Posts Tagged With: Beijing

Juxtaposition & Surprise :Weekly Photo Challenges

What is Juxtaposition? According to Word Press it is a pairing of things to show comparison and contrast. Basetet’s photo challenge is to show something that surprised you. Living in Shanghai, China just walk out the door and see examples of these themes. Such a shame that after nearly 4 years  here less things surprise us and have become part of the everyday.

Last spring we went to Beijing to see the Great Wall. As we wandered the market area selling souvenirs to tourists we came upon this unusual pairing. Seeing someone in ancient warrior garb and another fellow in a modern suit playing a Chinese style chess game was a little surprising . A true juxtaposition… had we gone back in time or was it still 2013?



What have you seen that surprised you or was a juxtaposition? Comment on it below or follow the links to find out how to post your own photos.

Stay tuned… more on our recent Cambodia trip later this weekend.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, Photography, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Windows & (Funny) Memories

With a new year starting I have been posting more than the usual. I want to share with you our amazing trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have been trying to focus more on writing about daily life living here as an expat in  Asia and less on photo challenges. This week’s photo challenge seemed interesting and as I searched our recent trip photos I found these windows, the theme set by word press.



Windows at Angkor Wat and surrounding temples were interesting with small pillar like spindles that covered the opening so only thin views through the intricately carved shapes could be seen. I am not sure of the purpose since your view was obstructed and little light could come in. Possibly it was to support the heavy stone structures that an opening for a glass-less window would not provide. Some of the window pillars were chipped and broken leaving space to see the views below.

View over the grounds around Angkor Wat

View over the grounds around Angkor Wat

As I was saving these photos to my desktop I came across this photo.


Last spring our trip to Beijing brought us to the Forbidden City. We walked out of a gate along the moat only to realise this was not the entrance area. As we retraced our steps we saw this woman cooking out of the window. It was even funnier when we noticed the sign above her head. Bastet asked us to share a photo of a memory for her photo challenge, and this was a funny story (and it was also using windows) from our trip that made it quiet memorable. It also kept us in giggles long after wondering aloud what she was cooking and why she would be cooking there, of all places. The image lends itself to many ideas and you can let your imagination paint a story. 😉 What do you think she was cooking?

This is my response to 2 different photo challenges that I have combined into one. If you want to see more or find out how to post your own follow the links (above) to Bastet’s Blog and Word Press.

If you want to see more of our recent trip to Cambodia stay tuned… or check out these two recent posts.

Categories: Photography, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Curves: Weekly Photo Challenge

Curves bend, twist and stretch this way and that. Here are my examples in response to this week’s photo challenge set by Word Press.

1. An interesting overhang on a door near the Bund, Shanghai

2. The Great Wall curves right and left; up and down as it follows the curves and contours of the mountain tops

3. A round door at the LongHua Temple, Shanghai

4. A curved window in a stone wall at the Botanical Gardens, Shanghai

5. A small bridge with a curved shape over a stream, Botanical Gardens, Shanghai

What examples of curves do you have on film? Post your link below and head over to Word Press to see more examples.

Stay Tuned…

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Photography, post a week, Tourist in My Own Town, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Today is a public holiday, Labour Day (May 1), here in China and we are off school. I was catching up on reading some blogs and came across Marianne’s blog (East of Malaga) that I often read and follow. She posted a challenge on Knobs and Knockers. I am fascinated by ornate and colourful doors, but especially since I saw and photographed this door from a church in Havana, Cuba in 2008.

Havana Cuba, 2008

Havana Cuba, 2008

Here in China many doors on older style and traditional buildings are bright red with gold or brass lion head handles. Here is a collection from our recent trip to Beijing.

Each door seems to tell a story with its worn handles, dirt and faded crackle paint. I think that is what makes each unique and interesting to photograph.

Check out Marianne’s blog to see her beautiful examples and photography from Europe.

As always stay tuned…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

The theme from WordPress this week is culture.

As promised here is some more pictures from Beijing from our recent trip. These were taken at the park at the Temple of Heaven. Many Chinese people get out and gather in parks or in the central courtyards of building complexes; young and old… older ladies can be seen line dancing, younger children run, play and ride bikes. It is one thing I notice about our culture vs the Chinese culture. We stay isolated in our houses watching TV while each evening music, laughter and voices float up to our building as many members of our compound gather and meet in the central courtyard. Enjoy the following pictures from Beijing of Chinese culture with games, conversation and fun…

Be sure to check out my post from earlier today with more pictures from the Temple of Heaven and local culture.

Stay tuned…

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, Photography, post a week, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hell of a Hike: Beijing – Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is another major tourist site to see while visiting Beijing after the Great Wall and Forbidden City. Many others may venture to the Summer Palace and this gem may be missed. It was my favourite place over the Forbidden City and after the Wall of course. It was not something we had planned to see and was put as a maybe if we have time. A co-worker casually mentioned it and if they had not said anything we may have overlooked this altogether.

