A Travellerspoint blog

Beijing Continued...

More Summer Palace, Sports Complex, and Great Wall

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I haven't finished with the Summer Palace. I went there on Steve's birthday thinking I would visit what he might have chosen. By necessity, that means water and there is a huge lake on the grounds. Now here is where I deviated. We would have surely taken one of the paddle-boats but they were all for four persons. So for me to take it solo meant I would have had to lay down to paddle and steer at the same time. I didn't. Instead I took a group boat trip around the lake. 180_71F7A1FB2219AC6817DC2C409711550C.jpg

Also in the park is the longest wooden covered walkway in the world, the Long Corridor. It is covered with beautiful paintings and listed on the UNESCO world Heritage List. I took much of the day to walk it's length (perhaps a slight exaggeration).
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At one end there was a dance presentation by four women...perhaps classical or so it seemed by the music. At one point, an on-looker jumped onto the stage to Join the fun. He wasn't nearly as good but humorous to watch. You can see a little of him here and must admire his spontaneity...
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As if all this wasn't enough for the day, I high-tailed it to the Sports Complex to see the Bird's Nest. Again, this was something Steve would have liked to see. The best shot (and that's not saying much) was across the highway rather than in the complex itself.
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Is anyone surprised that I didn't pay the fee to go inside the stadium? Instead, I looked for a place to buy a beer. I mean it was Steve's birthday. There was none to be found...at a sports complex?! So, it was back to Dragon King Hostel to call it a fine in absentia birthday celebration with a draft beer in their cafe.

The next day was a 3.5 hour trip to the Mitianyu section of the Great Wall. Actually, it is only about 50 miles north of Beijing but I wanted to go by the city bus rather than with a tour group. I got off at the wrong stop. (An aside...the bus signage is not nearly as helpful as the subway). I later learned to have someone write out my destination in Chinese characters. Then I walked into an unknown town and found a hotel employee who called me a taxi. I finally got to the entrance and then the work began. You can either walk up to a one of two towers or take a cable car. I choose the walk. After 2000 steps and pretty much all uphill, I'm here...
90_738C29272219AC681754915B74BC71FC.jpg. And I kept walking so I could reach the top point (or so I thought). This is looking behind me....
180_739FB92A2219AC68175A66174E691719.jpg. I wasn't even close as you can see looking ahead...
741D043A2219AC6817B4E6B0ED4F8A80.jpg. Had I looked more carefully at the base sign, I would have noticed that the cable car went to the top of one hill, not to the summit. Oh well, that will be my next trip. It was several hours of an enjoyable walk and beautiful scenery. The return was considerably easier. I loved this sign....
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Posted by Dayts 21:38 Archived in China Comments (2)

Welcome to the People's Republic of China: Beijing

I could edit this at Starbuck's

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When I arrived in Beijing via the Airport Express, I almost wept with joy...so CLEAN and efficient. The subway is amazing; it's extensive with easy to understand signage in English. The announcements are in English, as well. While it ranks third in annual ridership and can be crowded, it's quite manageable. It became my transportation of choice for the time I was in this city.

Then in Beijing, there are WOMEN! And they are in groups or on their own, laughing and riding bikes, shopping and eating, and doing line dances outside in the evening. Look... a single woman waiting for the subway...I'm giddy with joy.........

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And the cost of a ticket which includes transfers to any/all other lines is.....

180_EC3C5D012219AC6817A0FAB6913E0CA7.jpg. That's 33 Cents US.

From the subway to my hostel via a pedal rickshaw. As it turns out I didn't need the latter because it is a block from the subway but the rickshaw ride was fun. This is what greeted me...

180_ECB5D15A2219AC68176BA1D581BC23AF.jpg. The Dragon King Hostel is located in a hutong section (area of narrow streets or alleys connected by courtyard residences and mostly associated with Beijing). I had a large double ensuite room and the hostel had all the important amenities. it included AC, a bar and cafe, and wifi throughout. The conversion worked...I finally reached Nirvana! But that's not enough, I still had much to see and that's what I did over the next several days. And I plan to bore you with the details.

The first day was a visit with 3 million others to the Imperial Palace which I can't mention because it is FORBIDDEN. Do you recognize the photo on the wall?

