China in Pictures..


China in Pictures.., a set on Flickr.

A window to Shanghai and Beijing

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An Adventure in China - Beijing

Arrival in Beijing

Early morning at 6.30am on the 12th of March we set of to Pudong International airport in Shanghai to catch a flight to Beijing at 9am. The ride to the aiport was a mere 35 mins and cost no more than 50 RMB (5 GBP). After a quick check-in we were on the plane and 2 hours later found ourselves queueing up for a taxi at Beijing International airport. 35 minutes later we were at the Crowne Plaza hotel where we took a little nap before going off to sightsee.

The trip in Beijing lasted 5 days and  covered much of the main highlights which included watching a spectacular display of acrobatics, climbing the great wall, observing a tea ceremony, roaming the Summer Palace, Lama Temple and Forbidden City. We also learned the art of haggling at Beijing's famed Silk market and enjoyed delicious Peking Duck, Hunan and Sezchuan cuisine.

Taking a tour of Wangfujing and a delicious Sezchuan Dinner

The Crowne Plaza hotel we stayed at is based in Wangfujing street, located in the Dongcheng district, it is the capital's most famous shopping street, you can find anything here from cheap electrical goods to expensive designer wear items.

Wondering a few metres down Wangfujing street brings you to a a snack market that sells scorpions (live), silkworms, cicadas and grasshoppers. A barbecue stick of these morsels costs around 1RMB but rather than sink my teeth into one, I preferred to merely watch and take photos. Now, it isn't all food on sticks here, there are plenty of other goods sold here such as clothes, chopsticks, keychains and other merchandise, if you are a good at bargaining then you will enjoy spending much time here, but not as much as you would at the Silk market which you can read about later on.

The best thing about Wangfujing street besides it's abudance of shops and restaurants is that it is also very central to the ring roads which allows you to get around to the different districts in a short space of time. Famous places such as Tian'anmen and the Forbidden city are about 10-15mins walking distance from the Crowne Plaza hotel.

After taking a tour of Wangfujing street I went back to the hotel had a little rest. Later that evening we metup with one of my sister's friends who took us to Salviton shopping mall. There we enjoyed a delicious Sezchuan dinner, served with a nice bottle of Chinese rice wine, which I found to be somewhat sweet with a slight aftershock at the same time. We didn't really order starters so all the food came at once. There was spicy sezchuan chicken, fried with large bonnet peppers and peppercorns, Tofu, Rice and the most delicious serving of very finely sliced Cuttle fish that surpassed any preparation that I had tried before. The Cuttlefish is finely sliced, boiled in water along with seasoning and spices after which it is placed into a pot of corn oil, keeping the meat finely sliced allows it to absorb the spices and the seasoning contributing to its flavor.

Definitely a must try if you fancy authentic sezchuan food

Giant Pandas, Summer Palace, Tea tasting, Lama Temple and a dazzling display of acrobatics.

Pandas are perhaps the most interesting of the bear species to observe, there behavior very often appears human in nature. Timid and very docile in nature, we were able to photograph and observe around 6 pandas at the Beijing zoo before we made our way to the Summer Palace.

Located northwest of Beijing city centre, the summer palace, built during the Quing dynasty (pronounced chin) by emperor Quianlong, is a spectacular display of chinese landscape garden design and a glorious display of architecture It is reported to have a staggering 9,999 rooms!!! Tickets come in various packages, the best one to go for is the 'Through Ticket' which costs around 50-60 Yuan and allows access to all areas.
Some of the highlights to look at here are the marble boat, 17 arch bridge and the world's longest art corridor with stunning displays of chinese artwork.

We had spent almost 2 hours wandering and taking in all the summer palace had to offer, and now famished we enjoyed some lunch and then headed towards Mr tea centre where we were introduced to the fine art of chinese tea drinking. A young lady at the tea centre demonstrated, various methods of tea tasting, and how different teas are brewed. We tasted oolong, pu'ar, jasmine, lychee and fruit tea before we were given a tour of the tea shop.