This was our last day in Beijing after a whirlwind of 3 nights and 4 days. After all the walking, hiking, cooler temps and some pollution problems we debated about going, but decided to suck it up and head out to the Temple since it was close to the hotel and we may not get back to Beijing, so best make the most of it. After a few metro stops we exited the trains and were not sure where to go. Generally major attractions have signs posted to point you in the right direction. A few other tourists had the same issue and we followed each other around. Eventually we found ourselves on the street and a posted street map gave us the direction we needed. We found ourselves at the main gate and paid our admission. The admission was more than posted on the Travel website we read. We worried we may be getting ripped off since the woman was adamant it was 40RMB not 20 (about $6.00). Luckily we paid the higher price since it afforded us entrance into the main attractions and not just the park.

Soon after we entered the gate we noticed older local residents playing games and chatting in the sun. A small pavilion had wall to wall people playing shuttle cox (small weighted feathers that must be kept in motion; like hacky sacks that were popular few years back), cards, majong, badminton and dancing. Some ladies were knitting and making crafts which they offered for sale to the passing tourists. The energy and happiness filled the space. No one blinked an eye as a few tourists stopped to snap photos, although a few modest people would turn away or cover their faces.

From there we saw these men playing this hoop game. They would catch the hoop around their necks. As we took pause to watch they gave one to John to throw. After a bad first throw he quickly caught on. They returned the hoops and John was a natural and caught each of them! They were very impressed and clapped and smiled.

Our next stop was the Hall of Good Harvests. A proud grandma and small boy followed me up the steps and he kept saying HI and then mimicked me taking photos. He laughed and would do it again and babbled to me in Chinese. Inside the main building was quite impressive. The detail and colours were dazzling on the round 3 tier building. Inside the detail was just as impressive. This building was used to pray for good weather and good harvests. Animals would also be used for sacrifice and models of where they were held was also part of the display.

Hall of Good Harvests

Hall of Good Harvests


Next we moved on to the Imperial Vault of Heaven. Similar style as the Hall of Good Harvest, but only 1 tier and smaller in circumference. The tablets used for worship are housed here. Also an echo wall was said to be within the circular walls, although we did not find it, or get it to work for us.


Last stop before we left was the Circular Mound Altar. It reminded me of a 3 tier wedding cake with its white stone and ornate decorations and carvings. The beauty held its tortured past as this was where the animal sacrifices would take place here each winter solstice.

View from the Circular Mound

View from the Circular Mound

The Temple of Heaven was my one of my favourite places partly because of the beautiful and peaceful gardens, but also the fewer tourists and more locals doing what they do everyday. It was a glimpse into their lives, culture and traditions. Gone were the pushing and rude crowds all vying for position to get a picture and take a look. Despite its history a calm and peaceful atmosphere surrounded us. Watching the locals play games and be so welcoming and friendly by inviting to join in was priceless.

Be sure to read some of my previous posts on Beijing… which was a whirlwind trip where we fit in a lot in a short time; a real hell of a hike!

Want to see more pictures of the local flair? Stay tuned later as I post on Word Press’ theme Culture…

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, everyday occurances, post a week, travel, unique experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Travel Theme: LIGHT

I happened upon this geometric design or sign at the Shanghai train station while waiting for our train to Beijing. The design was all lit up and reflected off the shiny floor. I couldn’t resist snapping a pic. Good thing since it is perfect for this week’s challenge.



Another photo from our recent trip. This was taken at a Starbucks at a shopping market in Beijing. The interesting lights are similar to the lanterns you see at Chinese New Year.



Head on over to Where’s My Backpack to join in the fun and post your own, or to see more examples and interpretations of the theme light.

Stay tuned….

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Photography, post a week, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hell of a Hike : Beijing Streets

This weekend I have run out of time to post more on Beijing. I don’t want to rush it, so I will leave it for next weekend when I have more time. To hold you over let me post a few pictures I snapped as we walked around the streets of Beijing.

Typical Red Doors with Lion Door Knockers

Typical Red Doors with Lion Door Knockers


Small neigbourhoods tucked behind the ornate doors.

Small neighbourhoods tucked behind big ornate doors.

I am fascinated by these doors… the door knockers and decoration always catch my eye. I was lucky enough to see this one open and sneak a peek inside another world to a whole neighbourhood. All this time I thought it was an entrance to a house, or larger building of some importance, but never did it cross my mind a whole neighbourhood could be tucked behind these closed doors.

Stay tuned for more…

Be sure to check out my 3 previous posts on Beijing …Tian’anmen Square, The Great Wall and the Forbidden City. From this weekend you can also check out my Photo Challenges on Contrast and Up.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, Photography, post a week, travel | Tags: , , , , ,

Hell of a Hike: The Forbidden City

This is part 3 of our recent trip to Beijing.

