Wednesday, December 26, 2012

China {Beijing: everything but the Wall}

China was one of the countries that we felt we absolutely MUST visit while we're living in Asia.  We knew we wanted to spend more than a long weekend there so although the weather is frigid in China this time of year, it was our best opportunity to spend a week there.  We spent 3 days in Beijing, a day in Xi'an and 2 days in Shanghai.  Beijing and Shanghai were no brainers, Xi'an wasn't a city we had originally planned to visit but every one we talked to said we should add it to our itinerary so we did and we're really glad we did.  It was our favorite of the 3 cities.

This was the 1st time Jason and I have booked a guided tour and we're still not sure how we feel about it.  It was nice to have someone around who could always answer any questions we had and tell us what we were looking at but we missed the freedom to just wonder around figuring things out on our own, learning from our mistakes.

Monument to the People's Heroes

a guard at Tiananmen Square

{There was one perk to visiting in the off season, I have quite a few photos with zero tourists in them!  If we had visited when it was warmer, there would be swarms of people in every one of my photos.}

The number of statues on the roof indicate the importance of the building.
This Gate of Supreme Harmony at the Forbidden City has the most with 11.
This is where emperor's wedding ceremonies are held.

The foundation here in the Forbidden City is 15 layers thick, each layer alternating directions lengthways then crossways to prevent enemies from tunneling in.

The detail in the architecture is stunning.

After the Forbidden City we headed to the Temple of Heaven where we saw lots of locals hanging out in the cold playing cards.  I was told they were playing some form of poker but I'd never seen their version before.

I'm still in disbelief that we have photos at major tourists sites like this with no people other than ourselves in them.
Us at the Temple of Heaven.

Inside the Temple of Heaven.

Outside the Temple of Heaven, we had a tea ceremony.  I HATE tea but I suffered through about 2 of the 6 we were served before I started handing my cup to Jason.  Luckily they were tiny tasting cups and he was able/willing to drink all of them.

We also stopped at a silk shop where we saw how they make different silk products.  Jason could have purchased everything in the shop, he loves silk.

For dinner that night we had Peking duck.
 It was the only food Jason HAD to eat while we were in China.  I'm not a big fan of duck but the stir-fry duck dish we had was pretty tasty and not too greasy.

Jason insisted we practice our "duck face" while we were eating duck...I obviously never got into that trend because my duck face is awful!

Jason's is much better! 

Although China is a mostly atheist country, they had Christmas decorations everywhere!

That night we went to a kung-fu show that was just ok.  I'm pretty sure our guide received a commission for our attendance.  We couldn't take photos during the show so I had to settle for a quick shot of some of the performers after the show.

Day 2 started at Ming Tombs which houses the mausoleums of 13 Ming Dynasty emperors.

Us with one of the animal statues that lines the Sacred Way, the path to the tombs

Outside the Changling tomb {the 3rd emperor during the Ming Dynasty and the most well preserved of the 13 tombs} was a small structure used to burn fake money which is believed to be usable by spirits.

Offerings accumulate inside the Changling Tomb.

Each day we had a lunch included in out tour which always consisted of 2 meat dishes, a vegetable dish, soup, rice and fruit for dessert.  Most of the food was typical western style Chinese food {ie, lots of sweet and sour pork/chicken} which wasn't what we were expecting but still mostly good.

This day we stopped at a factory that makes copper vases.  {Each day we stopped at at least one factory that wasn't listed on our itinerary.  While most of them were educational, they also had shops attached where we were encouraged, but not required, to purchase something.  We had mixed feeling about these stops.  They were all very interesting but it was slightly annoying knowing that they wanted you to buy something at each location.  They were all government owned so we're pretty sure the guide was required to take us as part of his tourism license.}

Jason got to try out the coloring technique they use on a flat picture.

From there we headed to the GREAT WALL which will be a separate post tomorrow.  It was just too spectacular {and I took too many photos} for it to be included here.

Day 3 began with a stop at the Summer Palace

The air quality in China is so poor that unless you are within 20 feet of something, it comes out hazy in photographs ={

We walked through the Long Corridor which is about 725 meters long and consists of some 14,000+ paintings.

From there we stopped briefly at the Olympic Village.  Here we are in front of the Birds Nest that was built for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

Our last stop in Beijing was the Lama Temple.


Chantal said...

Wow! I'm so jealous of all your trips!