A word of caution here, the tea shop will try and sell you tea(s) at extortionate prices, thefore avoid buying from here at all costs. You are much better off buying from local markets.

Our stomachs full and bladders full, we now started our journey towards the Lama temple which was the last historical site we would visit for the day.

Located at the northeast of Bejing city centre, the lama temple or Yonghe Lamasery was initially the residence of Emperor Yongzheng, before it's status was changed in 1744 by the Quing dynasty to a lamasery. Entrance tickets cost just 25 Yuan allowing you access to all areas.

Highlights here include various artifacts from the Quing dynasty, stunning architecture and magnificient Buddha statues, including the worlds largest d statue of the future Buddha standing at 28 meteres carved from a single piece of white sandalwood.

We returned to our hotel around 6pm and purchased tickets for the Chinese Acrobat show at 7.30pm. After a quick rest we all made our way in a taxi for around 20 Yuan to the Acrobatics world theatre.

The show lasted around 1.5 hours and we witneesed contortionists who's bodies were able to bend in manners that seemed like they were missing their skeletons, a troupe of around 15-20 female trick cyclists who at one point were all riding one cycle standing on the shoulders of each other, death defying motorcycle stunts peformed by around six motorcyclists inside a giant metal ball, an acrobatic ballet display and more. At the end of the show, my arms were numb from photographing all the action and my jaw had hit the ground. Truly one of the best shows I had ever been to.

The Great Wall , Ming Tombs and the Silk Market

We had to leave earlier than the previous day in order to get the great wall site at Badaling, which meant starting our journey at around 7.15am in the morning. Perhaps the most visited of the great wall sites, it is located about 50 miles northwest of the city centre. Our tourbus had to pickup another passenger along the way so by the time we reached the place it was around 9.30am.

As a kid, I had read many books about the great wall and I guess most of us at some point in our lives have always been fascinated by it. Seeing the massive wall stretch to infinity across the vast mountainscape is a breathtaking sight and makes you ponder how they managed such a feat and also serves as a reminder of the great feats of engineering we are capable of.

We had a tour guide who advised us that there were two routes we could take, one easy but less scenic, and another more arduous route but with better scenery. Naturally we chose the more difficult route.

Our ascent started around 10am. Along the way we stopped to take photos of the different sections of the wall and also admire some of the guard towers which had been built to keep the forces of Genghis Khan at bay. The steps were about a foot in height making the climb a test of stamina and endurance, however that did not stop people young and old alike from pressing on. The views as you ascend higher up are simply breathtaking, I only wish we could have climbed further up but we were on a tight schedule, so at 11am we started our descent down the wall.

At the end of our adventure, we were tired but thrilled and excited that we had finally seen and conquered the great wall. Now it was time for some well deserved food and then a visit to the Ming Tombs.

The Ming Tombs is the name given to the final resting place of China's thirteen greatest emperors. The largest of the tombs we visited was that of Emperor Zhu Di. Here one witnesses the ancient chinese customs of honoring the dead and you are once again transported back in time, to witness miraculous works of artistic and engineering prowess.

Two more of Beijings must visit sites had been conquered and now we decided we visit the Silk Market.

About 20 minutes from the Crown Plaza at Wangfujing the Silk Market is a 6 story complex where one can find anything from gifs and merchandise, to replica watches, cameras, jewellery, tailors and all manner of goods. Items are purchased at the Silk market through bartering, once both parties have come to a mutual agreement the sale is made. To be honest most markets adopt the same policy however, I do not think you will every come across anything so vast in scale. I do warn you though, with the cost of items being extremely cheap especially after bartering you may find yourself wanting to come back for more.

Forbidden City, Peking Duck and Temple of Heaven

Located about 15 minutes walk from Wangfujing north of Tiananmen gate, the forbidden city is the worlds largest palace comple consiting over over 8000 rooms covering a staggering 24 hectares! Surrounded by a 50 metre wide moat and a 10 metre high wall. It was originally the imperial palace of 24 emperors and ordinary people were forbidden from entering, this earning the nickname "Forbidden City"

Divided into two sections the southern section was where the emperors ruled and commanded their subjects and the northern section was where they spent time with the royal family.

