Monday, April 23, 2007

The Wall Part 2

The view from the car park. Looks OK. When you see the wall, it clearly wasn't meant to keep out potential invaders by blocking their paths. It's purpose was to serve as an elevated path for troops to be rushed to trouble spots on the boarder. Perhaps joining up forts in the mountain passes? That explains why the wall is so fragmented and runs in different directions. But you have to say, they must have been extremely fit troops!!!!

Three towers can be seen from the first place you can rest. Ok, still looks do-ableThen you turn round. This gives you some impression of how steep the steps are. Going back down can be quite scary. You do feel light headed, like you are going to fall. One slip would end you up at the bottom much quicker that you would have liked!!!! Not helped by the steps being badly worn

Summer Place Part 2

The Marble Boat. In need of a bit of TLC, I have to say. There is a copy of this structure in the Chinese Gardens in Singapore.

And a real boat on the lake. The 400 foot Treasure Junks of the eunuch fleet commanders that Zhu Di sent to discover the world, were often reported as ‘floating houses’ by those who first saw them in places as far apart as Australia and Florida. And that was in 1421/2
A sweet moment, posing for mum. Black and white? I don’t know why! Just appealed.


Just had to do a more detailed blog on the Gobi part of the train journey.
The landscapes seen from the train crossing Inner Mongolia and into Outer Mongolia must be unique. Once the train has climbed the foothills from Beijing onto the plain, arable land eventually gives way to desert as you cross into Inner Mongolia. There are no gers visible from the train up to the border with Outer Mongolia.

The border was crossed at about 00:30 hours and we awoke around 06:30 hours next morning to the flat, sandy desert seen here. Only the telegraph wires and the odd railway building broke the emptiness.
The landscape starts to change about 4 hours out from Ulaanbaatar with sweeping hills, less sparse vegetation and now with the occasional ger. In the bottom right hand corner of the picture can be seen a grey smudge on the ground.

It is a pile of stones marking a grave. These can be seen all the way from Beijing by the side of the railway tracks. No designated areas, sometimes in groups among trees or, as here, just out in the open. I have read that it is the tradition to bury people where they die, and as the Mongolians did not have a tomb building culture, this is most probably how Chinggis Khan was interred when he died.

Looking north east, mountains that make up the end of a range stretching north into Siberia appear. I think in the line of sight of this photograph must be Avraga, Chinggis Khan’s “capital”. John Man’s ‘Genghis Khan, life, death and resurrection’ is a good read. Thank you Richard. Recommend it to you.

The train then really starts to climb. The slop in the picture is not exaggerated, I promise you. Your ears pop!!!!. The track snakes this way and that to achieve a reasonable gradient for the engines traction. Even then it takes 2 engines to make the ascent and the feel of the train is plodding,… dedum dedum, ……dedum dedum.

This shot shows the gradient coming down the other side. The train has just completed about 80% of a full circle and is approaching the embankment it had just travelled over!! The brakes are on and off all the time and the train feels lighter, tick i ti-tick…...tick i ti-tick. Strange. Lord knows what would happen if every the brakes failed!!!!! The track then cuts left and

the mountains at the head of the Ulaanbaatar valley came into view. It had snowed the previous day and we had this extraordinary sight laid out in front of us. Amazing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The border to UB and home.

Desert at day break.

There are not many station stops. Not even many train passing stops on the single line because the times of arrival at the crossing points is so well coordinated.

This young woman was scampering around with a spanner in her hand, changing our carriage boggies in the middle of the night. Multi tasking takes on a whole new meaning in Mongolia.

The pull up the hills just before UB.

And then down the other side.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Beijing to the Border

Beijing railway station. The start of an amazing journey. But you really do have to take a rain check on what you are actually doing. We ARE sitting on a train about to leave for a 30 hour journey to Outer Mongolia. This is not what you do every day, and yes, how exciting is that?

The Delux cabin was nearly new and very comfortable; soon made home from home.

Once you have cleared the suburbs of Beijing, the first real significant land mark is passing through the Wall of C K at Badling. At this stage the train has picked up an additional engine at the back to push you up the foothills onto the Steppes.

Then follows a lot of flattish, brown arable land, broken by some weird looking hills

At the border there is 4 hour stop for customs etc and a change of wheels. Each carriage is jacked up in the air and the whole boggie replaced for the wider Russian railway gauge.

