Friday, August 30, 2013

The Great Wall and 798 Art Zone

On August 7, Vivie took us to the Great Wall. Even though there were other great walls built by other dynasties, the Great Wall that exists today was built in the 1400's by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). It is estimated that it took over 100 years to build. We went to the Mutianyu access point (repaired in 1984 and opened to the public in 1989) which is much less crowded than the Badaling entrance (do not go there!). Even still, getting there early is a good idea because there are way less people - which made for some nice photos. 

We decided to take the cableway up to save our energy walking along the wall

Our guide, Vivie

It's like a ski lift except there's no snow

I was just a little nervous on this and no, I did not wonder how well it was made

Mutianyu provided a civilized sightseeing experience (I guess maybe compared to Badaling?)

Yup, climbing it

Can you see the cableway cars?

In front of Tower 6

I caught a butterfly flying by

We walked to Tower #11

This is still only tower 7. Yay! We made it to the Great Wall and Paul's holding two bottles of water!

Maybe our luck is changing... we got a pretty clear day

I like that it was practically empty and that you can see the mountains in the background

A different perspective

Slinky shot

Some nice scenery

It's as far as the eye can see!

The mountains were really pretty

We're approaching tower 11 - those cable cars are different than the ones we used

Inside one of the towers

Walking back towards tower 6

But we decided to check out tower 1 to see parts of the wall that haven't been restored

It's a steeper hike

We made it to tower 1 - here's the point we were supposed to stop...but everyone ignores the rules

Unrestored wall

This is the other part of the wall that hasn't been restored - can you tell there's a forest growing on it?

Walking back to tower 6

Yeah, graffiti on the wall

Yeah, we climbed it - does it look steep?

Bye bye bye Great Wall

After all that walking, we took the cable car back down

After our Great Wall visit, Vivie drove us to the 798 Art Zone - a popular area for art and art galleries using old military factory buildings. But you have to go through a guarded gate to get into the area, so it doesn't exactly blend in. This place is also known as the 798 Art District or Factory 798.

We found this old sign as we were exploring the neighborhood

It reminded us of SoHo and the Meatpacking district

Paul said the horse deserved it

Local girl trying to understand this masterpiece

Storefront to wazzap

We decided to skip the germ infested human cookie cutters

Colorful cabbage

I think people think we're weird

Lego Venus de Milo

Shark balancing on a chair

The main area/entrance

Door graffiti

This Transformer business man is everywhere

Monday, August 26, 2013

Beijing, China - the beginning of our 40 days in country #15

We arrived in Beijing on August 5 (sorry for the delay in posting, China blocks Google and a whole bunch of other sites).

There are a lot of people in China

Our taxi had the door taped up...I don't think it was very safe

Paul didn't mind because he fell asleep

Our hotel was near the Beijing Railway Station

The next day, we had the privilege of starting our 3-day tour with Vivie Pan, a terrific tour guide I found on Viator. Our first stop was the Temple of Heaven.

The locals are only at this public park in the morning to do their exercise - by the afternoon, they are gone.

Locals knitting

Paul wandering among the locals

More locals playing Chinese chess 

Close up of Chinese chess

Making hard decisions

A cool looking door

Close up

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest

Me and Mr. Peanut

As Sloth would say..."Ehcho"

We didn't test the echo wall since there were 10 million tourists with us (you can't really tell in this photo though)

Walking towards the Circular Mound Altar constructed in 1530 during the Ming Dynasty

Everyone wants to get a little closer to heaven

Central Supreme Stone - love the socks

A really old Juniper tree

Our next stop was Tian'anmen Square.

I thought there were a lot of people at the Temple of Heaven. I was wrong.

A lot more people here

I tried to capture the panoramic view

Behind us is the front entrance to the Forbidden City

There are a ton of cameras everywhere...watching

After lunch, we headed to The Forbidden City.

We spotted a family who were all matching at the East entrance

One of the many doors

You can kind of see the 5 marble bridges which symbolize the 5 cardinal virtues of Confucianism

Here's a closer shot - looking towards the Gate of Supreme Harmony

And of us in front of one of the bridges

Crossing one of the bridges

Looking back towards the entrance we came from

Gate of Supreme Harmony was used for banquets during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912)

Roof guardians are supposed to protect the building from fire

Hall of Supreme Harmony is in the middle

Always an odd number of roof guardians - the total number was dictated by status

Slinky shot

Another door - this one (as my cousin Amy pointed out) - has a weird sad face

Looking inside the Empress' bedroom

I like this door

We also went across the street to BeiHai Park.

BeiHai Park - an imperial garden just Northwest of the Forbidden City

Pretty willow trees

The White Pagoda (Bai Ta) is a 40m stupa

9 dragon screen/wall built in 1402 - one of the three in China

Maybe where dragon ball Z comes from?

Our last activity of the day was to watch the Chaoyang Acrobatics Show. It was pretty awesome.