Monday, January 27, 2014

The Great Wall

Ladies and gentlemen...THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA!

Specifically, Pipkin and Domo are at Juyongguan, or Juyong Pass, an ancient pass in the Great Wall in the Jundu mountains of north Beijing.

The walls of Juyong Pass are over 4000 metres long, with barbican towers, watchtowers, and gate towers.

The stone steps have been renovated several times throughout the centuries, but are still uneven, worn, and at times quite steep. Sometimes it takes a bit of a boost to walk along the wall.

It's worth the walk though! The views from some of the watchtowers would be great on a nice day. You might think it's romantic seeing the mountains disappear into the mist, but that's not mist...that's smog! Yup. Smog!

One thing that is romantic? These padlocks on chains, left by lovers to symbolise their love to one another. Visitors to the Great Wall can bring a lock and "lock their love" forever.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

And now, from CCTV headquarters...

Today Pipkin and Domo saw the funky shaped CCTV (China Central Television) headquarters building. CCTV is the largest state broadcaster in mainland China with 45 TV channels. Being a State broadcaster, all the top officials, directors and officers are appointed by the State, and editorial pieces are all subject to government policy consideration so...many consider CCTV to be a tool for propaganda and brainwashing.

Domo thinks the building is cool to look at. It kinda looks like a giant pair of pants. In fact, many locals refer to the building as "big pants". Pipkin's a bit more cynical. With 24 CCTV channels going 24 hours a day, he thinks the building is a giant, ever watching Eye.

There's a subway stop right outside the building. As difficult as the air was to breathe, you can see the building from inside the station, even with the smog.

The building, which is made up of 6 horizontal and vertical towers joined together, has 44 floors (3 below ground), 75 elevators, and is 234 m (768 ft) tall.

Greenery and landscaping around the base of the building was sparse, but Pipkin found a little patch of flowers that put a little colour into this grey, smoggy day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jingshan Park, Beijing

Pipkin looks at the Forbidden City to the south
When it's a clear day in Beijing, you have to take advantage of the conditions and head to Jingshan Park, where you can see the Forbidden City and surrounding city for miles and miles. The Wanchun Pavilion (Ten Thousand Spring Pavilion) is one of the highest points in Beijing, and also centered on Beijing's north-south axis.

Jingshan Park used to be a private imperial garden in the Forbidden City, but was opened to the public in 1928. The 50 m hill in Jingshan Park is artificial, made up from the earth removed to create moats and canals around the Forbidden City.

The park has five peaks, each with scenic views and its own pavilion.

Domo at the peak

There's more to the park than just climbing up and down to the pavilions. The park itself has beautiful flowers and cypress trees, and you'll see lots of people doing tai chi and calligraphy. But on a clear day, you really have to take the opportunity to look out over the city!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Clear Days in Beijing

No doubt you've heard of Beijing's infamous pollution, and how on a bad day, you can't see very far through all the smog. Photos from Pipkin's first day in Beijing had some evidence of this phenomenon. But it's not always bad, and the thing about the smog in Beijing is, conditions can change rapidly. Today happened to be a clear day, and visibility was good. Walking around Beijing, Pipkin and Domo came across this green patch on a hill where they could look out over the city.

They climbed up the steps and hopped onto the wall. From there, they could see...a lot of cranes. Beijing is changing, and quite quickly, too. A clear day reveals a city of cranes, even here on the outskirts of Beijing. Don't blink! You won't see the same city twice.

Chengde Mountain Resort: The Plains

The Plains section of Chengde Mountain Resort mimics the grasslands of Mongolia, and the emperors would race horses and hunt game on these grounds. There's no hunting today, but there are some statues of wildlife around the park.

There's a variety of buildings scattered along the Plains for the emperor to relax and receive guests, some in traditional Chinese style, and some that resemble yurts in Mongolia. There's also a 70 m, 9 storey pagoda built in 1791, and it is one of China's tallest pagodas today.

Remember the Sledgehammer Peak that Pipkin and Domo saw from the walls of the Hills? The park mimics the Sledgehammer Peak with its own upright rock. You can see both in the photo above.

After exploring the Mountain Resort park, the two stopped to visit Putuo Zongcheng Temple, a Buddhist temple modeled after the Potala Palace, the sanctuary of Dalai Lama, built in the 17th century. Then, it was time to eat! Near the Buddhist temple there was an all vegetarian restaurant, which made Pipkin really happy!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hide and Seek With the Moon

At the Mountain Resort in Chengde, Pipkin and Domo walked along the 10 km perimeter wall of the Hills, then chilled in the breeze along the Lakes. Heading to the Plains area of the park, they passed by this resident cat.

He was a bit aloof at first, but when he did speak, he told them to seek out the moon hiding amongst the rock caves. It's in the full light of day that they would best see the moon.

The moon? In the day? What was he talking about? Cats can be full of mystery. Pipkin and Domo searched high and low.

Do you see the moon?


Friday, January 17, 2014

Mountain Resort Living - Qing Style

Pipkin and Domo were in Beijing for just one day before deciding to leave the pollution of the city behind to relax at the Mountain Resort in Chengde, north of Beijing, where the Qing emperors built their escape from the blistering summer heat. This isn't the Great Wall you see here. Pip and Domo are trekking along the 10 km perimeter wall of the Mountain Resort.

The Mountain Resort is a beautiful, large park, noted for its lakes, woods, mountain terrain, and the Eight Outer Temples, built just outside the palace walls. There are three main regions to the park: the Hills, Lakes and Plains. The Hills area of the resort provides views of Chengde from its walls. In the far distance is the famous Sledgehammer Peak, a rock in the form of an inverted sledgehammer.

During their visit, they met this Duck from New York, New York, who was also visiting China. He was not only taking in the sights, but the many tastes of Chinese cuisine. He loves to eat at new places and takes photographs of exotic dishes.

In the background, you can see the developed urban area of Chengde.

The Lakes region has peddle boats, bridges, pretty gardens and pagodas. Look carefully in the background of the photo below. Can you make out the Sledgehammer Peak?

A human powered water wheel that scooped up water from the lake and poured out into a trough sits at the edge of one lake. Pipkin thought the sight of a monk with a digital camera playing tourist was quite amusing.

In the next post, Pipkin and Domo continue their visit of the Mountain Resort, and meet a resident of the park.