Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flight Delayed!

The first leg of their trip home was to be a short flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, things did not go so well.

Pipkin and Domo got to the airport bright and er - early. It was another smoggy day in Beijing. On days like this, it's hard to tell the time of day. It's late morning, and the flight was to take off at noon.

But as they waited to board the plane, they watched the skies darken. It was difficult with the smog to tell why.

Just when they thought it couldn't get any smoggier, they realised it was actually a huge storm coming in, just as they began to board the plane. In all honesty, the above photograph doesn't do the situation any justice. It was noon, but it looked to be around midnight! The sky was black! All the lights around the airport had to come on.

The pilot was doing his best to takeoff, but sadly, the plane's place in the queue wasn't ahead enough to get in front of the storm. A torrential downpour began and the plane was stuck on the tarmac for an hour. Pipkin and Domo had a very short window of time before their connecting flight would take off from Hong Kong to Toronto, Canada, and sadly, they missed their second flight.

They were given a voucher to stay overnight at an airport hotel in Hong Kong, and Pipkin got pretty upset about being delayed going home. He wanted nothing more than some fresh, raw veggies and to leave behind the fast-paced city life in Beijing. Domo did his best to console Pip, but the driving rain didn't help much.

Soon enough, the plane took off, and the two found their way through the airport in Hong Kong to settle in for the night.

The Forbidden City: Part II

We last saw Pipkin in the massive Outer Court in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony. There's a lot of buildings around the courtyard, and a lot of sculptures and details to see outside each one.

Giant bronze sculptures and carvings dot the courtyard.

The rooflines have carved details.

The gardens around the Pavilion of Everlasting Spring are very pretty, and the greenery is a welcome change to the bare courtyard of the palace. Large juniper trees and massive stone features add texture and interest. It's a very pretty and tranquil part of the palace. It's amazing how much beautiful wooden architecture there is and how it has survived over centuries.

There are many gargoyles and rain spouts, but this decorative dragon didn't have a spout. Instead, he had a very impressive set of teeth. This dragon must have been a vegetarian.

Domo loved this guy's mane.

The Gate of Divine Might
There's a lot to see at the Forbidden City, and details of art collections inside the buildings that couldn't be photographed. Be sure to get to the Forbidden City early, and be sure to bring a shade umbrella and lots of water! Pipkin's a little fried from the sun.

That's it! Their last stop in Beijing before they fly home! It's been a long visit and they've seen and tasted and experienced so much, but they are both incredibly homesick and they can't wait to be home with the other labbits in the warren. Bye bye, Beijing!

The end. Haha.

The Forbidden City - Part I

The last stop on Pipkin and Domo's tour of Beijing took place at the very center of Beijing, in the Forbidden City.

The northwest corner tower
For over 500 years, the Forbidden City served as the imperial palace and residency of the emperors from the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty. The palace gets its name from the simple fact that no one was allowed entry to the palace without the emperor's permission. The architecture of the palace also serves as a reminder of this fact. 7.9 m (26 ft) high walls surround the palace. At its base, the walls are 8.62 m (28.3 feet) thick, tapering at the top to over 6.66 m (21.9 feet) thick.

What would a palace be without a moat? Surrounding the palace is a 6 m (20 ft) deep moat. Who knows what creatures lurk there...the fish certainly aren't biting.

The Meridian Gate

Entry into the palace is through a series of gates with seemingly small doors.

Once you've arrived in the Outer Court you face a large, open space in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony. There wasn't enough harmony though, to allow for trees in the courtyard, because the emperor was afraid of attacks by ninjas, so the courtyard was left completely bare. Visitors to the palace fry under the hot sun, which probably makes the crowd more receptive to whatever message the emperor had that day.

Renovations to the massive courtyard and palace are on going as crews restore the palace to its pre 1912 glory. You can see the uneven, crumbling older sections, compared to the parts that are being restored.

There are 980 buildings that make up the Forbidden Palace! It's a lot to take in in one visit, so Pipkin's going to get out of this blistering sun to check out more of the palace. Stay tuned for Part II.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tea Break and Tootsie Time!

