Thursday, 3 September 2009
Another of the series of my photos lost with the camera was a visit to a Beijing acrobatics show. The show was exceptional and, as with all skills at that level, they made it look so easy. The bit with 14 girls on one bike was pretty spectacular, apparently more than in the clip here.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
The Great Wall is almost mythic - everyone has heard of it, it is on the tourist "must see" list but as with so much in China, the reality doesn’t sit entirely alongside your preconceptions.
As I explained, we hired a guide and a driver, and having heard how crowded The Wall can get we asked him to take us to a quieter section. He checked we didn’t mind walking and took us to Juyongguan, a part of the wall close to Beijing and Badaling (the Oxford Street in rush-hour version) but - as it has no cable car - much quieter. There are two semi-circles to walk there, the northern is the less steep and more frequented and the southern, well, lets just say that he took us up the bit that most people come down and there were very few - maybe a dozen or so - that we passed on the way. Of course, when we came down the other way we realised that most people just don't make it up. I did manage to take some great photos.....
The things that strike you most forcibly about this section of the wall is first, how big it is, nothing you read or imagine prepares you for this socking great thing built by hand. But second, how steep it is. Imagine one of those stiff Lake District climbs - you know the sort, the ones that hide the next stage of the climb from you until you get around that bend, the ones where you think "we must be somewhere near the top now" only to discover that you aren't even half way. Now, make it steeper. And higher. Now, build a stone wall about 5 meters wide and about 6m high all the way up it. In places, the pitch is so steep that the steps are about 60cm high and 20cm deep. Oh yes, now carry on building that wall for 5,000 miles. Hadrian's Wall is quite something to see, but this is just something else.
The day was quite hazy, but that lent a mystic quality to the view. Sure, it would have been nice to see for miles but then we wouldn't have known what we were looking at, so misty was good too. No matter also that the wall had obviously been extensively renovated over the years - this is China after all - that place still owns time in a way that few other places can. Just to stand there was a privilege.
Looking, walking and standing on the Great Wall of China you can only wonder at the mind and the attitude that conceived it all those thousands of years ago. This, more than anything else, shows China as the land of the possible.
As I said, my photos are no more, but fortunately I was carrying my bike GPS and recorded the walk, which is where this Google Earth Picture comes from. If you want to load the walk in Google Earth yourself, here is the link.
Monday, 31 August 2009
This was one of our first experiences of that kind. We were on our way to the Great Wall and the guide took us to this Cloisonné (Chinese enamel ware) factory. The factory itself was fascinating, a seemingly haphazard amalgam of stunning colours, base material and shambolic apparatus leading to a fantastic product. I tried to capture the effect photographically; here are some of the results.
The Cloisonné technique involves placing copper wires on a base shape, repeatedly filling the troughs with enamel and firing until the glaze is built up. It is then polished down and the wire electroplated. We did buy a vase, even though it appeared a little expensive, but the quality of it is much higher than the copies you can buy cheaply on the streets.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Wen Tian Xiang, a formative figure of Chian from the Song Dynasty. The gatekeeper seemed surprised to see us, and happily took our 20p entrance fee (compared to the £4+ at the larger attractions) and we were left to wander the site on our own - very unusual in China. These photos highlight the Chinese obsession with renovation; the new stone is the one presented and the old one is tucked away in a strange, museum like collection of artefacts. You are left on your own to realise that the one is the copy of the other.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Sunday, 23 August 2009
We had hired a private guide for this visit, which substantially improved our experience. She was able to provide the background and to work our way around the crowds rather than through them. When I asked her, "Isn't this dangerous here? Aren't people going to get hurt?" Her answer was "Oh yes, they do, quite often". There is a way that the cavalier disregard for Health & Safety is almost comforting, but when it comes down to it, if I had to choose between this or our own (somewhat-over)nanny state approach, safety would win. It's just a shame there isn't a happier medium.
Saturday, 22 August 2009
I've found a link to a 360 view so you can see it in situ here: http://www.world-heritage-tour.org/asia/china/ming-qing/beijing/forbidden-city/court-of-eternal-longevity/sphere-quicktime.html
Friday, 21 August 2009
While I'm at it, a little background. This is not a "normal" blog of mine, this is being created for me to remember, and to help me crystallise thoughts that are floating around in my head. It's a useful device for writing to talk to you, but then you may not even be there, and even if you are there you may not be listening, no matter. While I'm still writing this blog it there will be pictures some days, other days there may not be any. So now you know.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
But don't get the udea that this is about being green - this is all about money. Just because they use bicycles, they still all aspire to cars.
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
What I didn't manage to capture as it went by so fast was on the taxi ride into town: a sweeper like this sweeping the side of the motorway. No protection, no high viz, no hard shoulder. We were in a different country for sure.
The adventure begins.