After 2 early starts and many miles put on our tired and weary feet we had a later start to our day as we planned to do a self guided tour of the Forbidden City. After another breakfast of coffee and pastry from the bakery next door we set off to the metro stop which was conveniently right in front of our hotel. After our walk to Tian ‘anmen Square, the long way round on Friday, we decided the metro was a better option. The Beijing Metro is extensive and covers large ground. 2 RMB (about 30 cents) to most stops is a super cheap way to travel.

After 2 short stops we arrived at our destination and when we excited the subway, police and security were blocking access to Tian ‘amen Square . We assumed it was due to the large crowds that were already congregating there. We were on the opposite side to the Forbidden City, so back in the metro we exited on the opposite side of the road and joined the crowds pushing towards the entrance. We hoped we wouldn’t be held back here.  Surprisingly the crowds moved quickly and we were inside the grounds. Queues were in different locations and we were not sure exactly where to wait to buy our admission tickets. No one was barring our entrance, so we pushed on through various gates after snapping a few photos. Finally we came to a location where tickets were being presented. With broken English a fellow directed us where to go. Many agent windows were open and the process was slow going. Luckily a gentleman came and pointed to an empty wicket and with some hesitation we moved forward. Luckily a new window opened and we got our tickets within minutes and were inside the next set of grounds.


During the Ming and Qing Dynasties the Forbidden City was home for 24 Emperors.  It is relatively new (1368-1644) not as old or ancient as I would have thought. Our guide, Jason,  from the previous day said most palaces were moved or built a new with each Emperor, so only 1 other is still in existence today. An Imperial Palace housing numerous Emperors over generations was usual. The Forbidden  Palace grounds  contain over 8 700 rooms. The moat which is 52m wide is backed by a thick stone wall which stretches 10m high which provided further protection. Today it only keeps tourists out and allows entrances and exits through its 4 main gates.


Part of the moat inside the city walls. Only beautiful stone work walls here on the inside.

Today was a disappointing day as the pollution, fog and smog made for a cloudy dull day. The brilliant reds, greens and yellows were lost in this dullness that enveloped everything. It was barely above 5˚c, not the sunny high of 15˚c that was predicted. Best to keep moving. I am not sure what I expected but the many buildings all looked similar and none allowed entrance inside. An opening over a railing allowed you a peek inside if you could stand the crowds jostling and vying for position to get a look. Never mind stopping to pose for a photo because you would be taking someone else’s profile or back of their head. Rarely will people stop and wait as you take a photo, often they walk through your shot oblivious to what you are doing. The sparsely decorated rooms were not much to see. Some were covered with plastic coverings or layers of polluted dust. Such a shame to let a large part of history fade away. I guess I expected more opulence and splendor since it was forbidden to most commoners in the day. The wind picked up and despite my many layers, gloves, hat and scarf I was chilled and starting to feel miserable. This only added to the feeling of an anti-climax and we questioned this is it? Additionally, knowing now we will leave China next year added to my sadness. Slowly our plans and excitement around Asia is coming to an end  as so many things are getting crossed off our “Must See List”. The anticipation and feeling of ample time is turning to a feeling of loss and sadness to an interesting place that has been home and sooner than later will only be a collection of memories and photographs.


Tour guides, who approached us outside the main gates and audio tours were available, but we decided to do it at our own pace. The local guides are not hired by the location, so we were leery of how authentic and true their information may be. Not to mention you must wonder if they will scam you later for a large price than agreed on. We may have taken the audio tour, but to be honest we didn’t seek it out and we didn’t notice a place where this was available. With our limited Chinese we decided not to ask, but instead use the well posted signs around the City in convenient locations that explained briefly what we were looking at in Mandarin and English.

Inside one of the many Forbidden City Rooms

Inside one of the many Forbidden City Rooms

The most surprising thing I learned was of the large stone wall and moat that ran around the Forbidden City. Little of the city wall is left today, but the similar style of wall  is still visible here. The moat, still filled with water, can be seen just after you enter near the Tian’anmen square gate. Moats seem more medieval Europe than Chinese, so it was something that really caught my attention.  Our tour guide from our Great Wall Tour told us that today’s Tian’anmen Square used to be part of the Forbidden City, the Emperor’s front yard, he explained. The gardens in the rear of the palace are the only ones left today. The square was built after a model of the Soviet squares in  Russia something that is not normally seen in Chinese city planning. Tian’anmen Square means Gate of Heavenly Peace and according to Wikipedia was destroyed during heavy fighting during a former dynasty. The name of the former gate was used to name the square Tian’anmen.

