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Entries about attractions

Summer Palace & Tiananmen Square

overcast 27 °C
View Beijing to Southern China by car on hammr's travel map.

Wednesday was an overcast day. The temperature was 27 C (82 F for my American friends) and very humid.

Jeremy and I visited the Summer Palace in the morning. It is large and ornate but what really makes it impressive, is the size of the large man-made lake behind it, the park, the bridges and the buildings that encompass it. My pictures really didn't do it justice but I have attached photos of the entrance, the view across the lake to the Budhist temple behind the palace and a closer view of the waterlillies close to the temple. The palace encompasses an area of 2.9 square km and 2.2 square km of it is occupied by the man-made lake.

At noon, I hate to admit that we ate Scottish food ( McDonalds). Then we took the subway from the Summer Palace to Tiananmen Square. It is also quite large and we didn't go in but I have attached a picture of the entrance. We also did not have time to go to the forbidden city which is in the confines of the square.

We continued on the 'packed' subway and after being pushed one last time into a full train, we popped out near the apartment.

We met Mingsi and her mother, who had successfully driven from Shenyang to Beijing and we ate supper at the original Beijing (Peking) ' Roast Duck ' restaurant. The food was fabulous and I had the opportunity to test my skill with chopsticks again. I have included pictures of the chef carving the duck in front of our table and a picture of all of the food. I would liked to have tried my hand at carving the duck, but I could tell that he was far more experienced at it and I would probably have butchered it. They even gave me the birth certificates for the 2 ducks.

Tomorrow will bring new adventures as we head south.

Posted by hammr 09:16 Archived in China Tagged attractions Comments (0)

Day 6 - Xi'an (Li Shan Mountain & Terra Cotta Warriors)

semi-overcast 29 °C

Tuesday, July 31

We had a quick breakfast at the JinJiang Inn and then left for Weinan mid-morning.

Our first stop was Li Shan Mountain. It was the birthday of a Buddha ( I am not sure which one) and Nicole thought it would be a good day to see the celebrations while we were there. What she didn't realize was the everyone else in China also thought it would be a great day to visit the area and that a market had been set up to celebrate the day and attract more people. It took us 40 minutes to get to Weinan and it took us almost 1 hour to drive to 3 miles up to the entrance near the top of the mountain, squeezing in-between people, motorcycles and cars going every direction. At the entrance to the attraction, we started our hike by walking through a large Aviary and then we passed through a huge market that was so congested that it would have made a claustrophobic person scream. After we got out of the market area we proceded up the steps to the top of the mountain where we took pictures of the beautiful landscape.

I had been warned by Nicole that they don't see many ' foreigners' in the smaller towns and ' staring' is not considered rude, but I hadn't really paid much attention to it until the last few days when I experienced it first-hand. While I was in the crowded obervation area, I noticed several people taking pictures of me. I could see a couple of young ladies giggling and trying to take my picture discretely (similar to the previous day) however, when one of them noticed that I saw her take a picture of me while using her friend to block the view, she quickly tried to hide her camera. I used sign language to indicate to her that she could take my picture if she wanted and the other young lady quickly came and stood beside me for a picture. After taking a few pictures, we hiked down a newer, less-travelled, but much easier trail back down the mountain.. On the way down, a little girl going up the mountain with her mother, gasped when she saw me and quickly covered her mouth to hide her surprise. As she walked up past me, I could see her looking back down at me. I can only imagine how much fun the locals would have with some of the people I know...!

When we got to the bottom of the mountain, we realized we were a long way from where we had parked our car and since the traffic was still very congested, we decided to take the local bus to go see the Terra Cotta warriors. We grabbed a quick lunch before entering the gates, The ' museum' consists of a series of buildings that house the collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife, and to make sure that he had people to rule over. This is a ' must see ' attraction in China. It is hard to fathom the size of these pits and the intricate work involved in constructing all the warriors, their horses and the buildings that originally housed them underground. I took a lot of pictures but, like the Grand Canyon, pictures do not do it justice. You can read about this and look at pictures but, as with most things, it is always best to see it for yourself.

As we left the museum area, Jeremy and I were asked by a family to have our picture taken with them. Nicole had stopped to buy a pomegranate, and caught up with us in time to take a picture of the father and his two daughters with us. I think they were hoping that Jeremy was single!

From the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit, we took a 'local' bus to the point at the base of the mountain where our car was parked. The bus stops for anyone on the side of the road and it keeps picking up passengers until there is no more room. The cost is usually 1 or 2 RMB ( 20 cents ) to go anywhere in town. When we got off the bus, Jeremy 'bartered' with a taxi driver to take us back up the mountain to our car. The taxi driver wanted 50 RMB but with Jeremy's excellent bartering tactics, it ended up costing 30 RMB { $ 5 } for the 3 of us. Everywhere we go the people are surprised at how good Jeremy's Mandarin is, and that has helped us a lot as we travel through the southern provinces. Even Nicole has commented that she has a harder time understanding the local dialects than Jeremy. We have come to an agreement that her Chinese is ' too perfect ' and she can't understand the ' slang ' as well as Jeremy can, however, Jeremy has a hard time ' reading Chinese characters although he can read pinyin.