180_ED80F4972219AC6817B1BE9777F48ADE.jpg. I hope my father is not reading this blog because, if so, he is rolling over in his grave. The complex is enormous and it took the better part of an afternoon to cover the grounds. I rented an audio guide which used GPS to activate the explanations. It was pretty cool. In the museum on the grounds was a collection of court jewelry. Since I hadn't purchased any in India nor here in the Pearl Market , I was considering these....

180_0255B4172219AC68179C9E2CCC1DE93A.jpg. Steve, do you see this? Christmas is coming...
And here are some understated doors...

270_EDA87E292219AC6817CD2E66FD383568.jpg. And a nice throne to welcome guests before their heads were cut off....

180_EDC1F3DA2219AC681761254D8EE2F254.jpg. My favorite was the wall of Nine Dragons and here's one....
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Right across the street from the Imperial Palace is Tiananmen Square. I coudn't look at it without recalling the extraordinary photograph of the student protester standing before approaching Army tanks.

The next day was a trip to The Summer Palace, once the summer retreat for emperors. It is spread out over ten square miles, the largest royal garden in this country. It was the weekend and the place was packed but I was unique as a tourist. Three female students came up to me and asked to take my picture. They take an English class and their assignment was to find English speakers. They took a ton of photographs and had me write my name in a notebook. Mine was the only one entered. I regret I didn't take their picture.

To get to a high point, there are big boulders so I did some rock climbing as you'll see in this picture.
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Forget it. I can't upload and am suspicious as to why. In China you cannot access the NYT or Facebook. Anyway, when I got to the top, I choose a rock to sit on. An old women was next to me and started waving. I thought she was waving me away to let her daughter sit down. Instead the daughter spoke a little English and said her mom wanted to take a picture with me. I had experienced the same thing in India. I was told there that Indians from the country think a light skinned person is good luck. (They might change their mind if they knew about the cow incident). So this time after their picture-taking, I took one of my own...

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Ok, that didn't work either, so I'm going to post this and resume my Beijing segment in another post. If you don't hear from me in ten days, it means my hands are in cuffs and they have taken me to.....(I can't say because it's FORBIDDEN)!

NB: I am at Starbuck's and have been able to add pics to this entry. No doubt it is because it's a US country and the State Department is looking out for me.

Posted by Dayts 20:19 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (5)

The Last of My Rajasthan Trip, Pushkar, and Back in Delhi

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Everyone said I would love Pushkar. This is where the big animal (camels, cows, and goats) auction takes place in November. And as though this isn't enough, millions of pilgrims come the same time to the temple of Brahma. Actually, there are religious festivals going on all times of the year with music, dancing, and singing. Here are some party goers...

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Pushkar is one of the oldest existing cities of India. The date of its actual origin is not known, but legend associates Lord Brahma with its creation. I think he dropped a lotus flower (there it is again) and Pushkar came to be. In honor of its founder, there is a famous (and rare) Brahma Temple in the town and was built during the 14th century CE. Here is the entrance...

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The town has one main road. This is one of the signs that caught my eye.

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According to their religin, the citizens are all strict vegetarians. It is loaded with priests and gurus. In fact this is like the Bible Belt of Rajasthan. It seemed to me all the TV channels had to do with religious events and /or incantations. My driver played a radio channel that had the latter. I couldn't get the melody out of my head for days!

My favorite travel agency booked me into the Bhanwar Singh Palace, which is newly opened. The rooms are quite elaborate but every 10 minutes the electricity went out. There was wifi but only in the lobby where it goes out every 30 minutes. Here are the rooms....

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I think my driver, Mr. Sharma, thought this was the likely place for my conversion. He walked me to the ghats (stone steps) by Lake Pushkar, sacred to the Hindus, and called over a holy man. A dip in the lake is believed to cleanse away sins and cure skin diseases. Since I have neither, I questioned my being there. The holy man sat me on a ghat, put roses in my hand, and did some chanting. He sprinkled water from the lake all over me (that was enjoyable because it was really hot). He then did some more chanting and then asked me to repeat him in the chants. Then more roses and a cloth bracelet around my wrist. Just as he was wrapping up by asking for a donation, a huge cow appeared from no way and stopped on my foot. I thought it was going to sit down with me because it leaned its body into mine. A bunch of people jumped up and pushed it away but it was too late. I limped away as quickly as I could without paying a thing. Was that a sin?