Summer Palace.

What a lovely place. Take the number 826 bus from Tianaman Square going west. Sit on it for 1 hour and this is your reward. An amazing scene straight off a Chinese Porcelain vase.

Walk down the Long Passage.

Visit some lovely gardens

and climb to yet another palace/temple. This one was the favorite of the Dowager Empress. The lady who controlled the boy Emperor.

Or, alternatively, put your feet up and read a book.

Beihai Park

The park is on the North West corner of the forbidden City and was the place where Kublai Khan lived. Much later in 1651, the White Dagoba, a Buddhist tower in Tibetan style , was erected at the suggestion of a famous Tibetan Lama priest by the name of NomHan. Qing Emperor Shun Zhi agreed to this project as a gesture of devotion to the Buddhist faith - and from a desire for unity among China's various nationalities.The symbols on the bell shaped monument are reminiscent of Mongolian script, as is the sun and crescent moon.

You get a good view of the Forbidden City from the foot of the bell monument.

And a clear view on this day of the Jingshan Park at the extreme North end of the Forbidden City. On the day we went up the Jingshan Park it was very hazy and I couldn't get a decent photograph of the F C. But this day made up for that set back.

Ming Tombs

On the way back from the Wall the tour includes a stop off in the area of the Ming Tombs.

The one we visited is for 3rd Ming Emporer, Zhu Di, the guy who had the Forbidden City built. He also organised fleets to explore the world. His junks found the Magellan Straits 100 years before Mr Magellan. (see Gavin Menzies "1421 The Year China Discovered the World.....absolutely fasinating.)

The Wall of Chinggis Khan.

I have declared my loyalty. Mongolian maps show the Great Wall as the Wall of Chinggis Khan. Quite right too. It was built just for him.

And it does do him justice.
This section at Badaling, about 1.5 hours drive from Beijing is more like the very, very steep, dangerous steps of C. Khan.

But climb is well worth the agony of coming down. Extraordinary

Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is to the south east of Tianaman Square and is in reality a huge public park with three temples lined up down the middle. Parks equal Taiji in China.

This lady was a joy to watch. Extraordinarily graceful.

All the temples are circular,

with the south most temple just a set of 9, open concentric circles. Looking north from here, the temples progress from open to two roofs to three roofs on the northern most structure. All beautifully restored.

Is that the Zhu Di striding into the picture? "What are these commoners doing on my patch?"

Underground and Tea

A trio on a train on the way for a cup of tea,

at the Laoshe Tea House. Very famous, you know. All sorts of important people have taken tea here, including President Bush Senoir. We had the most expensive tea, Pu'er Tea. Our specific tea was 11 years old. Can be up to 50 years old. Amazingly, you can make up to 30 refills from one round of leaves. And the whole serving was beautifully done. Richard has now started a collection of teas but has still to source all the paraphernalia to do the ceremony. Magic

Beijing Trolley Busses

A bit of light relief from high culture. The trolley bus. Aren't they smart. There are even articulated ones. No photograph of one. Gutted.

And these buses can run "off wire". That is they can go for distances away from the overhead wires. When the bus rejoins the wired area, the pantographs are guided by a very low tech solution back on to the wires. This time it didn't quite work, but you get the idea.

And done from the drivers cab. We could really do with these in UB.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Forbidden City Part 2

You cannot, in truth, see very much when you peer into the palaces/throne rooms. No artificial light, you see. It was only after this picture was enhanced on the computer did I see what I had photographed!! They all look very much the same to the untrained eye. Very busy. Not modernist at all.

The alleys often featured on Kung Foo films. Very long.

Starbucks. Yes, you read right. I had seen an item on Chinese TV, discussing whether it was appropriate to leave the Starbucks coffee bar in the Forbidden City after the restoration. So I just had to visit. You really need a mission when visiting a place like the F C. Get a bit of perspective. Well, I agree it has to go. How dare Starbuck's be so insensitive!!! I counted 10 individuals with Starbuck's coffee cartons wantonly flashing the Starbuck's logo at every opportunity. Shouldn't be allowed!!!

The End. Well almost. It is a big moat. The whole place is a must see. The largest Palace Complex in the world. Wonderful.