Friday, 28 February 2014

Beijing Highlights, part 2

Beijing high lights 

After arriving on the 30th December we have spent a good few days getting used to Beijing and wandering around the old alleys (hutongs).
 We havn't ventured much into the modern parts of Beijing. It is mostly full of high rises and business areas.  The metro is very easy to use, we visited a local English book shop called The Bookworm. It had books, good English foods and beer ... perfect.

The 2nd Jan
  We had a relaxed morning,  after so much time sight-seeing the day before, visiting the Tian am am men Square and The Forbidden City  (Beijing, part 1)

As the day was warm and sunny we decided to set out in the afternoon to see the Summer Palace which was, as Seb would say totally awesome.  The kids really enjoyed the sights and scrambling all over the  the rocks that the palace was built on.  
                                    The entrance of the Palace

  The palace  is spread out over acres of land with many large lakes. At this time of year most of the lakes were frozen so we went sledging on one of them, we almost got to the other side on our sledge :-)
 The Frozen lake, all the landscape you can see in the below photo is all part of the Summer Palace. 
 A beautiful building covered in little Buddha's  

                                                              Little Buddha's :-)

The Summer palace is so serene and beautiful to wonder around. 

With plenty of climbing                               rocks 

The palace is full of pagodas

and beautiful decorated bridges

The boat of purity This is a folly of Empress Dowager Cixi who commissioned a marble boat instead of building a new imperial  navy.

 Shopping... Andy got a little green Buddha from one of the shrines and I bought a glorious jade dragon pendant in a shop.  The Summer Palace really was a pleasure to visit and another place we could easily return to. 

3rd January
We picked up our Vietnam passports :-) yippee  we are on our way! 
By this time we were feeling very comfortable in our hutong district, we are now eating breakfast on the go rather than at the hotel, munching on Chinese ( no idea what meat it was ..didn't ask ) sausages, meat dumplings, breads, cookies and other yummy goodies from the street shops.  But we decided not to sample the little cooking stalls along the old alleys just yet, lets say it didn't look hygienic enough for us.! 
                               Anyone for sausages
They hang their meat in the sun, this seems a good hanging place as the next day someone had hung some clothes.

 Plenty of meat to choose from, just take your pick :-) The butchers are just one of the many different stalls on the street corner, dried goods, fruits, veg, noodle stalls, and little areas with tables to eat your soups  and food made by the women there.
 On the 4th January We took a tour out to see the Great Wall Of China,  

Andy decided he wanted to go on a long 4 hour hike so visited one part of the wall that was less visited and less restored. 


The kids and I went on a tour that took us out to the Mutianyu section. We visited the Ming tombs on the way up to the Wall where all the Emperors are buried. 
                                                  Ming Tombs 
                                                          The throne


 We visited a silk factory where the kids watched how silk is taken from the silk worm and spun into silk and a Jade factory.

Jade stone

 How silk is made.   reared silkworm pupae which are bred to produce a white colored silk thread with no mineral on the surface. The pupae are killed by either dipping them in boiling water before the adult moths . These factors all contribute to the ability of the whole cocoon to be unravelled as one continuous thread, permitting a much stronger cloth to be woven from the silk. Silks were originally reserved for the Emperors of China for their own use and gifts to others, but spread gradually through Chinese culture and with trade.

Once we got to the bottom of The Great Wall we went up via a cable car and wondered around for a few hours before coming down via a fabulous toboggan ride. 
(how lazy that :-) I get the feeling the kids loved this the best.  Yet another glorious site to see,  what can i say, but it was The Great Wall Of China and one we would                                                never forget. 

Our section of the wall had been well restored and it was breathtaking to be able to walk along it and look over over the mountains and follow the walls progress along sharp ridges.

Andy had said that travelling along some of his section was more like a scramble over rumble than steps where the wall was breaking up, Far to risky for many. But again breathtaking to see it in its untouched state.
 One of the best reasons for coming this time of year was the fact that all the sights were reasonably empty of tourists, The wall was no exception very few were there and it was very quiet you could just sit and contemplate past history..that is till the kids become restless and want to move :-) 

We tried to mix long sight- seeing trips, sometimes 7/8 hours of walking or more a day with relaxing time spent in our hotel room, Allowing the kids to play and veg out. This seemed to work really well, we don't get burned out this way and felt much fresher when back visiting places.and there a lot to see in Beijing Confucius temple collage, The Lama temple and the Temple Of Heaven. 
 Confucius Confucius (551–479 BC)[1] was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history.
The philosophy of Confucius emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity.
It seem Confucius had a cosy relationship in his day as there are a similar amount of monuments, to how great Confucius was as monuments to the many rebellions, the emperor or lord suppressed.  He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor worship, respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives. He also recommended family as a basis for ideal government. He espoused the well-known principle "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself", an early version of the Golden Rule. 
                                                         Inside the college

The  Lama temple 
and people praying

                                                   Three of the six Buddha's 
 The Lama temple was more relaxed many visit it for prayers with a huge amount of incense being burned. It holds the largest inside Buddha in the world and wow ! just when you think you saw the biggest Buddha ever you move on to the next building and see an even bigger more colourful one...the biggest was 6 stories high.  They are so looked after,  being decorated with wonderful materials,  fruits and flowers every day.

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, is a complex of religious buildings situated in the south eastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It has been regarded as a Taoist temple

I (Andy) felt the Temple was a lesser version of the forbidden city and should be visited first not to be over shadowed by the forbidden city, very nice to see though.

We managed to see all three of these temples in one day and I get the feeling we are about, all templed off to our best duck restaurant and Chinese Jing wine for some respite. 

We visited a few parks along the way, some are just normal open park areas but some are beautifully decorated with pagodas and delicate buildings and lakes. On Saturdays and Sundays, you can find many older people exercising, playing cards, and dancing, and family's out together.  It really has a lovely community feel.  You would find more older citizens exercising on the play apparatus than kids playing. 

Well I had first thought that 8 days in Beijing would be too long in a city, but it had so much to offer in historical wonder and architecture and culture and food and city life that could easily have spent longer there if we had more money..and it was healthier !  Beijing wasn't really expensive but theres so much to see,  it soon builds up, and we did stay in a lovely hotel :-)
Weather was dry and  about half the days were clear ish and not to smoggy for Beijing standard. But the air pollution scale  on a lot of days went off the meter, they reckon that 200 particles ( air pollution) is dangerous for long term for health,  on one day it was measured around 290 particles.... ! Alisha had a cough that really didn't go away till we visited yangsho down south.  
Many children and adults we saw were wearing masks I wouldn't like to live long term in the city till they sorted out the pollution levels, which are contributed not just to the vast amount of cars and motorbikes but coal burning and factories as well. 
OPPS  must not forget the best bits.... the night market and all its goodies.

That's is for Beijing, a bit of a long one but so much fun 
Take care all xx