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Sunday, 31 July 2011

South Cathedral and the last few days in Beijing.

As I said in the last blog we had seen the last of the major tourist sites, and with only a couple of days of our fabulous holiday left, we concentrated on nearby places and the final bits of present shopping plus some retail therapy for us!!
I have mentioned the South Cathedral in earlier blogs, it was somehow strange to find a Catholic Cathedral in the centre of Beijing, but I am not sure why I was surprised to be honest! I love churches and Cathedrals so we had to see if a Chinese Cathedral differed greatly from English ones.
The interior of the Cathedral was just lovely, in some ways more ornate than most of our Cathedrals, with a definite Chinese touch. It was interesting to see Chinese stained glass windows, and the ornate lights were lovely to see.
Wandering around the outside of the Cathedral we saw the only cat we had come across in the whole 2 weeks of the holiday, there are lots of dogs, but a definite lack of cats! Sadly the one cat we saw had a very poorly eye, but was lovely just the same! Here was the only place we saw wisteria growing too, which did surprise me.
Beside the Cathedral was a little park, mentioned in a previous blog, the last day of our holiday there was a solitary bird in his cage hanging in a tree, singing his little heart out to the traffic. I have no idea what the bird is, but his song was beautiful. Apparently the bird owners hang their birds in the trees every morning, then they are taken in before their owners go to work, so maybe this little fellow had been left out for the day by mistake. It was lovely to hear his song anyway.
We had planned to visit the Night Market, but the evening we went to the Wanfujing shopping area we were all really tired, so we never got there. The next day we did however go to a market aimed at the Chinese rather than tourists. Tourist markets are very annoying, as the staff all pester you to buy their goods, but the Yaxiu market was totally different, the staff were much more relaxed and did not pester us much at all! These markets are all the indoor ones, on several floors, and are total Aladdin’s Caves! We finished our present shopping there, and found a wonderful Silk shop, at prices below what we would have to pay in this country. I bought enough of a heavy weight silk in 2 different colours, enough to make 1 large quilt or 2 small ones, it is beautiful fabric, when I get round to using it that is!
The little park at night.
We had one final lovely Chinese meal with my daughter in the Hotel the last night, next day it was time to leave Beijing and China. My sister in law and I were both very sad to leave. To say we had had a truly magical holiday is really an understatement, but as we know all good things have to come to an end. It was really lovely seeing my daughter after 9 months, she will be arriving back in England in 2 weeks time, which will be great. However I think it won’t be too long until she goes back to China, as she loves it so much!
Another mythical creature, spotted in a back street.
Thanks to all of you that have shared my holiday, all your comments are very much appreciated, I am glad you have enjoyed some of my photos.
A final photo, courtesy of my sister in law, and one that means a lot to me – my lovely daughter and I on the Great Wall. Happy Days indeed.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Summer Palace, Beijing

Looking across Kunming Lake towards Yu Quan Hill with Yu Feng Pagoda.
The 17 arch bridge.
This was the last of the big tourist attractions in Beijing that we visited. Once again it was the weekend and there were hordes of people visiting at the same time as us! Not surprising really as it is a beautiful place to go, but we were all feeling a bit tired after our marvellous day on the Great Wall the day before, so we contented ourselves with seeing the covered walkway and the marble boat.
The Summer Palace is a lovely combination of water and amazing Chinese architecture, but again it is the sort of place that needs re-visiting to see everything that is there.
The Long Walk, lots of people around!
The lake is called the Kunming Lake, which is man- made, and very beautiful! It really is a lovely place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
There were a variety of wonderful, highly decorated buildings on the hill above us, but we were more than happy to take a slow meander along the Long Gallery, by the time we turned around to come back most of the crowds had left and it was starting to become a very peaceful place.
A beautiful Paifang (gateway) look at the crowds!
We had to see the marble boat, although you are not allowed to go on it, it is amazing, as were the Dragon Boats nearby.
The Marble Boat
A Dragon Boat
On the way back, the Long Walk – empty! Sadly the ceiling did not come out very well in this photo!
Just one more China blog to share with you all, then maybe I will catch up with some of the things I have been doing since I got back!!

