Daily Archives: April 21, 2014

Every Blog Must have a Title, Martin #2

(Ed. note: Okay so after having been scolded by both Lynne (“Bossy”) and Terry (“You sure wrote a lot”), I will make no further comments on the guest blogs.)

Now that we have verified that Geoff knows the meaning of the word final, on with the blog!

Passing through the Main Gate of the Forbidden City, one comes across a series of Temples named along the lines of “Temple Of Heavenly Peace”. You pass through each one until you get to the North Gate. Actually, you don’t pass through them, you look into them and then have to go around them – one of the disappointing things about the FC. The other was that most of the fittings have disappeared, either due to the Boxers, the British or the Red Guards. So this is typically what is left inside now:

Life in the lap of luxury - on the other hand it isn't exactly warm in there in the winter.

Life in the lap of luxury – on the other hand it isn’t exactly warm in there in the winter.

You can get an idea of the life of opulence the Emperor and the Court lived. We got the sense that there was a lot of ceremony interspersed with long periods confined to one of the many smaller palaces within the FC walls. The role of one temple was a rest stop and changing room for the Emperor as he was carried between two other temples – exhausting work! Or he could visit the Concubines’ Palace (500 concubines), which was guarded by dragons……

Quite the ferocious little beasts

Quite the ferocious little beasts – Is that guy  shielding his eyes out of terror?

The place was full of animals guarding the grounds. Here’s two more:

Two?

Two?

Notice the level of decoration on the building behind. The number of animals on the roof edge indicates the importance of the building (in this case, the Temple Of Heavenly Peace). Every lion has an upturned lion cub under its front left paw. The place has been torn down and rebuilt several times since old Genghis’ day – most notably in the 1490’s by the Ming Emperor Yongle. It’s also burned down several times, so they put these all over the place as fire extnguishers. The audio guide we were using made a point of saying that British soldiers scraped the gold off it during the Boxer Rebellion…..

Damn those Boxers!

Damn those Brits!

No blog post can do justice to the size and grandeur of the Forbidden City, so we’ll leave it here and head back to the hotel. Just so you can see how “forbidden” it was, here’s the moat on the way out.

Apparently they didn't think boats could cross the moats

Apparently they didn’t think boats could cross the moats

At this stage we came across a rarely mis-translated sign (way fewer in Beijing than elsewhere, we found). This was in a public toilet. Apparently, it is part of a campaign to make people be “nice” to each other. We don’t think they meant the bit about the pool, because the Water Cube was miles away! You are the best!

Be Healthy

Be Civil Be Healthy

Back to the hotel, which had an interesting array of Mongolian art (mostly horses and saddles, with one picture of a sheep outside the bedroom – don’t ask). However, this was in the lobby:

Who would have thought that a horse statue could be so interesting?

Who would have thought that a horse statue could be so interesting?

Look closely and you will see that it is one tree stump lying on its side with a herd of wild horses individually carved into it (carved, not glued on). Feeling peckish, we decided it was time to sample the world famous Peking Duck. We happened to pass THE place to eat on the way home, so we decided to make a reservation for eight o’clock “No reservation needed, sir!” Sure enough, come eight o’clock we had to barge our way in past a door keeper saying “No reservation, no table!” Anyway, once inside we ordered the duck, which is carved at the table. You eat it sliced, wrapped in a very fine tortilla type of bread, with lots of spices. The two pieces on the plate are the two halves of its head…..

Excellent!

Excellent!

A lot of the old Beijing is now gone, replaced by the Stalinesque architecture beloved of Communist countries. One major architectural crime was the demolition of the city walls in 1964 to build a ring road. Here’s pretty much all that’s left – the South Gate seen from Tiananmen Square (a little smoggy).

Compare the height of the people to the height of the gate. Amazing.

Compare the height of the people to the height of the gate. Amazing.

However there are still some “hutongs” (alleys) left. They house lots of people, but use communal showers and bathrooms. We both checked out the communal toilets (out of anthropological interest), and fled. Here’s a hutong. As a former Telus employee, Martin could not but help admire the overhead wiring work.