Back in Xi'an, we went to a ' hot pot ' restaurant where we met an Israeli couple who were travelling around China for 5 weeks, similar to what we were doing. The only difference is that they were flying from one city to city. They were also making there plans each day and the only thing they had planned in advance was there flight to Beijing and back home. We had a wonderful meal together, getting to know each other and sharing stories about our trips.

After our experience in Lishan, I must comment again that Chinese city driving is something to behold. Cars, motorcycles and pedestrians all fight for space on the road, turning in front of and barely missing each other. If the lanes are full, cars, bikes or motorcycles will freely travel in the lanes going in the opposite direction and then honk at cars who are " legally " travelling in those lanes. I have seen electric bikes diagonally cross an intersection against a red light. Pedestrians will walk anywhere, even the middle of the road and totally ignore traffic. Horns are used readily and regularly. Some streets have a " no horn " sign because it is so prevalant. I had read about this but I didn't understand it until I experienced it firsthand. It is not for the " faint of heart ". Jeremy has commented that most of the drivers have little experience and they learn from the ' experienced' taxi drivers. Everyone drives as if they are the most important person on the road.

Highway driving is a lot easier because most Chinese do not leave their towns. Many of the highways have been built in the last couple of years and they are not congested although I am sure that will change in the next few years.

Tomorrow Jeremy and I will head south for a couple of days while Nicole returns to Beijing for a wedding reception.

Posted by hammr 16:45 Archived in China Tagged attractions Comments (1)

Day 8 - Baoji ( Mount Tiantai )

semi-overcast 25 °C

Thursday, August 2

Baoji is a beautiful city with manicured streets, clean buildings and nice parks. Even the uniquely designed bridges were aesthetically pleasing. They have renovated most of the old buildings and have built a lot of new ones.

After our ' normal ' breakfast, Jeremy and I headed to Tiantai Shan (mountain). We picked up our tickets ( 30 RMB or $5 each ) at the base of the mountain and started our hike. The saleslady warned us that there were a lot of bugs and she wasn't kidding! Numerous large predatory bugs latched on to our shirts and went along for a ride as long as we let them. The bug spray and the constant slapping were only mild deterrents to these pesky critters and hopefully the few that were able to successfully extract pieces of flesh from our body have died from their meals.

Tiantai Shan is a lush mountain area. The trail grew narrow and slippery and the forest became more dense as we approached the top of the mountain. I took many pictures, but when we got near the top we were shrouded in mist from the clouds and could not see very far. It was good exercise and we did not meet many people along the trail but I think that will change as the hike becomes more popular.

There were signs at the start of the climb depicting oxen, wolves, owls, snakes, birds and butterflies. We saw thousands of bugs, lots of butterflies, a bird and one lizard! Jeremy wanted to see a snake, but I am sad to say we never had the fortune of meeting one.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped to look at some construction a few miles below the entrance gates. Signs were posted on a fence depicting villages, lakes and parks that were going to be built in the area. It looked like they were building a theme park and a village that looked like it belonged to ' smurfs' had already been completed. From everything I have seen so far, I am sure that the construction will be completed by the end of the year and there will be thousands of visitors to the area next year.

We checked out of our hotel and decided to cruise around Baoji for a few hours. We stopped on a side street and looked for a local restaurant to eat. We bought a slice of the home-made spicy Chinese pizza and a pastry from a vendor, picked up a few drinks at a little store on the same street and then we went into the restaurant next door for lunch. We ordered a couple of bowls of home-made spicy noodles and ate it with our pizza, pastry and drinks. The restaurant was run down and it wasn't very clean, but I thought that the food was good. I have had the opportunity to eat everything from fancy meals to " street food " during this trip and I have enjoyed it all.

After lunch we set our chinese GPS for our trip back to Xi'an and were about to enter the highway, but the toll gates had been blocked off. We asked the police what was going on but he just told us that we could not enter the highway. Guns and knives are illegal in China and the police do not carry guns, so when we saw carloads of police around town and armed soldiers stationed at several locations, we assumed that something was going on but we never did find out what it was. We headed east and finally were able to get back on the highway to Xi'an. We arrived at our hotel by 6 pm.

Tomorrow we will pick up Nicole from the airport and head southwest.

Posted by hammr 07:23 Archived in China Tagged attractions Comments (0)

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