China certainly has surprised me right off the bat. Far from being mere enablers to America’s consumer culture, they have a burgeoning consumer culture of their own. You just need to go the requisite steps to enter the country. Once you jump through the hoops of securing a visa and supplying proof of hotel and air travel in and out of the country, things go very smoothly indeed.
In fact, if you be American like myself, then that visa is good for the next ten years. Given the decency of the people, the vastness of the country, and the tastiness of the food there is no doubt in my mind that I will probably be using this visa at least a few more times in the years to come.
It took me four planes and four countries in two days to finally arrive at my hostel in Bejing at 3:00am. For a hostel it is quite a luxurious affair with Queen bed and large ensuite bathroom. I decided to go for the private room. They do offer dorms as well. The Peking International Youth Hostel has a cosy little restaurant, and is on a charming pedestrian street away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
My first culinary experience in China was a KFC sandwich at the airport which was a very tasty affair followed by an English breakfast at the hostel. Hopefully I can get down to some serious Chinese for lunch. I could really go for some Peking duck this afternoon. I’ve already booked an inexpensive Great Wall tour offered at reception. This is most exciting. Aside from being my third Wonder of the World encountered in the last two months, I will have seen all seven as well.
Bear in mind that the commentary might be a bit thin in spots due to the fact that google is blocked here in China. This will make it impossible to do my usual research until I get to South Korea.
Peking International Youth Hostel – Peking Café – This charming and florally enhanced restaurant is attached to my hostel and fronts on an absolutely delightful shopping street which is steps from the metro in the heart of Bejing. The whole hostel is overflowing with flowers and is very homey indeed. I headed back to bed after breakfast and slept off my jet lag.
Upon awaking I found the Dongcheng District in full swing with a sea of humanity flowing past my place. All the shops that were shuttered the night before were open for business. The variety and quality of the goods was such a surprise, and the merchandising of the goods as well as the food was top notch. I felt as if I were already in Japan. I was surrounded by 99.9% Chinese people, many of whom sported clothing with phrases in English, oblivious to their meaning.
Much like others in Southeast Asia, the Chinese enjoy the trappings of the West. iPhones, Peppa Pig t-shirts, Vans sneakers, and an endless assortment of American paraphernalia adorn the crowd. The only thing in short supply are Americans which is fine by me, given the 40% chance you have of getting into an argument about our Kleptocrat in Chief.
Although most people could not understand me, they made an effort with their smart phones to communicate with language apps. The people were all so friendly, in the shops, restaurants, and my hostel.
Entrance to the Dongcheng Shopping District – Metro on the left.
WOO – A beautiful store dedicated to silk for the ladies.
The place is a great local scene and a shopper’s paradise.
LOZ – China’s answer to Lego. Loz’s pieces are much smaller than Lego making it possible to give greater detail to smaller pieces. They are also a fraction of the cost enabling your children to destroy your feet while sparing your pocketbook. Also given the size of the pieces, there is a greater chance for tears when a piece of Minnie’s bow or Mickey’s ear gets sucked up by mommy’s vacuum cleaner.
Super Mario makes an appearance. There is even a little McDonalds store with separate burger, fries, and Mcflurry to assemble. They are as brand obsessed as us, and as cute creature obsessed as the Japanese. They have a lot of pieces. That little rabbit probably has 450.
TASTE – Dinner Time!
Hunan Beef and Kung Pao Chicken Pizza
Almost too pretty to eat.
HAND MADE SILVER STORE
Nick puts the finishing touches on my pendant.
DRAGON HEAD PENDANT – My Silver Chinese Souvenir
EXQUISITE TEACUP WITH SILVER LOTUS THAT I PURCHASED IN THE SAME SHOP
Not your basic boring balloon. They don’t pop or float away and the effect is incredible. I saw some of the same sort of thing in Amman, Jordan. They seem to be spreading throughout the region, and the kids are crazy about them. If someone got their act together, they could make a fortune on these in the states. Maybe, I should look into it.
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
I continue to struggle to get my sleeping habits back in order. I only managed three hours of sleep in before my trip to the Great Wall. At least I didn’t have to struggle to get up.
Thankfully our initial ascent was by Swiss cable car and not the thousands of stairs alternative. There would be plenty of steps and hiking later on.
First glimpse of a guard tower from the cable car.
Mutianyu Great Wall – This is the name of this portion of the vast wall network.
We disembarked the cable car and joined the wall just before Guard Tower #14. Our goal was Guard Tower #22 which is an ambitious undertaking. Fortunately the overcast day spared us the 100 degree heat that results from the sun heating the stones on the wall, and turning the thing into a brick oven! A long, winding, and sometimes steep road awaits Jan, Margot, and myself.
ROOF DETAIL ON GUARD TOWER
Essentially we’ve got to make to all of the wall you can see and beyond. Of course we have to come back, too.
