Saturday, December 28, 2013

Beijing - Part 4

Hi everyone! How have you been? I trust you've been enjoying a lovely, blessed Christmas season. I know we have, praise the Lord! In the past few weeks, I've experienced mightily God's faithfulness and goodness in my life -- genuine miracles as I step out in faith. In this wonderful time of the year, I pray that the Lord bless you
and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace :)

And now -- the last chapter of our Beijing saga! I realise that the Christmas week meant many of us were busy with family and friends, and Blogland was quieter than usual. If you missed the third part of our trip, you can find it here -- do have a looksie; I consider China's royal places some of its most beautiful areas.

In comparison, this last post on the subject will be a bit more mundane, as the picture at top should tell you haha! That's Wumart -- yep, Beijing's version of Walmart! We enjoyed shopping here very much -- in much the same way many of us enjoy shopping at Walmart (hey, well I do). We got loads of cheap stationery and Chinese books here.

The second floor of Wumart is the supermarket. There were lots of interesting produce which we don't get at home, like these fish. I think they're largehead hairtail, which can grow to over two metres -- if they had the chance.

Seaweed -- yum!

And yeah, you know how they say everybody loves fried chicken wings? Well, this way you can have them any time you want!

And while you're at it, have some chicken feet too!

There's Rebecca's Blythe dolly Isadora watching Mars Attacks! in the hotel with us (well, right there it's Tom Jones attacks). Incidentally, Becky has been blogging about Isadora's adventures in Beijing -- have a looksie here!

Outside the Beijing Museum of Natural History. The place has improved dramatically since I was last there, with many fascinating exhibits. I was glad the kids were always enthusiastic about all the places we visited.

Me taking a picture of an animatronic dinosaur, just one of many in an impressive re-creation of prehistoric life. He is cute, yes?

It was a truly educational visit.

An interesting house en route. I don't think it's abandoned.

Climbing up to the Temple of Heaven. This complex of religious buildings was built from 1406 to 1420; it was visited by Ming and Qing Emperors for annual prayer ceremonies. The place is huge, about 660 acres.

Inside the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. It is apparently located at the exact point where heaven and earth meet. The wooden pillars of all the halls support the ceiling without any nails or cement.

At the airport on our way home. There's Ro with Isadora.

It was a wonderful time of family bonding.

See you again soon! Here's wishing all of you a beautiful, prosperous, blessed new year!

* More pictures here :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Beijing - Part 3

Despite the long day at the Wall, we decided to stop off at the Summer Palace on the way home. The Summer Palace is China's largest and most well-preserved royal park, featuring numerous lakes, gardens and buildings. It was first built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886. UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List in 1998. This picture shows the breathtaking beauty and serenity of the place.

This sign was at the entrance, suggesting that there had been sufficient uncontrolled, bad tourists making rude imaginations to warrant it.

This sign, seen at regular intervals throughout the park, seemed to confirm it.

The lake was largely iced over and looked lovely in the setting sun. Here you can see we were pretty tired after the Wall!

We met an elderly Chinese man practicing his calligraphy strokes on the pavement. He used a large brush dipped in water. Seeing Becky, he asked her what her Chinese name is. His calligraphic skill was amazing; his hanyu pinyin -- the phonetic system for transcribing the sound of Chinese characters into Latin script -- not so much.

A magnificent evening.

This cheery fellow was a cab driver we met on our first day there. Finding him a fount of information about the country, as well as an excellent driver -- which is really something considering the blasé recklessness of both drivers and pedestrians there! -- we had hired him for the drive to the Wall. Seeing him outside the hotel the next day, we snapped this picture.

Entering the Forbidden City. Just imagine it -- once a gilded cage to 24 emperors from 1420 to 1911, the Forbidden City now attracts millions of visitors a year, making it the most visited World Heritage destination in the world. Reginald Johnston, tutor to the last emperor Pu Yi, wrote: "If ever there was a palace that deserved the name of a prison, it is that palace in the Forbidden City of Peking, in which emperor Shunzhi pined for freedom, and in which the last but one of his successors, the emperor Guangxu, ended his dismal days nearly twelve years ago".

A giant.. um.. pot.

To think of life in this place... perhaps that cage beside the throne says it all.

The largest stone sculpture in the Forbidden City. Weighing about 250 tons, this marble relief of nine dragons playing with pearls was originally carved in the Ming dynasty, then re-sculpted in the Qing. Apparently anyone caught touching this holy stone would receive the death penalty.

Inside the Hall of Preserved Harmony. One isn't allowed into any of these rooms, so one must make do squeezing and taking turns with the crowds at the doors and quickly snapping whatever one can.

Imagine all the scenes that mirror has reflected!

An adorable guardian statue. Isn't he great? The last time I was here, some twelve years or so ago, he was covered in snow. Our friendly cab driver had told us not to expect any snow this year; it was, he said, a sad sign of global warming.

Another happy day!

The last part after Christmas. Have a blessed, wonderful week everyone!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Beijing - Part 2

Naturally, one thing we simply had to do was visit the Great Wall! The Wall is about an hour and a half's drive from the city. There are several parts of the Wall that are open to tourists -- meaning that they've been repaired and made less treacherous than they would have been if they'd been left in their 2000-year-old state. This picture shows a stretch of road leading up to the Wall; it's packed with souvenir vendors, all selling pretty much exactly the same things.

As we were visiting a part of the Wall that doesn't start from the ground up, there was the option of taking a cable car (the Wall is actually made up of different sections that had been built by different dynasties over a long period of time). Of course, the kids were super psyched about that, despite the fact that their mother has always been dead set against the teeny cable car rides that go over water back home (hey, what can I say -- a bunch of them actually fell right off into the sea back in the 80s, killing seven and stranding several others, the very evening my parents were driving us there).

But they have good environmental policies.

And service quality targets. Helping joyously is always a good thing.

I have to admit the ride was pretty fun. The ascent had all the anticipatory thrill of a roller-coaster. This was one view from the car.

A Great Wall resident.

Start of the climb.

Another view of the Wall. It really was longer and more majestic than I'd ever imagined.

Taking a breather. Despite the cold up there, our exertions quickly made us work up a sweat.

Now I finally know what those watchtowers that dot the Wall look like inside. 

They're quite maze-like, in fact, and it was fascinating to imagine all the activity that took place in them so many centuries ago.

The Wall stretches over 5,000 miles. One plus of visiting in the middle of winter, was that it was uncrowded and peaceful.

Ro very enthusiastically braved the long walk and steep climbs.

We'd been hoping for snow, but considering how steep many of the areas were, I think after all we were glad we didn't have to contend with ice.

A view from the Wall. 

It got tiring for the kids after awhile.

But they persevered.

The amazing length of the Wall. It's wonderful how it hugs and follows the high, rough terrain. What a feat of engineering, and just imagine all the effort and manpower involved in its construction. It is said that it cost the lives of over a million people.

These ladies from Yunnan province were part of a group that was so taken with the kids they insisted on taking several photos together.

We saw this beautiful blue-winged bird frequently. I believe it is a black-billed magpie, and has a lovely iridescence on its plumage. Being as nature-starved as we are, we took quite a number of pictures of them, leaving many locals wondering at our inordinate excitement.

OK, that's all for now -- the third part in a bit! Blessed weekend everyone!


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