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The Great Wall of China!

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Long and tiring day, we did 8 km of the great wall starting off with climbing up the backside of a mountain. Once we reached the watchtower at the top we climbed in on handmade wooden ladders and started our trek on the actual wall. We started off at the “wild” section which is all authentic and can be rough or dangerous in parts. we ended up on the repaired section that is more touristy but still amazing.  flying out tomorrow so i’ll add more when i can thanks everyone for the comments so far!

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Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Great Wall of China

 

Wangfujing – Snack Street

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This week my replacement arrived so I have been busy showing him the around and starting the handover process. We started off on Tuesday with a trip to the Silk Market as an introduction to bargaining and the sometimes hectic shopping experiences here. It is near impossible to go there without spending money but it’s always fun. Today we met a co-worker for lunch at the famous Quanjude restaurant widely known for its peking duck. “Quanjude was established in 1864 during the Qing Dynasty under the reign of the Tongzhi Emperor. Although Peking Duck can trace its history many centuries back, Quanjude’s heritage of roast duck preparation – using open ovens and non-smoky hardwood fuel such as Chinese date, peach, or pear to add a subtle fruity flavor with a golden crisp to the skin – was originally reserved for the imperial families.”  We were served a large meal of Peking duck, duck liver, duck feet, terryaki steak and local Yanjin beer. The food was all excellent (save for duck feet as the texture through me off). After finishing with full bellies we wandered over to the nearby Wangfujing snack street section filled with food vendors serving very exotic snacks. You could take your pick of scorpions, spiders, seahorses, star fish, silk worms and grass hoppers  all still alive on a stick. If you are brave enough to pick one the cook will then coat and deep fry the critter for you to eat. This is a popular spot for tourists to take pictures and dare each other to take a bite. Thankfully i was already full so I took a pass. Tomorrow we will make another day trip and then the Great Wall on Friday hopefully.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Wangfujing

 

798 Art District Revisited

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I wanted to revisit the art district again before I left and today was the perfect opportunity. After catching a cab out there I found out that the district was hosting an international design exhibition. There were art showcases from different regions and styles along with increased vendors and people in the streets. If you ever find yourself in Beijing I would highly recommend coming here along with the Summer Palace as must see sights. I was able to stroll through the stores at a more casual pace today as I was on my own this time and pick up a few local artist items from the shops. As I only have two more weeks left in China I decided to make this day a short trip as I still have the Great Wall ahead of me and want to get some rest before that excursion.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in 798 Art District

 

Lama Temple

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The Yonghe Temple , also known as the “Palace of Peace and Harmony Lama Temple”, the “Yonghe Lamasery”, or – popularly – the “Lama Temple” is a temple and monastery of the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism located in the northeastern part of BeijingChina. It is one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world. The building and the artworks of the temple combine Han Chinese and Tibetan styles.

Saturday I made a trip over to the Lama Temple and surrounding Hutongs for some sightseeing. Everywhere around the temple are vendors selling incense for prayer once you are inside. There are several temples with prayer stations and fire pits to light your incense while you perform the prayers. Unfortunately photographs are not allowed inside the temples but they are filled with large ornate statues of Buddha and other figures.  It was a ride out here but worth it. After leaving the temple I wondered the Hutongs (alleyways) looking at the shops. I was able to visit Bannerman Tang’s Toys and Crafts stall which is ran by a family who has been hand crafting toys for over 150 years.

On my way back I stopped into the Yashow Clothing Market to try my hand at some more bargaining. This is setup similar to the popular Silk Market but not as crowded and the vendors are definitely not as aggressive. I was able to pick up some small things at a good rate before making my way back to the hotel to prep for the next day.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Lama Temple

 

Tienanmen Square

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So this weekend I ventured off to Tiananmen Square but my legs did not agree with me. After an hour and a half on the light rail i finally got there. A combination of sore legs and the heavy smog over the weekend just zapped me. I wandered around and made my way to the square after the usual security searches. There are several museums, monuments and cultural icons surrounding the square. Most notably is the gate leading towards the Forbidden City which has a portrait of Chairman Mao above the entrance. As you get closer to the temple there are military guards and assistants every 5-10 feet to enforce the no photographs and other rules. I wandered around the square and Forbidden City area for a while before heading out to make the rail way trek back to the hotel.