Highlights include a stunning network of ancient royal chinese architecture and perhaps the oldest collection of wooden buildings in the world. There is also the emperors throne room and a royal wedding room entirely in red.

Our tour of the forbidden city had to come and end and we were now on our way to the Cities best restaurant for Peking duck, Quan Ju De. Juicy and succulent meat, after a few bites you realise why Beijing is so famed for it's duck dishes. An interesting fact I learned was that there are over 128 duck based dishes that can be made from one (farmed) duck!!!

Anyway, our stomachs were now full and we were making our way on the subway to our final must-see destination in Beijing. The Temple of Heaven.

Larger than the forbidden city the Temple of heaven is a Taoist temple originally used by the chinese emperors to offer sacrifices to the heavens. Wherein it was believed that a sacrifice offered would mean better crops and a propserous futre.

The main attraction here is the hall of prayer for good harvests which is a circular building standing at 32 metres tall and is the most prominent building here.

At the end of the five days our adventure had sadly come to an end. Though short, this was one of the best places I had ever visited and I do hope to return again in the very near future.

Useful and important Information for Travellers.

The tour company we used for our various site visits was: China Harmony Travel service LTD. We had twoo excellent guides Jackie Lee and Jason Howe both of whom made our visits to the sites a much more rewarding experience as they were able to impart their knoweldge.

When visiting the Silk market remember to take exact change as it is not uncommon to be given counterfeit bills.

Further Reading:

Here are some links to various places mentioned in this article. These offer a much more indepth review of each of these famous sites.

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An Adventure in China - Shanghai

A city with a population exceeding 20 million people,  Shanghai is a bustling metropolise that encompasses a bit of old and new. 

The Pudong Area of Singapore, located east of the Huangpu river is where we spent most of our time. Where this was once a small agriculutral area, it has rapidly grown in size to become China's financial and commercial hub. There are towering sky scrapers here with magnificient architectural designs that have you gazing at them for hours in sheer disbelief at their sheer, size, scale and design . The two most famous being  the Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai World Financial Centre.

As we only had one night to sightsee, we concentrated most of our efforts wondering around the financial district, Science and Technology museum. and East Nanjing Street.  Getting into the Pudong Financial hub from Salvo hotel where we were located was just a fiteen minute taxi ride away and cost no more than 20RMB which is about 2GBP.

The highlight of the tour in Shanghai and probably the best was Oriental Pearl Tower.  We had seen this building many times, in post cards and in movies (Mission Immpossible 3). However, to actually stand in front of it was something else entirely.  After snapping several photos we decided to take a tour inside.

 There are various packages one can opt for,  we chose the full package which cost around 180RMB which is about 18GBP per person.

At a staggering 359m in height the views from atop are both dizzying and breathtaking in the same vein. Looking out across one can get a clear view of the old town, located at the bund as well as the new town where the staggering skyscrapers seem to gaze at us from below.

Speaking of breathtaking, I highly recommend the sightseeing floor at 259 metres. This is a glass floor that allows you to peer down into the street below where  cars look as tiny as ants and people look no bigger than a speck of dirt if that.

The first time you step onto the glass and look down, you immediately feel a little dizzy however this soon  stops and you just keep looking down and marvelling at the incredible view that is right beneath your feet.

We spent about an hour or so at the Pearl tower before making our descent and then heading towards East Nanjing street, which is a very long street full of restaurants, pubs, bars and shopping malls. At night it is beautifully lit up and looks very much similar to Vegas, some might argue even a tad more classier.

 We had, climbed the pearl tower, bartered at the local markets for gloves and hats to battle the freezing cold climate, enjoyed a delicious lunch and travelled the subway at a measly cost of 3.00 RMB. But now at midnight it was time to head back as we had an early start the next morning where our next adventure would take us to China's capital city of Beijing....

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