Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Checking off another Bucket List item!

On my second day in Beijing I was off to knock another item off my bucket list – the Great Wall of China. Friends of mine (who I would soon see in Shanghai!) recommended Mu Tian Yu which is about 70km outside of Beijing – my guide was surprised that I knew of it and said most foreigners choose the sections of the wall closer to the city center, but the drive was well worth it. We took a gondola up to Wall…I was hoping to toboggan down, but it was closed due to the snow/ice :-( That was definitely the only disappointment of the trip – the Great Wall is absolutely incredible, awe inspiring in fact. 5,500 miles, through the mountains, built during a time when there was no machinery to assist in the work. Construction started in the 5th century B.C. and it continued to be built and rebuilt/maintained through the 16th century A.D.
At the start of the hike....we were able to go up a little over halfway on the hill in the middle of the picture onwards we go! It was not excactly an easy walk with all the steps being different sizes and snow melting into ice in some areas.

I couldn't believe some of the people walking up the steep, uneven steps - really young kids to old grandparents and everywhere in between.
It was a little hazy, but the view of the mountains everywhere you looked was gorgeous!
Relaxing a little bit before continuing on the climb ;-)
For this trip, two bucket list items down - Diving in the Great Barrier Reef and Hiking along the Great Wall of China - next up, the Taj Majal...stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When in Beijing....'ve got to try the Peking Duck! I'm not really a "duck person" but I figured I couldn't go to Beijing (Peking) without trying their namesake food. Kendrick reccomended Quanjude, one of the 2 famous Peking Duck establishments. So, I braved the Beijing subway at rush hour and traveled 2 stops to a pedestrian shopping street...both packed with people. The entrance to Quanjude reminded me of the architecture from many of the buildings in the Forbidden City...which makes sense as I later found out that the restaurant was founded in 1864 during the Qing dynasty. There was an extensive menu of duck items, some not worth mentioning (ick!), as well as lots of seafood, chicken, beef and veggies. I loved my litte duck chopstick holder ;-)
After some mushroom soup and steamed spinach to start with the duck arrived. I should have snapped a picture of the guy carving it, but it felt too "touristy" to me, but thankfully, Quanjude had some photos online so you can get the idea. The carver wheeled over a mini carving station with my half duck and quickly carved it into slices. There was a special plate for the pieces of all fat as apparently these were the "most desirable." Then my server showed me how to wrap the duck into pancakes with spring onion and hoisen sause...she did it all with chopsticks...I may or may not have had to use my fingers to help assemple subsequent pancakes. The duck was pretty good...didn't love it, but definitely worth the experience! They use wood from peach or pear trees in the ovens to help make the sweet, not smokey taste.This mix of ancient and modern (found often througout China) cracked me up! But, truth be told, that cartoon duck was a marker for me that I was going into the correct building ;-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Forbidden City

From Tienanmen Square we were off to the Forbidden City which served as home to 24 Chinese emporers from the Ming to Qing Dynasties. It was built in 1406 and is the worlds largest surviving palace complex. So in we go....

I loved all the intricate and colorful wood carvings.... Each gate had a lion on each side...the male lion with his paw on the world - Some shots as we passed through the inner courts... Tucked away in the Forbidden City is the Imperial Garden which was a small garden for the royal family to escape to. It had a lot of rock structures which had been taken from deep rivers creating the cool shapes that kind of made them look like "moon craters."

Tienanmen Square

I'm guessing that all tours of Beijing start with Tienanmen Square, right? Well, mine did so in the spirit of chronological order, that's what we'll start with.
My guide and I entered past the Zhengyangmen gate...or front gate which was built in 1419 during the Ming Dynasty.
Then into Tienanmen, which is the biggest square in the world...this picture does nothing to capture the full scope of how large the square is, so I looked up the stats - 440,000 square meters - about 6 football fields...holds 1 million people. As we were walking through I purposely did not ask about the 1989 massacre. About halfway through our walk through the square she said "you're not asking the question most people ask." Her view was that the government had reacted a bit strongly, but they were doing it to protect the people as a whole. An example she sited was that a young girl protesting had committed suicide for her cause, and that the government had to protect others from doing the same.Did you notice the snow in the square? I asked my guide when it has snowed (I lucked out with sunny skies for my time there!). She matter-of-factly replied - "the premiere ordered it to snow 2 days ago." When she saw my reaction she further explained that they had been in the midst of a 300 day drought so the premiere needed to do that for the farmers. I explained that we sometimes had droughts in the US, but the President never ordered changes in weather patterns, I think she thought this was a bit strange.
Not sure what Mao would think of me covering up his picture ;-) Go through the gate and you are at the entrance to the Forbidden City so stay tuned for more pictures!

Back in Action!

After a long hiatus, CP in CPH/Chicago is back in action! Thanks to my few followers for continuing to ask me when I was going to start up again. I was literally behind the Communist wall – no Blogspot in China – so I wasn’t able to blog about the end of my vacation before beginning a hectic trip through Hong Kong and India.

Then I got home and was overwhelmed with work, life, etc and as some of you fellow bloggers may empathize, the longer I didn’t blog the more overwhelming “catching up” looked. But, catch up I will – if for nothing else than for me to look back at years longer and remember all the incredible experiences and amazing people in my life.

So back to mid February I go….Beijing and onwards!