Pleasant vistas can be enjoyed through the rhythmic breaks in the ramparts.
The inside of the guard towers are nice and cool.
Multiple viewing window offer different vantage points for detecting the enemy.
Another pretty reminder of that steep part that awaits us.
Towers 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 spread out in the distance.
Guard Tower #16
Here you see the soon to come agonizing climb to Tower #20.
The herd is starting to thin out.
The closer we got to that steep climb, the more we wondered if we would even make it past Tower #20.
These are the easygoing parts you live for. It could be said that hiking the Great Wall is a good metaphor for life. Sometimes, it’s a relaxing stroll with a cool breeze, and other times you’re struggling with a tortuous gradient in the hundred degree heat while the soles of your shoes melt on hot stones.
Looking back for a different perspective.
CHINESE TWINS – Here they are performing on the top of Guard Tower #19 as their family watches.
Between their matching outfits and synchronized singing and dancing, they captured the hearts of the crowd gathering off camera as well. The cuteness was overwhelming, and it’s a good thing they weren’t Japanese or Mothra might have put in an appearance and damaged the Great Wall with its mighty wings.
At the end of their performance the guard tower erupted in international applause, and the two pixies in red rushed to their parents and buried their heads in a mixture of pride and embarrassment.
18, 19, 20…..
TIME FOR THAT NASTY CLIMB
THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD MAN – What a month this has been!
Oh, What A Wonderful World…
The Final Vertical Steps To Watchtower #20
THE VIEW IS WORTH IT – At this point I was absolutely spent, and I reckon Jan was as well. It seemed like #22 was not going to happen on our watch. I was gratified to have made it this far on so little sleep and after lazing about in Sri Lanka and the Maldives for over two weeks. It’s a wonder I even made it to #20.
Catching my breath with a breathtaking view.
Then Margot hoisted herself over the barrier and started toward Tower #21. Would we allow ourselves to be left as a shame to our gender and our countries? Jan and I steeled ourselves, abandoned the comfort of Tower #20, and reluctantly followed suit in a seemingly suicidal face-saving exercise.
As Margot and Jan trudged on ahead as I arrived at #21.
Our paved road turned to stone as a young lady from our group returned from the summit.
Number 22 beckons in the distance.
Guard Tower #22 – No sign of Jan and Margot.
They must have moved on to the summit at Tower #23.
This is some of the wall that is not renovated disappearing into the brush.
My companions, Margot and Jan, emerge from the scrub to find me standing by Tower #23. The higher you climb the higher the price of a beverage becomes. But what the hell, the old lady’s got to make a living, and there’s no way I would have made it back to #20 without that $7.00 bottle of water. She was nice enough to do a lengthy photo session free of charge.
France, Switzerland, United States
That’s one small step for a man, one freaking expensive bottle of water for an American Idiot.
I planted my flag, and departed with my European friends for the arduous slog back to the cable car.
As we headed back down the mountain, I was running out of gas in a big way. Fortunately I had a handful of almonds in my pocket which safely took me as far as I needed to go.
On the hike down a whole new set of muscles came into play, and I became aware of the fact that I would be extremely sore the next day.
Of course the experience and the views made it all worthwhile. Whatever pain I might experience tomorrow would be a badge of honor for making it to the summit, pasty faced old chuffer that I am.
What a lucky bastard I am. If not for a divorce, and my job no longer being fun…..
Jan and Margot push onward motivated by the bountiful Chinese lunch at the bottom of the mountain. Margot got herself quite a tan swimming with the mantas in Indonesia before coming to China. She is also a big fan.
CABLE CAR ENTRANCE – HOME FREE!
DOWN WE GO
What a privilege it was to see this monument to the ages on such an uncrowded day filled mostly with Chinese families on special Sunday outings. Upon reaching the bottom, we dined at Mr. Yangs Chinese style. We had multiple dishes on a large lazy susan in the middle of our table where we shared a meal with our fellow travelers. Good times and well earned tasty food were enjoyed by all.
DUCK CENTRAL – Just steps from my hotel, I can be found here at least once a day. It’s basically classic Peking duck in a large Chinese pancake with the requisite veg and hoisin sauce. Scrumptious at $4.50 a piece.
CHANNEL TO QIANHAI LAKE
Fishing in the chanel that leads to the lake.
PROTECTED DRAGON SCULPTURE
ANOTHER ACROSS THE CHANNEL
Marble posts cross the bridges and encircle the lake.
QIANHAI LAKE – Weeping willows ring the lake, and boats of many sizes are available for hire.
Instead of buying a typical ice-cream on a hot day, do like the Chinese do. Get this refreshing artisanal yogurt and fresh cut fruit bowl combo instead.
So much to stimulate the senses as well as the tastebuds.