A lovely mythical creature to finish the blog Smile

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Great Wall, Mutianu, Beijing

This was the ‘big one’ for me, when I realized that this China trip was really going to happen the two places I really wanted to see were the Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall. Not surprising choices maybe, as I would imagine that both these destinations would be high on the list of any visitor to China.
On the way up in the cable car

Climbing on to the Wall
As said in previous blogs we only had organised trips to the Terracotta Warriors, so we needed to find a way to get to the Wall. We had heard from other travellers that if you use a guide to get to the wall, you got an hour to get onto the wall, have a look round and get back down again. An hour to see one of the most amazing sights in the world??? I don’t think so! We looked into travelling out to the Wall on the buses, but we weren’t too keen, although it would have been the cheapest option. Fortunately my sister in law got chatting to a taxi driver outside our hotel, who did visits to the Wall. We managed to talk to him again, ask him how much it would cost (half the price of an organized tour!) and more importantly how long we would have when we got there! He said we could spend as long as we wanted to on the Wall, that was the right answer for us, and the right price, so we booked the trip for the Saturday before we came home.
It was a lovely sunny day, but, being a Saturday the whole of China is out and about…it took us about 2 hours to get to Mutianyu, the traffic was horrendous, but seeing the Chinese countryside was really lovely.
Looking down into the valley, our taxi driver is down there somewhere!!
I sent my texts from here Smile
Looking out from a watch tower.
Inside the watch tower.
I ought to say my sister in law was very brave, she really does not like heights, but both she and my daughter had been to Badaling, which is the tourists usual destination, Mutianyu straddles the top of the mountains and can only be reached by either a cable car or a ski lift, so you can imagine just how brave she was!
The Wall marching along the top of the mountain.
Our taxi driver was brilliant, he showed us the way up to the cable car, places to eat etc. then he gave my daughter his mobile phone no. as she has a Chinese phone and left us to it. We had chosen to go up in the cable car – the ski lift option also included coming down on a slide!! My daughter is still desperate to try that option! To see the Wall snaking up and down the top of the mountains was just wonderful, but you do wonder why they went across the top of the mountains……
We got out of the cable car, and after a bit more climbing we were finally there, for me it was a dream come true, as I never in a million years thought I would ever get to walk on the Great Wall of China! We walked from one guard tower to the next one, where I texted my friends from. We also found a surprise when we got there, a donkey tethered under a tree at the bottom of the wall! There was a small drinks stall at this point, tended to by an old man, so the dear little donkey must carry the drinks up the wall on a daily basis.
The drinks stall holder….
….and his donkey!
We could have carried on but the next stage was an almost vertical climb downwards, which is ok until you realize that you have to climb back up a long way too, so we retraced our steps. My sister in law and my daughter decided they had seen enough, so left the wall. I carried on a short way onto a part of the wall we had not seen, I couldn’t let a photo opportunity go now could I?
There are people climbing up that section of the Wall, rather them than me I think!
We left the Wall, went back down in the cable car, visited the stalls selling all sorts of wonderful things. With the aid of my daughters bargaining we bought silk dressing gowns and presents to bring home, then we had something to eat, and called out taxi driver, he was there to pick us up in 2 minutes, literally! Visiting the Wall this way is definitely the way to go, as I said our taxi driver was just brilliant!
Flowers growing by the Wall
We had a relaxed drive back into the centre of Beijing, arriving back at about 5pm, but the day wasn’t over just yet! My daughter and her flat mate took us to  Tibetan Restaurant in the evening, we ate Yak meat which was delicious, and drank sweet Yak milk tea, which I loved. There was a band singing Tibetan songs, and every 10 minutes or so, the staff stopped what they were doing and danced round the tables. It was a lovely evening, and a great end to a wonderful day.