Dec 31, 2010

bbuurr its cold in here... chilling in china... (literally)

china: blog post 2

i hope you all had a very merry Christmas. although we were not home participating in our usual maddening routine, we had a great day just the two of us. our champagne breakfast feast was fabulous and no short cuts were taken. we had champagne, cherries, strawberries, cheese and crackers, jam dounuts, salami, chocolates and juice. after which, we headed to mcdonalds for a big mac meal for a dessert of ice cream, choc chip cookies and milk and snickers bars. our christmas day did set a good precedent for beijing and we have had an ok time, be it because there is more to do or that we are staying in a hostel with other tourists, central heating and a decent cafe...

we have hit the main touist traps and might i say, they are all worth a visit. tiananmen square was first up and if you know the history, it was a space that certainly had a prescence. as the worlds largest public square, it has been a significant spot for democratic demonstrations over the years. it was the sight which saw army tanks and soliders force democratic advocates out, eventually leading to a mass masacre in 1989. monitered by the military today, it's a place many chinese make a pilgrimage to once in their to lives, pay their tributes to mao zedong and get their 'obligatory' photographs.

the forbidden city was next up. off limits to civillians for 500 years, it is one of the best preserved clusters of ancient buildings in china, and a beautiful place to visit. the buildings were grand and the intricate details that were present in the structures even back then, are mind boggling. given that we visited in winter and the tempreture hovered around -3 all day, we didn't or couldn't spend as much time here as we would have liked. however we got a real sense of what it was like living in ancient china hundreds of years ago and it was an amazing experience.

we then ventured out to the summer palace, a few subway rides away from inner-city beijing. probably not high on most tourists list of places to visit, we were intrigued by the sound of ancient buildings protrouding out of hills overlooking a beautiful lake, gardens and pavillions. used by royalty as a summer kingdom when the forbidden city was smouldering in the warmer months, it was probably one of my favorite places in china.

after wandering the corridors and the palace grounds we hiked up to the 'descending clouds' pavillion and the buddist temple for a panoramic view of beijing. after trekking back down we headed the lake which was frozen over. it not only made for a breathtaking sight but allowed us to go for an iceskate. we had alot of fun skating around the lake before heading home and ono the wangfujing snack street for dinner. where neverending dim sim, scorpian spider and millipeade skewers were on display, pork dumplings galore along with fresh fruit, duck blood soup, grilled seahorses, baby birds and corn on the cob. after a long day, we tasted a few local dishes before heading home and warming up.

today we got up at 530am for a tour to the great wall. the hour was not agreeable nor was the three plus hours travelling time, but once we watched the sunrise, it was not only a great spectacle, but an unforgettable one. lucky enough to climb the wall at a place deserted by fellow toursists, we set off on our 10km hike from jinshanling to simatai at nine am. (the original wall was built over 2000 years ago to keep out nomadic mongolians. different kingdoms built seperate parts of the wall over different periods and it was later joined together by general meng tian. it is said that the wall never really served it's original purpose and to this day, there are mongols on the wall selling trinkets to tourists).

the area we entered at had been recently restored however the further we walked the more 'authentic' the wall got. some sections of the wall had crumbled to into the area below and some parts had tree roots growing through the bricks. it was an amazing morning. not only becuase we were the only tour group (10 people) to walk the wall but because you can't quiet put your finger on why a wall made of bricks is that special, but it really is like nothing else. seeing how the wall windes through mountains and valleys and up over ridges miles away is a real spectacle and I think it will be one of the truly remarkable things that we not only do on this journey, but in out lifetimes.

so it seems china is growing on us slightly, we ended on a bit of a high.. thank god. we can't wait to get into japan for new years eve in tokyo with jenna. but as excited as we are, it's the last country and we will be marking the count down home in weeks and days, no longer months...

pics. us on christmas eve, our christmas day feast, tiananmen square, a selection from the forbidden city, the summer palace, view from the top, the lake and ice skating, snack street and the great wall.