Stay tuned for more… next time the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, post a week, teaching overseas, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Beijing: Hell of a Hike -The Great Wall

Saturday morning the alarm went off way too early and woke us for our next Beijing adventure. This was the day we were heading out to the Great Wall. Bleary eyed and sore from the rock hard bed we got dressed and ready for the tour we booked with the Grey Line tour desk that was located in our hotel lobby. We grabbed some baked goods and coffee for a breakfast on the bus from a great bakery beside the hotel, Xinqiao Sapporo Bakery. Their croissants were excellent. We rushed to make it to check in just in time to find the bus had not yet arrived. A few minutes late the bus arrived and we loaded onto the coach and waited to leave.

The tour guide informed us we would be getting dropped off at another hotel and going with a different guide. Our first stop on the tour was the Olympic Park. From a raised platform we has some great views of the Water Cube, an interesting building that looks like someone blew a bunch of bubbles. The glass is iridescent and bulges out in small 3 dimensional sections.  The way the light plays off the glass really added to the effect. The Bird’s Nest was a tangle of patterns. The few minutes to snap a few photos wasn’t enough to really appreciate the complexes. If we had more time in Beijing this would have been a place to go back to explore at leisure.

Traffic in Beijing like any big city is busy. Saturday there are no restrictions and all cars are allowed access to highways. With today being a warmer, sunny day many people were escaping the city. We crawled along to our next stop which was a tourist trap to show a variety of jade cutting and designs. The short tour ended in a large over priced show room where they sold everything from jewellery, knick knacks and larger statue style pieces. Back on the bus our next destination was the wall. It was creeping up on mid day and the anticipation and reason for the trip was starting to build as I kept thinking “are we there yet?”

Another turn off the highway and the mountains came into view. We strained our eyes wondering if this was the wall… not yet, but we were getting closer. After we went through a small village and started to twist, turn and climb we came to the parking area where we were let off to the entrance of Mutianyu. A steep climb past many vendors selling everything for a ‘dollar’ brought us to the entrance to the cable car. A steep ride up brought the breathtaking views of the wall perched along the ridge finally into view. Jason, our guide, left us at Tower 14 and told us to return in two hours.

First Views of the Wall

First Views of the Wall

Surprisingly out of breath we started the trek on the wall. Uneven and broken stones paved the way to a misty view with dotted towers in the distance. After a narrow climb through the crowds we set off onto the rolling path that stretched out before us. Tower 20 was the goal; a steep climb straight up. Each twist and turn brought in a new view which my 200+ photographs can attest to. Some towers allowed a bird’s eye view from high above that is you could make the awkward and precarious climb. Mutianyu is said to be the most picturesque section of the wall and it certainly lived up to that claim with steep mountains, deep valleys and stepped terraces. The landscape was still dusty brown with spring coming later to this elevation. Small patches of snow clung onto the shade in a few shadows along the wall, more evidence that spring had not yet arrived.

Breathtaking Views

Breathtaking Views

The steps were wide and shallow, not what I expected. It made walking difficult since it didn’t fit your usual stride. Flat sections were welcomed, but slippery and hard on the calves on the way down. The elevation made even the slightest exertion seem difficult. The steep climb kept getting closer. After about tower 16 the crowds thinned and I had the wall mostly to myself. John had run ahead to ensure he had time to reach the top of tower 20 in the short time we had. Looking around it seemed so surreal that I was here, a place of history and where few people may ever have the luxury to visit. I pressed on and started the climb up to tower 20. Low walls on the sides and the elevation started to make me feel light headed and dizzy. I easily could have made it up, but feared the decent with a dizzy head and no railings to help support me for the return. Checking the time I knew I wouldn’t make it to the top gate and I was forced to head back. I made it a quarter or third of the way up. I returned to our meeting place and waited for John. Just in the nick of time John came running back. He made it to gate 23 which, is crumbling away. According to our guide Jason, many parts of the wall are now allowed to crumble since it is not needed for security and too hard to manage and maintain. Enough places are preserved to support the tourists, so the majority of the wall is now off-limits or unsafe for visitors. John made it to this limit which he described as amazing.

Here are some Great Wall Facts:

Chinese Name: 长城/万里长城
Chinese Pinyin: Cháng Chéng/Wàn Lǐ Cháng Chéng
Length: 8,851.8 km (5,500 miles)
Construction Period: About 2,000 years from the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC) to Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)  This section is 7-8.5 m high (23-26 ft).                                                                                                                                                               From:

We really lucked out with great sunny weather. The day before and day after our trip was cold, damp and very smoggy. We certainly would have missed the amazing views and scenery if we had come another day. We headed back to the city tired and worn out. One more stop at a tea factory where they quickly showed us a tea ceremony and then allowed us to taste many teas. Most time was spent encouraging us to buy. We stumbled tired and exhausted back to the bus after  a long and most amazing day. We will sleep well tonight —even on the rock hard beds.

Stay tuned for more… next time the Forbidden City.

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