Domo and Pipkin had a little tea break and got foot massages from students at a reflexology school. A massage was just what these two weary travellers needed.

Only one more stop before they leave Beijing - The Forbidden City.

Beihei Park, Beijing

 A light, breezy day is a great day to be at the park. Pipkin and Domo visited Beihai Park, one of the largest Chinese gardens at 69 hectares (171 acres). More than half of the park is comprised of the lake where Pipkin is enjoying the shade of weeping willow trees. 

Beyond Pipkin lies Jade Flower Island, and the White Pagoda, a 40 metre (131 ft) stone tower sitting on the highest point of the island.

Cute Lotus Flower boats tour the lake.

There are several Buddhist temples and ornate gates. Beyond this gate is one of the famous Nine Dragon Walls, built in 1402.

Pipkin feels like he's seen this before - and he has - in Canada! There's a replica of this wall in a Chinese cultural centre in a suburb of Toronto. It was cool to see the original in Beijing.

Out on the lake's edge, Pipkin and Domo saw a truck driving slowly along the road. When it stopped, several people gathered around the truck to peek into the bed. Guess what was in the back? Koi!

Pipkin's not sure if these guys were a troupe of traveling circus fish or if this was a fancy, open top limo ride for fish on tour, but it was definitely something he'd never seen before! What a way for fish to travel.

Beijing Summer Palace

Pipkin and Domo didn't get the best weather the day they visited the Summer Palace, so sadly, the views are fuzzy. The Summer Palace was built as a luxurious garden for the royals to relax and entertain their guests. The Summer Palace is not to be confused with the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the emperors, or Chengde Mountain Resort, the summer playground of the emperors. The emperors sure liked their lavish palaces and playgrounds.

In the photo above, Pipkin is looking across Kunming Lake at the Tower of Buddhist Incense. If it were a nicer day, Pipkin would have climbed the steep steps up the Tower's stone foundation to take in the views of the lake.

Another pretty feature of the Summer Palace is the Seventeen Arch Bridge, which you can just make out through the smog. It crosses the shore of Kunming Lake to Nanhu Island.

Domo saw lots of other tourists rubbing this urn outside the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, so he figured he'd do the same.

Seemingly anachronistic, this phone, installed around the turn of the 20th century, was inside one of the grand palace buildings. Pipkin got a boost from a visitor so he could pose for this picture. Cute!

The Long Corridor is one of the main features of the Summer Palace. It spans 728 metres east to west, and is the longest corridor in a classic Chinese garden. It was built so Emperor Qianlong's mother could walk outdoors regardless of the weather, to take in the views of the garden year round. The gallery has 273 "rooms" and four octagonal pavilions, each representing a season of the year. Although the paint has faded, you can see it was very intricately painted.

In one of the courtyard gardens, Pip and Domo played a little game of hide and seek.

Pipkin imagines the Summer Palace is a very pretty place to visit on a clear, sunny day, maybe in late spring or early summer when all the plants are in bloom. It wasn't the best day to visit, but at least they had a little fun. A lot of people use the grounds today for exercise and play, and relaxing rides on the lake. It's nice that it's not just for the royals anymore!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Temple of Heaven

Since high tech failed Pipkin earlier today at The Place, he decided to go low tech and visited the Temple of Heaven. This temple was visited by monarchs and emperors in the past, in annual ceremonies to pray for a good harvest.

There weren't too many people visiting the temple that day, so Pipkin thought he'd spend some time in prayer. In the above photos you can see how the Temple is built on three levels of marble stone, each level with nine steps to the next. The number nine represents the Emperor.

Each level has its own gargoyles! When it rains, these carved dragons spew water and the Temple of Heaven looks like a giant water fountain. That would be something to see, but now that Pipkin thinks of it, he's been in Beijing a long time and it hasn't rained much at all. Just a few light sprinkles, but no hard rain. Suddenly he understands the need for prayer.

The triple gabled Temple is 36 metres in diameter and 38 metres tall. It is entirely made of wood, without any nails.

Pipkin made a prayer for favourable weather, a good harvest, and please, oh please, some nice raw veggies.