It’s an easy walk around the lake, and it was quite a shock to find such slice of serenity right in the middle of Bejing. You’re looking at the crowds on a Monday at 1:00 in the afternoon.
This is the larger part of Qianhai Lake which is accessed by a channel from the smaller side.
FOOD COURT HIDING ON MY STREET
MEGA BREADED SHRIMP
MEGA MUTANT CHICKEN WINGS
CHINESE POLICE BEGIN THEIR DAY LIKE EVERYONE ELSE – PLAYING WITH THEIR SMARTPHONES
DESCENT INTO THE METRO ABYSS – Trip to Forbidden City
A VERY ORDERLY AND EASY TO USE METRO – Except I got off too early.
One look at this and I was grateful to be staying in my peaceful and intimate neighborhood. I reminds me of how important it is to carefully choose a base of operations. It is important to locate yourself close to plenty of good, authentic dining. Also you have position yourself near to public transport, and also have a few worthwhile sights that are within walking distance from your hotel.
Definitely a nice neighborhood, but very sterile and filled with international retail shops and surrounded by concrete.
Still a mile to go to make it to the Forbidden City, but I am picked up by a moto-rickshaw driving, thieving shithead. This is my first unpleasant experience in China, but I failed to research local scams. He quoted 30 yuan for my trip, and when we got there he asked for 300 yuan, preferably in U.S. dollars. He even went so far as to present a printed card indicating the price of his scam. He was essentially asking for $45 for a five minute ride. I slapped $4.50 in his hand, and made tracks for the Forbidden City. He did not pursue.
LESSON: AVOID RICKSHAW DRIVERS LIKE THE PLAGUE!
Final Stroll to the Forbidden City
More Fishing and Weeping Willows – The Forbidden City Awaits
THE FORBIDDEN CITY
The best advice I can give on touring the Forbidden City would be to arrive when it opens at 8:30am. Also to get the best out of it would be to take a guided tour on one day, and then return and take your pictures on another so you can focus on your photography.
Portion of the Giant Entry Door
Welcome to the Forbidden City
While the crowds swarm the central areas, the wings are relatively empty.
MERIDIAN GATE – The main gate of the Forbidden City was built in 1420, the eighteenth year of the Ming dynasty. With and overall height of 38 meters, it is the highest of the four city gates.
Dragon Head Elements
DRAGON TURTLE HYBRID
COPPER AND IRON VAT – This copper and iron vat was used for firefighting in the imperial palace, and were usually filled with water. Between the tenth lunar month and the second lunar month of the following year, the vat would be wrapped with cotton cloth, and covered with a lid. When temperatures became too low, charcoal would be burnt underneath to prevent the water from freezing.
On my street, I have seen so many beautiful Chinese models doing photo shoots.
This place is so vast that calling it a city is by no means an overstatement.
PALACE OF COMPASSION AND TRANQUILITY
A DRAGON GUARDS THE ENTRANCE
A COUPLE HAPPENS BY AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME
Duck Pond Detail
GILT COPPER BO BELL – Dated 1761 – Qing Dynasty
ENAMEL PLUM – BLOSSOM – SHAPED BOX with Qianlong Reign Mark and Bird and Flower and Bird-and-Flower Patterns on Reserved Panels – 1736-1795
Crystal Ball and Ivory Base – Qing Dynasty – 1644-1911
GOLD CUP AND SAUCER with Embossed Design and Pearl Inlays – Qing Dynasty – 1644-1911
DRAGON HEAD TURTLE
STONE BUDDHA – NORTHERN QI DYNASTY – 550-570
TERRACOTTA WARRIORS – QIN DYNASTY – 221-207BC
I was fortunate enough to see a collection of these that were on tour in England this past March. I was unable to visit the region where these have been excavated by the thousands. That will have to wait for the next trip.
TRAVEL ZEALOT – EMPEROR FOR A DAY – Impressed with my travels and love of duck, the Chinese extended me this honor. Appreciating numerology, they were pleased that China was my 101st. country, and that I chose the Great Wall of China to be my 7th. New Wonder of the World. Now I don’t get to make policy or boss people around, but the government has granted me honorable visitor status and all of the duck I can eat while I am here in Bejing. You can see this reflected in the extra weight I am clearly carrying around my face and elsewhere.
Even with the crowds in the city, you can find unexpected breathtaking vistas free of the masses.
Beautifully Carved, Marble Dragon Post
Stone Carving Between Staircases
THE LAST EMPEROR – The Forbidden City is the location of much of the shooting of Bertolucci’s Academy Award-winning masterpiece. If you have not seen “The Last Emperor” make sure to rent it.
Just had to get a shot of this when the selfie shooters had finally disappeared.
DOOR DETAIL ON THE WAY OUT
If the heat hadn’t exceeded one hundred degrees, I would have probably stayed a few more hours.