 

On the way back i stopped at the Oriental Plaza Mall which was a very upscale shopping mall near the downtown hub. They had all the designer stores you would find in New York along with Dairy Queen and other western chains. I had heard that there was a large gap in the economy between lower class and upper class incomes without much of a middle income. The mall was definitely upper class and fun to look around but i wasn’t interested in buying Tommy Hilfiger jeans or Timberlands. After making my way back to the Longze station i stopped by the local mall on the bus ride back. This was a nice stop as i was able to go through the grocery store and pick up some things and wander around a few more department stores. All in all It was a rest weekend from overdoing it at the weekend before. Only 2 more weekends left in China before flying home so we’ll see where it goes from there!

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Tienanmen Square

 

The Summer Palace

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Not listening to my legs after a full day at the zoo I decided to go see the tourist hot spot of the Summer Palace. The area served as a historic summer resort for leaders. There are more temples and pagodas than you can shake a stick at here! On the walk from the subway station i stopped in for some Starbucks after passing by KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway and 7-11. They definitely know a great deal of westerners come here. Admission was around $4 but a few of the galleries and special temples cost an addition $1-3. The layout is a large U shape around a lake which you can rent small electric boats to drive around and cross over to the various sides. There was plenty to admire and take pictures of here. The historic value is lost if you do not hire a guide service but then you can’t cover as much ground.  I picked up a few traditional souvenirs while i was here and got my cardio done for the day for sure. I now have 3 more weekends that i will be available before i head back home. On my to-do list still is Tienanmen square and its surroundings, possibly Ikea, another trip to the Silk Market and Tim’s Texas Barbeque.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Summer Palace

 

Beijing Zoo

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So Saturday led me to the Beijing Zoo and it’s newly built aquarium. Getting there was not bad as it has its own subway station and as a general rule if i don’t know where to go after i leave the subway i follow the flow of people. If they are not going where i want to go then it’s probably to something interesting anyways.  The walk up was lined with street vendors selling hotdogs on a stick and corn on the cob. It was only 10 yuan (around $2) to get into the zoo but admission to the newly built aquarium was a whopping 100 yuan ($15). The zoo had many standard animals arranged by regions but i found the layout to be a little hard to follow as it was comprised of several circular paths that all joined and connected. I made my way to the pandas and went from there. The enclosures were mostly glass walls but either the way they were tinted or the glare of the sun made it near impossible to see inside most of them without smushing your nose against the glass.  Which leads me to the second downfall, smudges all over the place. So pictures didn’t turn out great and the outside zoo was nice but didn’t thrill me too much.

The aquarium was amazing though! As I mentioned earlier this was newly built and felt like sea world with its displays and species. It would seem that the beluga whales are the main attractions On either side of the tank were security guards to strictly enforce the no photo and any shenanigans that may disturb the whales. Immediately down the hall from there was other large species of fish in tanks with signs posted no photos, no climbing. This was absolutely not adhered to as you can see in one of my pictures parents put their kids on the ledges of the tank and it felt like a red carpet event with all the cameras. I picked up a few small souveneir items including a cupee doll wearing a giant shark costume! as i was headed towards the end of the aquarium i noticed the crowd increasing which would be common near an exit. It wasn’t until the guards that lined the wall every 40 feet started yelling and pointing in a direction causing everyone around me to start moving faster and even running.  Naturally feeling like the place was about to be bombed or something i followed the herd and found out what the immediate danger was. The dolphin show started in 10 minutes!  So i was stuck in a massive theater for the dolphin show which was horribly wonderful.

I ended the day with a trip to the local Wal-Mart near the Zinchulu station. It was pretty much the same as the ones back home except the layout was more streamline. You  basically follow a path with a row of aisles on each side as you pass through departments and eventually the checkout.  I didn’t take any pictures since it looked like a Wal-Mart. I picked up some shopping bags, goodies and a few gifts then made my way back to the hotel for some chicken curry with my chopsticks.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Zoo