Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mutianyu Great Wall and Ming Tombs

September 25, 2008

We signed up for a tour with The China Culture Center to visit the Mutianyu section of the great wall and the Ming Tombs. Thursday was a nice day weather wise. Fall is in the air the temps were in the low 70's and the sky was clear with gentle breezes. Sandy, Olivia, Sandy's Mom and I began our day early at 8 AM and hopped a cab down to Chaoyang to the CCC office where we boarded our bus. The drive out to the wall is about 2 hours through the city and into the mountains that surround Beijing. We arrived at the wall and decided to take the gondola up to the wall.
This is what it looked like going up to the wall.

We made it to the top and once again were awed by the beauty of the Great Wall. This section is much less commercialized than the Badaling section that we visited earlier in our trip. The views were spectacular. I'll let the photos speak for our experience.

Sandy and Dottie

The wall snaking up the mountain.

Us on the wall.

Sandy and her Mom at the entry to a watch tower.

Sandy took this shot out the window of the watch tower.

Beijing off in the distance.

Us again.

One of the watch towers.

The family on the Great Wall.

Sandy and her Mom.

Views of the wall...

Alternative transportation to the top of the Great Wall.

View of the Mountains.

This was taken from the gondola on the way back down.

When we got to the bottom we were greeted by the vendors selling t-shirts and other souvenirs on the trail all the way back to the bus. We stopped and bought a couple of shirts.
The tour also included lunch which we ate a local restaurant and then we were off to the Ming Tombs. The ride through the mountains was very beautiful and we went through many chestnut groves and could see the farmers harvesting them. We also passed by quite a few peach groves too. We arrived at the Ming tombs and went down inside the tomb. Not much to see here just a catacomb of sorts. Its funny how the Chinese throw money at these places. Here is picture of the pile of money in the tomb.

We boarded the bus again for a short drive to the Sacred Walk Way. This is a path that as used in ancient times to contemplate before visiting the tombs. The path is lined with large marble statues of animals and people. Here are some pictures of what we saw there.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hutong Pedicab Tour

Friday September 19, 2008
Hutongs are narrow streets or alleys, most commonly associated with Beijing. In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.
This is the old Beijing and many of the hutongs are being demolished in favor of high rise apartment buildings.

We booked a tour through the China Culture Center and brought Sandy's Mom and her friend Jack along to see the Xuanwu Hutong & Courtyard Houses. We started our day at 10:30 and hopped a cab down to Qianmen which is near Tiananmen Square. We took a walk around the square and showed them all the sights. The flower displays for the Olympics were still partially up and workers were tearing them down and carting the many plants off. I finally got to see them as every other time we tried to see them the square was closed and we tried at least 3 times. Better late than never. Here are some pictures:

We had someone take our picture together with Tiananmen Gate in the background.

A rain shower passed through and we decided to go have lunch before the tour started. We headed over to good old Chinese KFC because that is where the tour group meets. By the time we were done with lunch the rain had stopped and we were mingling with the rest of our group. We met a British Guy and his daughter. There was an Australian family. A couple from Finland. We could have had a UN meeting I think.

We started off and met up with our pedicabs. Pedicabs are pedal powered tricycles with a seat and a canopy. They were pretty comfy. We loaded up and off we went down the narrow alleys of the hutong. Our first stop was an alley way that we walked down and the guide told us about life in the hutongs along the way. Many of the courtyard houses in this particular hutong are protected by the government and will be preserved. This is what it looked like in the alley.

Notice the plants growing from the roof tops.

Peeking in on one of the homes in the hutong.

Many of the homes still have the original decorations on them. These homes are all over 200 years old.

We learned that most of the homes do not have a private loo however all you have to do is walk out the front door and you can find fresh food for sale.

Sandy at someones front door in the hutong.

We visited an old lady's house and had tea and cookies. She was very nice and shared her stories of life in the hutong. It was very interesting. She gave Olivia a Chinese knot and tied it to her pack. The guide told us that she wanted us to have it because it keeps you safe from evil spirits and brings luck. This is a picture of her home. She is on the left welcoming our group to her home. The 2 guides for the tour are on the right.

After the visit we walked around the corner to the Liulichang or the "antiques" market. Most of the antiques for sale were reproductions and the street in ancient times was home of tile factories. The name Liulichang translates to factory for roof tiles. It was fun to browse the shops and try to bargain with the shop owners.
Here are some pictures of the street and shops.

A table full of wares for sale.

Some of the shops that lined the street.

Me and Olivia at one of the shops. Olivia is sticking her tongue out in the picture.

Here we are standing in front of the first Post Office in Beijing.

Sandy and our driver.

Us in the pedicab.

After shopping we headed off to our final stop a court yard house that was converted into a kindergarten. Here are some pictures of what we saw.

Some of the kids with their teacher.

I love the way this picture came out. Looks like something you'd see in National Geographic.

This tour showed us the real Beijing. It was walking back in time and was a real eye opener. The day ended where we started and everyone had a good time. Olivia especially.

Until next time...