed roof tiles finished in yellow edges. Both are a delight to the eye.

View over the city; DSC00186 © DY of jtdytravels

View over the city; DSC00186 © DY of jtdytravels

A little higher and we had a good view over the top of this pavilion to central Beijing.

Pavilion on the summit; DSC00181 DY of jtdytravels

Pavilion at the summit of Jingshan Park ; DSC00181 DY of jtdytravels

We needed to climb up even further to reach the highest point of the park, indeed the highest point in the city of Beijing. And right at the very top of the central ‘summit’ is this very grand pavilion, the Wanchun Pavilion (Ten Thousand Spring Pavilion).

Detail of the decoration on this pavilion; DSC00185 © DY of jtdytravels

Detail of the decoration on this pavilion; DSC00185 © DY of jtdytravels

Every detail has been faithfully restored. Very impressive.

Panorama from the top of the hill; DSC00183 © DY of jtdytravels

Panorama from the top of the hill; DSC00183 © DY of jtdytravels

And from here on the highest ‘summit’, the view was also very impressive.

There seemed to be a camera clicking chorus!

View over 'The Forbidden City' ; DSC00184 © DY of jtdytravels

View over ‘The Forbidden City’ ; DSC00184 © DY of jtdytravels

It was indeed a wonderful overall view of ‘The Forbidden City’, which is now an amazing museum of the Imperial ages of China. It’s a ‘must see’ on everyone’s list when visiting Beijing. and we planned to visit it next day. But this day wasn’t over yet.

More anon

David

All photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

More of our travels on www.jtdytravels.com

and on www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

.

 

China #1 Beijing … First Day Wanderings

This is the first of my musings reliving a six week trip I recently completed to China and Mongolia. My journey began on 5th September in Beijing where I was to take part in a special 5 day ‘Walk on the Wall’ to help raise money for a student support program for the University of Newcastle in NSW. I also visited Kunming in south west China before going to Mongolia to join a trek into parts of the far west of that vast country.

Map of China

Map of China

Beijing, on the north east of the map, is denoted with a red star because it is the Capital of the People’s Republic of China.  For those who like to know co-ordinants, it’s at 39⁰55’N, 116⁰23̕E, elevation 43.5m [142.7ft]

The city is an important hub for highways, expressways, railway and air traffic networks. It’s main airport, the “Capital International Airport”, is the second busiest airport in the world when passenger numbers are taken into account.  (Atlanta, Georgia, USA, has been the busiest since 2000.  However, if all airports in a city are counted, London has the world’s busiest city airport system by passenger count.) 

Being so big, it is not the easiest place to navigate. But I was expecting to be met so thought, “no worries”. Mistake number one! There wasn’t anybody waiting for me with a lolly-pop stick with my name on it. Oh well.. perhaps I hadn’t booked a transfer after all.  So, I found my way to the taxi area where dozens of others were waiting patiently to get to the head of the queue. My turn eventually came  … but where was my cab waiting? Not near the queue but across a three lane roadway. The old rule for crossing such roads came flooding back to me, so with head down I marched across the road to my appointed cab. All the traffic missed me, as I knew, hoped, it would. Just never eye-ball a driver!

The cabbie didn’t know my hotel… not an unusual event it seems. I was told later that many cab drivers are country villagers seeking work in the city. Fortunately, I had written down the hotel’s phone number along with its name and address so he rang them and got ‘Chinese directions’ on how to find the place. It worked perfectly as around forty minutes later some large neon-lit words came into view exactly where he expected them to be. The Royal Phoenix Hotel had been found at a few minutes before midnight. And the fare was exactly as previously suggested and although tipping is not expected in China, I didn’t bother about the 10 Yuan change he handed me from the 100 I gave him. He even got out of his cab and helped lift my bag out of the boot, to boot.

Royal Phoenix Hotel Beijing; DSC00145 © DY of jtdytravels

Royal Phoenix Hotel Beijing; DSC00145 © DY of jtdytravels

I wandered into a very dim foyer … the chandelier had been turned off along with most of the other lights in the place. As I spoke with the receptionist, a cleaner manouvered a vacuum around my legs. (Reminds me of a time in Singapore many years ago when a female cleaner swished a mop between my legs whilst I was performing at a urinal !) 

And so to my room… large and comfortable with a king size bed that needs a map to find the second pillow. A fridge and a kettle… much appreciated. This is China, so tea is provided but NO COFFEE! Made a cup of tea, unpacked my bag and hung things up as I’m here for five nights. It was wonderful to find that the curtains were heavy and would keep the light out… daylight that was going to flood the sky in just a few hours time. Curtains worked a treat – I slept well… too well and missed breakfast by a few minutes. The sleep was worth it though.

Inside The Royal Phoenix Hotel, Beijing; DSC00147 © DY of jtdytravels

Inside The Royal Phoenix Hotel, Beijing; DSC00147 © DY of jtdytravels

My Beijing ‘home away from home’ was not one of the new hotels that have sprung up to cater for the thousands of tourists and business people who visit Beijing every year. It was an older style hotel, many of the fittings having the flavour of old China… very evocative.