MERIDIAN GATE – MAIN ENTRANCE
WU CHANG SHOU – ARTIST
Leaving the grounds to find a cab back to the Dongcheng District.
It is one o’clock and there are none of the usual crowds back in the Dongcheng District when I returned from my journey. The reason for this is that it is about 105 degrees in the shade. I am heading to get a duck wrap before taking refuge in my air-conditioned room to process all of these photos and submit commentary in comfort.
BLOG WORK STATION – A LITTLE BLOGGING BEFORE JAZZ
TEN MINUTES FROM HOME
EAST SHORE JAZZ CLUB – Mr. Letian Wu Jazz Trio
AFTER JAZZ SNACK – Spicy Beef with Noodles
798 ART ZONE
Help Me! Help Me!
CHINESE BOTERO – WHISPERS “NOT A CARROT”
The Chinese have a knack for carved stone seating.
ANOTHER STYLISH CAFÉ
ABSTRACT HORSE – Handmade by 11-year-old child. Paid $15. What a value for quality art.
The gallery owner treated me to some classic Chinese tea. Covered, it’s left to steep in that porcelain cup. Then it’s poured into the tall clear glass and ultimately decanted into the small clear glasses.
Those five ladies on the left just about drove me insane. They engaged in a fifteen minute photo shoot in front of this street art and on the colorful stairs to the left, all the while aware that I was waiting to get a photo across the street without them in it. They engaged in multiple poses, costume changes, different angles, and varied perspectives. It’s a good thing there weren’t six of them or they would have formed a human pyramid and carried on for another quarter of an hour changing positions. What a pathetic, embarrassing lot of narcissistic middle-aged women. Clearly the death of a thousand lashes by selfie stick would be too good for this rude and selfish bunch.
A LOT OF VILE INVECTIVE WENT INTO THIS ONE
THERE’S A LOT OF INDUSTRIAL AESTHETIC IN THE AREA – Interesting Ladies Room
798 – One of the exit signs is an Object D’Art.
In 1725, this stone stele was erected to mark the successful suppression of the riot in Qinghai.
In 1776, this stone stele was erected to mark the suppression of the riots in the greater and lesser Jinchuan areas.
In 1686, the 25th. year of his reign, Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty wrote a eulogy to Confucius for his merits and virtues. The Emperor said in the eulogy: “Confucius stands as the greatest man in Chinese history.”
In 1759, this stone stele was erected to mark the successful suppression of the Hui riots.
In 1769, the stone stele was erected to mark the completion of the temple’s renovation.
Confucius read The Book of Change so frequently that the leather bands of the bamboo slip finally snapped. Thus, we learn how hard he must have studied. He sought learning from masters everywhere and became a teacher at the age of thirty.
Confucius often told his disciples that in doing anything, “too much is as bad as too little.” Both are available, and the best thing is to hit the mean.
Confucius believed that the common people had the right to evaluate the performance of the government. Later, Mencius developed his theory and claimed that if the king behaves immorally, his subjects are entitled to overthrow and replace him. This reveals the democratic spirit of Confucianism.
Confucius thought that before a society reaches “great harmony,” it would experience a period of “moderate prosperity.”
Confucius believed that in governing a state, virtue and law must be used at the same time, and he pointed out that only virtuous and capable people should occupy positions in government.
Confucius claimed that if we have to “chop down a tree” or “kill an animal,” we must do so moderately and “according to the season” and the law of nature. This contributes to the sustainable development of society.
Confucius thought that there was a law, instead of some personalized “heaven,” that regulates the four seasons and the life of all creatures. Thus he paid his respects to gods but stayed away from them, and he never spoke of “prodigies, super-power, or spirits.” This reveals he was skeptical of gods and ghosts.
Because of his intensive teaching work, Confucius was so busy that he ended up forgetting his old age and waning health. He died at the age of seventy-three.
China was a powerful country in the ancient world, a model of other Asian countries. Korea, Japan, and Vietnam have all absorbed the mainstream ideology of ancient China — Confucianism.
BRONZE VESSEL – WESTERN ZHOU DYNASTY
BRONZE CAULDRON – WESTERN ZHOU DYNASTY
HEMISPHERICAL BOWL – For offering fruits
CONFUCIUS – Confucianism is not only the precious cultural heritage of the Chinese people, but it is also a spiritual treasure for all the people of the world. Confucianism has been exerting great influence in the world for more than 2000 years.
INK LAKE – Ink Lake was a shallow well with sweet and refreshing water. It was said that men of letters who drank a cup of “holy water” from the well would be excellent, prolific writers, and calligraphers who used ink made of this water would be able to produce fantastic handwriting. Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty conferred the title “Ink Lake” on the well.
FURNACE FOR OFFERING SACRIFICES – For making burnt offerings (including prayer tablets, silk and other sacrificial offerings) to Confucius.