Nine Thousand Words

by Brian Jewell 2. March 2011 07:22

This afternoon, I'll board a plane in Shanghai and begin the 30-hour trip home. I leave China with a wealth of memories and images. We've seen and done so much more than I've had the opportunity to blog about here. So as a farewell gift, here are some of my other favorite images from this trip. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this is about 9,000 words' worth of travel treasure.

 

A chef in Beijing prepares the world-famous Peking duck.

Beijing artists practice calligraphy by painting with water on dry stone.

The Temple of Heaven is Beijing's most significant historic religious site.

Artwork at Beijing's Summer Palace, a lakeside retreate of the Ming Dynasty emperors.

Xi'an's elaboarte preparations for the Chinese New Year celebration.

The underground swimming pool at the beautiful new Sheraton hotel in Shanghai.

Locals and visitors browse the shops at Shanghai's "Chinatown in China."

The Shanghai Acrobats perform amazing athletic feats nightly.

 

A Home in the Hutong

by Brian Jewell 26. February 2011 13:38

As a city, Beijing is a sprawling mass of high-rise buildings, many of them apartment and condo towers built to house the 19 million people who live here. But in the Hutong area of the city, just a block behind the skyscrapers on busy city streets, quiet neighborhoods and charming one-story homes maintain a semblance of the old life in Beijing.

We toured the Hutong by rickshaw today, going two-by-two in carts powered by a bicycle driver. It’s about the only way to go -- motorcoaches can’t navigate the narrow passages, and the labyrinth of streets and alleys makes trekking through on foot an intimidating prospects.

Our drivers brought us to the home of a local family, where the mother invited us in, served us tea, and talked to us about her family’s life in the small Hutong home. The house, she said, has been in her husbands family for four generations. The couple currently live there with their youngest son, as well as her father. Like most of her husband’s family, her oldest son is a kung fu master, and he now teaches in the United States. No on asked how the family managed to get around China’s infamous one-child policy.

The home was modest and crowded, but lovingly decorated in celebratory Chinese symbols. Though the Hutong is much beloved by residents, its days are probably numbered -- as Beijing’s population continues to grow, the government is tearing down the one-story buildings to construct more high-rises. The lady tells us that by the end of this year, she and her family will have to relocated, as their home is being demolished to create a public garden and a wider road.

There is one upside for the family, though: Because traditional homes in the Hutong are highly coveted by locals, their values have skyrocketed relative to other real estate in China. When it is time for the family to move, the government will reimburse them for their tiny home, which should be worth about $600,000. That will buy a great condo somewhere else in Beijing.

 Jasmine tea with the lady of the house.

 

Visiting in the family room.

The family's display of Kung Fu weapons.

Enjoying a rickshaw ride through the Hutong.

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Wonders of China

Walking on the Great Wall

by Brian Jewell 25. February 2011 04:00

It's not every day that you get to take a walk along a 2,700-year old wonder of the world. So for me as a traveler, today's visit to the Great Wall of China was pretty special.

We've all seen pictures of the wall, and probably heard various tidbits about it, such as the fact that it is the only man-made object visible from space. On our drive to the mountains outside of Beijing, where sections of the 4,000-mile wall are most accessible to visitors, our local guide Eddy gave us more details about the creation of this landmark.

"The emperors built the wall to keep out the Mongols from the north," he said. "Over one million workers were involved. Many of them died while they were building it. Most of the workers were prisoners, so if they got sick or wounded, nobody cared. They just buried them inside the wall."

Today, the wall is still as spectacular as it must have been back then. It snakes along the tops of ridges like a spine on the mountain range. In the sections near Beijing, the wall is wide, tall and easily walkable -- even on a late winter day, the place is buzzing with tourists, most of them Chinese nationals visiting from other parts of this large country.

We had two hours to spend exploring the Great Wall.  I chose to take the challenging hike from our starting place to the Eighth Tower of the North, the wall's highest point near Beijing. The journey included a lot of steps and no small amount of heavy breathing, but the views from the top, and the accompanying sense of accomplishment, were more than worthwhile.

After all, this is one of the great accomplishments of ancient humanity. Eight thousand miles away from home, it only makes sense to me to make the most of the opportunity. So the Great Wall of China, and its Eighth Tower of the North, is officially checked off the bucket list.

 

A steep hike from the bottom

Brian stops for a photo on the wall... with hair wind-whipped into a frenzy.

A remnant of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, fixed just beside the Great Wall.

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Wonders of China

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