Superficial opulence everywhere but that’s the way things are done here, and who am I to be anything but appreciative of different ways of doing things! That’s why we travel.

Table edge decoration; DSC00148 © DY of jtdytravels

Table edge decoration; DSC00148 © DY of jtdytravels

Neo-classical, Chinese revival and pseudo ornate may be words to describe the decoration… this table edge complete with glass bling instead of the jewels and diamonds of former days.

DY Selfie; DSC00150 © DY of jtdytravels

DY Selfie; DSC00150 © DY of jtdytravels

As befits modern times, I began my journey with a selfie! I tried to look “Imperial”. Then, at the hotel’s Business Centre, I spent many frustrating minutes trying to get an internet connection. I connected OK but couldn’t get ‘Google’ to respond. I’ve been told a ‘dozen’ different reasons why, by a ‘dozen’ different people, none of whom have come up with the right answer. If something doesn’t work or the answer to a question isn’t known, one never looses face here in Asia! The real reason… Google is banned in China!

Persimmon Trees; DSC00151 © DY of jtdytravels

Persimmon Trees; DSC00151 © DY of jtdytravels

An hour or so later, as the hunger pains started to twist in my stomach, I ventured out to see what I could find. Nearby the hotel, all but obscured by thick electricity wires, I noticed a row of Persimmon trees in fruit hanging over a wall. They looked inviting but were not the answer to my hunger. I wandered on. I’d find food somewhere.

Soon, I found an answer to another pressing problem. I needed to find a razor as I’d left mine back in Canberra. Forty odd hours of growth needed dealing with. I ventured into the first likely looking nook-like shop and, lo and behold, there was a razor and spare safety blades to go with the implement. AUD5 later, I was armed with the equipment I needed to make myself respectable again.

Old man in Beijing DSC00139 © DY of jtdytravels

Old man in Beijing DSC00139 © DY of jtdytravels

I wandered on across a bridge. Down below I noticed an old man. While much is new in the city, some older people seem to have been caught in a time warp. What stories he could tell if only I could speak his language… but I can’t, more’s the pity.

Cranes on the city skyline DSC00156 © DY of jtdytravels

Cranes on the city skyline DSC00156 © DY of jtdytravels

He will have seen so many changes and must marvel at the amount of building going on… the old coming down, the new going up. In recent history, the city’s population has grown very quickly indeed, from 11.5 million in 2000 to 21.55 million in 2014 and still growing… that’s like having the whole population of Australia crammed into one city!  This makes Beijing one of the most populous cities in the world and the second largest city in China after Shanghai. Keeping up with building requirements for housing, infrastructure and business for such a huge population has given Beijing it’s ‘national bird’; the crane!

Traffic in Beijing DSC00135 © DY of jtdytravels

Traffic in Beijing DSC00135 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s not just buildings this city needs, but transport infrastructure. Beijing’s traffic often comes to a standstill, as we were to learn as we criss-crossed the city by bus in the coming days when the rest of my group arrived to join me. But for now I was on my own and free to just wander. The first real decision for the day was should I turn left or right at the first main intersection I came upon. Casting fate to the wind, I chose to turn right.

Shopping street ©  DSC00163; DY  of  jtdytravels

Shopping street © DSC00163; DY of jtdytravels

My hunger pangs were becoming stronger.  Looking around, as one does in a strange place, I realised that all of the signage on the shops was, of course, in Chinese. I would have to window shop. I soon found a supermarket and a McDonalds! Three floors of supermarket provided a far superior razor than the one I’d bought a few minutes before. I also bought 4 lovely apples for less than 70 cents, 8 bananas for around $1.70, three ‘buckets’ of noodles, 950ml of full cream milk and some beer. I felt quite pleased with myself!

It was lunchtime by now so I broke a rule and had a Macca’s, and a coffee from the McCafe! Was rather good even if I do admit to it. And, after that, I just sat around on a corner or two and watched the Chinese world go by! {Click on the clip to view; then click on the red button at top left of clip to return to the musing.}

Clip #1

Eventually, back to my large and comfortable room for a rest.

An interesting thing happened while I was out for my wander. My bathroom had a venetian blind covering the window in the shower. The blind was a bit tatty but OK. Whilst I was away, the blind was removed along with the glass in the window, this being replaced with an opaque sheet of glass. Even the silicon sealer was dry by the time I noticed the change some hours later! How many Chinese it took to perform this marvel, I shudder to think when it takes so many to do so little on other occasions. And there’s more… a new kettle! The place must be undergoing a major up-grade.

As evening fell, I indulged in a bucket of Roast Beef Noodles, an apple and a banana, a beer and a cup of tea.  ‘Dinner’ was had. Then, just before I fell back into bed for what I hoped would be a really good night’s sleep, there was time for a small (medicinal) whisky.

Here endeth the first musing.  

More anon   David

 

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