Sunday, 30 September 2018

Beijing, China

China tour – 2

On the evening of 4th Sep. we left Xian for Beijing by a local flight.   In the flight we did not get anything to eat as they have not been advised of special meals, vegetarian, for us.  But the airlines staff had been kind enough to pass on yoghurt and fruit from their rations.  This suited us also as we had packed ready food which we could take in the hotel at Beijing along with this yoghurt and fruit, as dinner.

Beijing is the capital of China, officially the People’s Republic of China, the most populous country in the world.  Beijing is one of the ancient cities of China and was once referred to as Peking.  Tiananmen Square is the centre of the city and an important landmark and this was our first place of visit.  Outside China the square is well-known for Tiananmen Square massacre, the crack-down of pro-democracy protests in 1989.  Tiananmen Square is named after the nearby Tiananmen, or “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” which marks the entrance to the so-called Forbidden City, the former imperial palace of China.  The square is surrounded by grand buildings including the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Chinese History, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall and the Monument to the People's Heros.  At the time we went the conference with African heads of State was going on.  So the security was very tight and we could gaze at the buildings only from the distance.  The square was packed with tourist groups and the guides were using battery operated microphones to communicate with their groups who were using battery operated hearing aids.  We also carried these hearing aids to be in touch with our local guide, Andy, who was very knowledgeable and also fluent in English.
Walking along the square we proceeded to the Forbidden City, as the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to Qing dynasty i.e. from 1420 to 1912, is called.  It is located in the centre of Beijing and now houses the Palace Museum.  The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers over 180 acres and is now a World Heritage Site. During the cultural revolution in the 1960s, Premier Chou en Lai took special efforts to guard the City from being destroyed by the the Red Guards.  We later visited the Temple of Heaven, the temple where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasty would worship the God and pray for good harvest.  We also watched this day a Chinese musical play “The Golden Mask Dynasty” which was excellent. The play featured brilliant Chinese dances, acrobatics, costumes, lighting and acoustics and included more than 200 actors. 

The next morning we visited the famous Great wall of China, which is a World Heritage Site.  The Great Wall of China is the world's longest wall and biggest ancient architecture. The Great Wall is more than 2,300 years old and more than 13000 miles long.  It was built mainly during the three dynasties – Qin Dynasty, Han Dynasty and Ming Dynasty.  The Great Wall is not a continuous line; there are side walls, circular walls, parallel walls and sections with natural barriers like high mountains.  We went to Juyong pass section of the Great Wall, also known as Juyongguan Great Wall, which is the closest section of the Great wall to Beijing.  The rugged mountain scenery is beautiful and the fort and perimeter wall has been renovated and well maintained.  We did not climb to the fort at the top and returned midway.  Only a few in the tour group ventured to climb to the top. On our way back we stopped at a Jade exhibition and a traditional enamelware factory, known as Cloisonne factory.

The next morning we took the optional tour and visited the Summer Palace first.  The Summer Palace is said to be the best preserved imperial garden in the world, and the largest of its kind still in existence in China.   It was listed as World Heritage site in 1998. It was a former summer resort of the emperors.  From Sumer Palace we went to the Giant Panda House in Beijing Zoo.  Giant Panda House is a separate arena in Beijing zoo and has separate tickets for entry.  There are two arenas In Panda House called Asian Games Panda House and Olympic Games Panda House.  As it was a hot day most of the pandas were either sleeping or just lying down. None of them were moving round in the enclosures.  After visiting Panda House we visited a herbal institute to learn about traditional Chinese medicine and have a foot massage. After this we boarded a cycle 
rickshaw, also called pedicab, to go round the oldest streets in Beijing called Hutong where we had our lunch in a restaurant run in old type house with courtyard. We also visited one residential house to have a firsthand experience of life in such a house. Many of such houses have been destroyed to make way for modern apartments and now it is estimated that there are only couple of thousand of such houses and they are treated as national treasure. In some of the houses where multiple families live, there are no toilets and there are public toilets in Hutongs for their use.  The Hutongs are a great tourist attraction and they are visited by more tourists than high-rise buildings, it is said.

After the Hutong Life tour we retired to the hotel for the final night of stay in Beijing.   We stayed here three nights in the hotel, Ramada Beijing North.  The hotel was not to our liking as it was not centrally located and there was no mall or convenience store located near it. The national guide, Leo, who received us at the Beijing airport and stayed with us till the end of tour, helped us by getting us a box of yoghurt containing 8 cartons, which we made use with the ready food we brought from Sydney as dinner in two nights of stay here.  Photos taken in Beijing can be seen in the Flickr album “ Beijing, China” @


Friday, 28 September 2018

Xian, china

China Tour - 1

We went to China on a group tour in the first fortnight of Sep.18. The tour was for 13 days and was called “The Best of China (Essential)”.  The booking was made through Webjet exclusives and the tour was conducted by Nexus tours.  It was a hectic tour made more hectic by the flight arrangements.  In the domestic flights our request for special meals, vegetarian, was not passed on.  In the international flights the booking was made in flights that involved clearing the baggage and re-booking at change over points where the problem was compounded by the communication difficulty as very few in the airport could understand English.  However the guides, local and national, were very helpful which made the tour enjoyable.

Our first halt was Xian, which is one of the oldest cities of China with about 3000 years of history and also one of the most popular tourist destinations in China.  We flew from Sydney to Xian with a stopover at Shanghai, where we had to clear our baggage and go through all formalities involved in rechecking.  As very few could communicate in English, it is with much difficulty we could catch the connecting flight completing all formalities.  In fact we just made it and the door closed after our entry.  One other pair of mother and son who were from New castle and who came by this flight missed the connecting flight and spent the night in Shanghai, and we learnt about it in Xian next morning. 

In the morning, after breakfast, we visited the Terracotta Warriors which forms part of Terracotta army that was constructed to accompany the tomb of China’s First Emperor,Qin, to serve and safeguard the emperor in his afterlife
.  Early rulers had soldiers, officials buried along with them after death to serve them in the afterlife.  To save the human sacrifice the terracotta army was created and buried with the emperor after death. These were made 2000 years earlier but were discovered only in 1974 and later.  It is considered to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries and was named a world heritage site in 1987.  The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. Four main pits of approximately 23 feet deep have been discovered near the emperor’s tomb and together they contain more than 8000 soldiers and 150 cavalry horses.  The figures vary in height according to their rank, tallest being the generals. It is amazing to see row after row of life-size terracotta soldiers which are more than 2000 years old and it is a window to the ancient culture of China.

The next important landmark we visited was the Big wild goose Pagoda which was built in the 7th century for the study of Buddhist scriptures that were brought from India by the Buddhist monk, Xuanzang.  It is a seven-story building which was built with layers of bricks without cement.  The statue of Xuanzang is there before the building.  This is is called Big wild goose pagoda because there is another small pagoda near city wall which is called small wild goose pagoda.  This is also a world heritage site.

Another important place of visit was the Ancient City Wall.  It is one of the oldest, largest and well-preserved city walls.  It was built in 14th century.  It is rectangular in shape and is 14 kilometres long and encircles the old city with a moat, drawbridges, watch towers and gate towers.  A watch tower is located on each of the four corners of the wall.  We can see people cycling or walking along the wall.  Looking down the wall we can watch the city life. 

The hotel we stayed here, Tianyu Gloria grand Hotel, was well-located with a mall,  a family convenience store and the Wal-mart located in front of the hotel in the opposite row.  As all the people in the reception could understand English, this was the best hotel to my liking in the entire trip
Photos taken in Xian can be viewed in the Flickr album “Xian, China” @