If they keep this up they'll soon have a roof over the hutong

If they keep this up they’ll soon have a roof over the hutong

No Cregg-Guinan walkabout would be complete without the discovery of a cheap drinks place. A bit pricier here at Y5 for a 600ml Nanjing beer, but what the heck, we’re on holiday. Much hilarity from all the staff and customers when the Canadians ordered beer but no food. Here’s our local, on the left, with the main cop shop on the right. By this stage we were both choking on the Beijing smog. Martin’s lungs are still not over it (he who never gets sick!). It later transpired that we were there in the middle of a sandstorm, which had deposited clouds of fine particles all over the city. The sand had been blown down from Inner Mongolia, which seemed appropriate given where we were staying. And we had been remarking about the amount of left over construction sand lying in the street……

i

At least the jail cell is close if you want to sleep it off.

Tomorrow, on to the Great Wall. How many bricks do you think there are in a wall 5,600 kilometers long, sixty feet high and sixteen feet wide? And for the life of me I can’t see why they built it IN the mountains…….

Every Blog Must Have a Title, Martin

This week’s blog is the final guest posting by Lynne and Martin detailing the end of their adventures in China, now that we have fully recovered on our return to Canada.

(Ed. note: Contrary to the above statement, this is NOT the final blog from Lynne and Martin. They still have to tell you about the sand, the duck, the Wall and the more. Additionally, Ed. will print what they have written, with no censoring, but lots of notes.)

When last you left the intrepid explorers……. We were heading to Xi’an, a part of the trip that has been more than adequately covered by Geoff and Terry in recent posts. Suffice it to say that Xi’an, the Terracotta Army and the Emperors’ tombs are absolutely magnificent and a must see if (Ed. note: When) you go to China.

After T & G left on Sunday, we pottered around in Xi’an until late afternoon on Monday. We discovered how to eat good food for next to nothing in the local Chinese Noodle Shop. Now, all weekend we had been buying 600 ml bottles of Tsingtao in the corner store for pre-prandial consumption in the room – cost Y7.50 each. How much in the noodle shop for 600ml of Tsingtao? Y4.00. Go figure! (Ed. note: We may be affronted. Is there an implication there that we had not introduced them to cheap food, or good food or cheap good food – or beer?)

HUGE bowls and Huge beer at a miniscule price.

HUGE bowls and HUGE bottles beer at a miniscule price.

So, Tomb Sweeping Weekend having come to an end, off to Beijing on a two hour flight that left on time and served food. Taxiing into town for $20 bucks, we checked into the Inner Mongolia Hotel, which was an improvement on the Citadines in Xi’an. Disappointingly, though, not a single misspelt sign! (Ed. note: Nice touch Martin – book us into somewhat suspect accommodation, but you two get exquisite. Nice!)

Apparently you have to even get dressed up just to go to the lobby.

Apparently you have to even get dressed up just to go to the lobby.

By now it was around eight, so we thought we’d take a look at the nearby Tiananmen Square. No dice. It’s closed at night and patrolled by the police AND the army. (Ed. note: How does one “close” a huge, empty space that is 960×550 yds.?)  So we visit the famous night food market to have a beer and something to eat. Fortunately, not these, as they were still wriggling……

Mmmm ... but if they are still wiggling, they are fresh!

Mmmm … but if they are still wriggling, they are fresh!

So, back early the next day. Access to TS and the Forbidden City is tightly controlled by security gates (as indeed are all subway stops). We get diverted by what we thought was a wannabe guide who turned out to be the head of the Forbidden City Calligraphy School. He showed us into the Temple of Ancestors before he tried to sell us something. Anyway, no one was in this temple except newlyweds doing formal photography. It had an impressive main building used by the Emperor to honour the ancestors (we’re thinking of putting one in the back yard) (Ed. note: An ancestor, a main building or a temple for newlywed photos?). This is the interior.

Stretch those arms Lynne - just imagine you are holding Martin...

Stretch those arms Lynne – just imagine you are holding Martin…

After half an hour trying to figure out how to get out of there, we ended up at the main gate of the Forbidden City. Now this is a blog in itself, as it is, of course, huge. So we leave you with a picture of the main gate. To be continued…. (Ed. note: Okay here is my question: If this was to be the last blog (see Martin’s preamble), why did he finish with “To be continued…” . It is very confusing for the Ed.)

Forbidden

 The Shoe Blog

Since this week’s blog originated in Vancouver, I thought it would be appropriate to use this. It appears that the Vancouver Sun is stealing my idea. If any of you know a good lawyer, could you find out if I can sue? They have taken The Shoe Blog and made a small adjustment calling it Boots and included it in something called Instagram. I don’t think that is right. Just another example of The Man beating down the little guy!

It was MY idea!

It was MY idea!