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Monday, 29 August 2016

China Part 12......

After an extremely busy day and a good night's sleep we were once again up early for breakfast for our last day of the tour before we flew home.

Our first stop of the day was the Summer Palace.
The Summer Palace is a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces. It serves as a popular tourist destination and recreational park.


Mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake , it covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometres (1.1 sq mi), three-quarters of which is water.



Longevity Hill is about 60 metres (200 feet) high and has many buildings positioned in sequence. The front hill is rich with splendid halls and pavilions, while the back hill, in sharp contrast, is quiet with natural beauty. We walked around the lake to the base of the hill to see the white building in the distance.
 The small windows were exquisite.

The central Kunming Lake, covering 2.2 square kilometres (540 acres), was entirely man-made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill.
We continued exploring

 there was music playing,

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We had some interesting conversations with other tourists,  I told you in my last post how Westerners are a curiosity in China didn't I?  The Chinese tourists loved having their photo taken with us.
Whilst waiting for all our group to assemble our guide needed to use the loo and left me in charge of the flag so the group would know they were in the right place.  I felt honoured.
Back on the coach again our next stop was a visit to a Jade Factory, where we also had lunch.   The jade was beautiful and very expensive.  I did buy one of the cheaper bracelets made from offcuts of different coloured jade and a small jade elephant ( I collect elephants), lovely momentos of our trip.  MWM purchased his usual Tshirts from various stops - he has more Tshirts than I have elephants!

After lunch we continued our journey to the last place we were to visit on our tour of China - the Great Wall!
It was quite a hike to reach the place where we actually ascended the wall.

We did walk a short way on the wall itself

up to the first tower on the North Side.


Until you see the wall with your own eyes you cannot imagine the magnitude of it, photographs do not do it justice.   The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe.

Several walls were being built as early as the 7th century BC; these, later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are now collectively referred to as the Great Wall. Especially famous is the wall built 220–206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Little of that wall remains. Since then, the Great Wall has on and off been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced; the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty.  The history of the wall is fascinating, you can follow this link if you wish to read more about it.

Some of our group walked quite a way but we decided to retire to the small cafe/bar for refreshments to wait for them there.
Whilst we were waiting two young men from Nepal decided MWM would be the perfect person to advertise their product - Yak's Cheese, they asked him to pose with them whilst holding one of their leaflets.   I presume their new leaflet now features that photograph.  LOL
 Eventually the rest of our group joined us for a beer at the cafe/bar.  The owner of the Greatwall Bar was playing a CD over her loudspeaker featuring Daniel O'Donnell singing 'You Are My Sunshine' and was so thrilled when we all started singing along she played it another 3 times insisting we sing along!   We asked if she could change the music so she put some country and western songs on, to which we also sang along.   When it was time for us to leave we had gathered quite a crowd of Chinese tourists (again) who were filming our singalong.   I imagine we are on YouTube somewhere, if you come across it please let me know.    It was the perfect end to the last day of the tour and one we all agreed we would remember forever including our guide, who was in tears because she said we were the best group she had ever had and she would miss us.

On the way back to the hotel we passed the Olympic Village in Beijing.





Back at the hotel we had time to freshen up before meeting up with our fellow travellers again in the hotel restaurant for our last meal together, and time to reflect on the highlights of the tour, of which there were many.    We had an early start the following morning for the journey to the airport and our flight home so we didn't stay up late but we did have a few drinks to celebrate.

It truly was an amazing holiday and if you have ever thought of doing it you really should, you will not be disappointed.   I really hope I have brought some of the magic of China to your armchair and I'm sure we will relive it all many times when we look through our photographs.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

China Part 11.........

An exciting day ahead of us as we departed our hotel for another day of sightseeing.   Our first stop was the Hutong area in Beijing where we were designated two to a rickshaw in which we toured the Hutong.
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Hutongs are a type of narrow streets or alleys, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities.
In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences.




Since the mid-20th century, a large number of Beijing hutongs were demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, many hutongs have been designated as protected, in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.



After the fun rickshaw tour we were then taken to a traditional house in the Hutong to see how the people there live.







Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.





Time to leave the Hutong and have lunch before our next visit - traditional tea tasting,  which was very interesting.  Of course we bought some samples to bring home.
Then on to our next destination Tian'anmen Square.


Named after the Tiananmen ("Gate of Heavenly Peace") located to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City. The square contains the Monument to the People's Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China in the square on October 1, 1949; the anniversary of this event is still observed there. It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history.


 We were in the square when the changing of the guard took place.

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Outside China the square is best known for the Tiananmen Square Massacre, an armed suppression of a pro-democracy movement in June 1989.  Our tour rep politely requested that we did not discuss this event as it is forbidden in China.

Our guide had arranged for an official photographer to take a photograph of our group in the square as a momento of our tour of China.   He took great pains to get the group together and as soon as he had us ready we looked up to see a large group of Chinese tourists standing behind him ready to take our photo as soon as he had finished!   Wherever we went in China we found that Westerners are a great source of amusement to the Chinese people.   Our guide explained that lots of Chinese tourists have never seen a Westerner other than on TV hence the interest.

We made our way across the square to the Forbidden City for the next leg of our excursion.

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty—the years 1420 to 1912.  It is a truly magnificent place and HUGE!


When Hongwu Emperor's son Zhu Di became the Yongle Emperor, he moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, and construction began in 1406 on what would become the Forbidden City.
Construction lasted 14 years and required more than a million workers. Material used include whole logs of precious Phoebe zhennan wood found in the jungles of south-western China, and large blocks of marble from quarries near Beijing. The floors of major halls were paved with "golden bricks" specially baked paving bricks from Suzhou.


 There is also a rather interesting garden that consists of what looks like petrified wood 




 and a lake.

As you might imagine after such a busy day we were very tired but our guide had one more place to take us before we headed back to the hotel - Silk Street, a shopping center in Beijing that accommodates over 1,700 retail vendors, notorious among international tourists for their wide selection of counterfeit designer brand apparel, or as she descibed it the place to get your 'genuine fake bargains'!

What a way to end the day!

I hope you will join me for Part 12, the last day of our China experience, when we visit the Summer Palace and The Great Wall of China.