After my stay in Pushkar, I decided it was time to head onto China. While I had booked a trip to Varanasi, the state in which it is located had recent mass killings and it was on lock down. So, I missed the train experience and then cremations. Next life.

Now before I end my India section, some final comments about Mr. Sharma. He is an outstanding driver in a country where the drivers are insane. He is very knowledgeable about geography, culture, and history. A very religious man, he rises at 5 AM to go to the temple. I told him I would pass on his email and here it is: bhagirath11@hotmail.com. He is also very clean, as he constantly reminded me. I can affirm that because he washed out his underwear every night and put it in the back of the van to dry during the day. I resisted his charms early on because it fell like I was being chaperoned. He didn't want me to walk anywhere. But as I got more comfortable, I took command of the situation. On the return to Delhi he insisted I have dinner with his wife and son. He was very proud of renting an apartment in a nice section of Delhi and wanted me to see it. He was raised in then country, very poor, and to live where he does and send his son to private school must be an incredible feat. A family portrait....

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Posted by Dayts 19:07 Archived in India Comments (3)

Traveling Through Rajasthan: Ranakpur and Jodphur

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My driver's attempts at converting me continued. He insisted after we left Udaipur that we stop enroute at Ranakpur which is widely known for its marble Jain temple, said to be the most spectacular of them all. Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings and emphasises spiritual independence and equality between all forms of life. Practitioners believe that non-violence and self-control are the means by which they can obtain liberation. (Sounds like the Quakers, doesn't it). It is a religious minority in India but has the highest degree of literacy of any religious community in India and their manuscript libraries are the oldest in the country. (Sounds like the Jesuits, doesn't it). What do you think?

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Inside was stunning as well, but photography is prohibited. So use your imagination.

The rest of the travels into Jodhpur was enlivened by pilgrims from the countryside walking to an important temple to celebrate an important feast. We passed hundreds of caravans and even more people. They were dressed very colorfully and seemed to be in a party mood. Along the highway were tents that offered them free refreshments and a place to rest. Here's what it looked like....

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Now I had been looking forward to this city. I thought this is where I would find polo. After all, a number of polo terms come from India...like jodhpurs. I couldn't have been so far from the truth. Jodhpur is dirty, dusty, and disorganized. It was the only city where the smells overwhelmed me. And yet, there are a couple interesing things to see. One is why it has the title of the "blue city.".

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For those that don't remember this from your history class, Thr highest cast of Hindus is referred to as "Brahmins" and traditionally were priests and town leaders. The color blue in India is commonly associated with royalty and power . One motivation for the blue painting of Jodhpur is that the higher cast Brahmins wished their dwellings to be of the Royal color and this is the commonly accepted reason. But according to my driver, the Brahmins painted their houses blue because it keeps them cool in the heat.

The other reason to visit Jodhpur is its magnificent castle. The hilltop citadel of Mehrangarh Fort is almost without parallel. Or so it is written. A glimpse of the wall....
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And I love this painting. It's of Vishnu, on of the Hindu super three gods. A lotus grows from his naval.

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And some kids on the street that were fascinated by my ipad and wanted to get their picture taken:

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Posted by Dayts 04:09 Archived in India Tagged rajasthan Comments (1)

Traveling Through Rajasthan: Udaipur

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This was the most attractive place I visited in Rajasthan because of the lakes (man made), the Lake Palace (in the center of the lake) and the beautiful, sprawling City Palace. It was cleaner than the others and my drive attributed it to a strong royal family that still controls much of what goes on in the city. Even so, the gardens weren't tended to British standards; the streets were full of caca (gifts from the sacred cows); and, the water's edge was marred by the detritus of modern living. Lake Pichola....

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The travel agency after having done such a stellar job with the first accommodation booked me into Pichola Haveli, truly the pits. I complained and they moved me to another, Hotel Thamla Haveli. It was much better but no where near the quality of Shapura. Here it is from the outside...

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This was a full service haveli: hair dryer, meals, hot water, and beer. They even had a laundry service. In fact later in the day after I dropped off my laundry, I noticed the following...

180_E787E6B92219AC6817E9FC85D403BE5B.jpg. Damn, I think they are my black pants!

The best part of the trip was taking a boat around the lake. (I did it twice, once with my driver. It was a first for him). Here are some views...

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Posted by Dayts 04:41 Archived in India Tagged udaipur Comments (2)

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