Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Terra Cotta Horses

China 054
Originally uploaded by seth195
posted by seth195 on flickr

Friday, August 17, 2007

Xian- Terra Cotta Army

Our tour of Xian was very hurried, since our local tour guide (China Beijing Tours a/k/a etours ) failed to meet us at the Xian airport on time.

But nothing can take away from the majesty of these soldiers.

There are a number of buildings in the museum complex. They're well designed. It would be well worth spending a few hours there to see these wonderful statues and other artifacts.

From Wikipedia:

The Terracotta Army was buried with the Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huangdi) in 210-209 BC (his reign over Qin was from 247 BC to 221 BC and over unified China from 221 BC to his death in 210 BC). Their purpose was to help rule another empire with Shi Huangdi in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "Qin's Armies".

The Terracotta Army was discovered in March 1974 by local farmers drilling a water well to the east of Mount Lishan. (The precise coordinates are 34°23′5.71″N, 109°16′23.19″ECoordinates: 34°23′5.71″N, 109°16′23.19″E.) Mount Lishan is also where the material to make the terracotta warriors originated. In addition to the warriors, an entire man made necropolis for the emperor has been excavated.

Construction of this mausoleum began in 246 BC and is believed to have taken 700,000 workers and craftsmen 38 years to complete. Qin Shi Huangdi was interred inside the tomb complex upon his death in 210 BC. According to the Grand Historian Sima Qian, the First Emperor was buried alongside great amounts of treasure and objects of craftsmanship, as well as a scale replica of the universe complete with gemmed ceilings representing the cosmos, and flowing mercury representing the great earthly bodies of water. Pearls were also placed on the ceilings in the tomb to represent the stars, planets, etc.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ready to Go Home

Today, we fly home at 345 pm.

Yesterday, flew to Xian to see the army of Terra Cotta soldiers, which are as magnificent as you might think.

We're all very tired from all the walking.

Will add photos and comments when I get back.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Temple of Heaven

Sunday, we went to the Temple of Heaven, a lovely complex of buildings and greenery dating from the early 1400s.

This is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, one of the prettiest buildings I have ever seen.

After that, a walk around Tien an Men Square.

Later tonight, Peking Duck dinner.

Tomorrow, flight to Xian.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Forbidden City

Saturday, we all walked down Jintao Street to the Forbidden City, the former home of the emperors of China. Very impressive. Will post photos later.

Weather: hot, but OK. Much less air pollution that earlier in the week.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Climbing the Great Wall

At the top of the Great Wall, no more climbing steps to make. But a lot of steps to go down.

Where's Hon anyway?

Yesterday was a day of worry for me. I did not join the rest of the gang when they went out to the Summer Palace--my mind was 6,800 miles away in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. A tornado hit Brooklyn and elsewhere, and one of the areas hardest hit was Bay Ridge, and one of the hardest hit areas in Bay Ridge was my block. Several houses were damaged very badly.

After some hours of working the e-mails and phones, I determined that my house was undamaged. Whew!


Today, all of us took a ride up to the the Badoling section of the Great Wall. It was a long, steep climb to the top. Several times, we thought we were at the top, only to find a switchback, and many more steps to go. But everyone made up--and almost as tough-back down.

This section of the wall was very steep in spots.

We had a Chinese lunch at at Badoling, then continued on to the Dingling Ming Tombs , which are not too far away from the Great Wall.

The drive back to the Park Plaza was awful, due to the unbelievably bad Beijing traffic. It's surprising how many "modern" highways there are here, and how little good they do. The traffic just does not move. There will be a major expansion of the subway next year--something they should have done before they put in these damned highways.

Soon, will post some photos. Off for a Steak/frites dinner in a half hour. I could eat Chinese every day, but some are lonely for a western meal.

We drove past the Olympic Stadium this morning ("Birds Nest")

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hello from Beijing

It took a while to decide where this year's big vacation would be. I like Hawaii, but have certainly been there often enough. Europe is terrific, but I wanted more of a challenge than that. Having thoroughly enjoyed Vietnam two years ago, decided to head back to Asia.

More specifically, to the Middle Kingdom, to China, one of the many countries I've always wanted to see.

Then I put out feelers for a posse of fellow travelers. Seth was a quick yes. Dresa said she'd think about it, then she, and to the astonishment of all, Karen, said that they would come.

From Sydney, Peter and Lilian figured a few things out, and then decided that they would be interested in coming as well.

So, that's the gang- me, Seth, Karen, Dresa, Peter and Lilian.

I'm the pilot fish. I arrived here on Sunday, on the Continental nonstop flight out of Newark. The rest of them arrive on Wednesday.

The hotel we're staying in is the Park Plaza Wangfujing, which is located east of the Forbidden City. The hotel is modern in all respects, thoughtfully equipped with a minibar happy to sell you a can of local beer for $3.50. They must not realize that hotel guests can figure out how to get to the local "Quik" store a block away that sells the same can for fifty cents.

I've never had the pleasure of being in London or Pittsburgh in the 1930s, where massive factories burned coal without any pollution controls whatsoever, but I feel that I'm now reliving what that experience must have been. They're burning an awful lot of coal very close to here. Beijing is a fine city, but it does not have a future in ecotourism.

Today, I walked the miles and miles around Wangfujing Street. As you walk south on Jinbao Street, the left ( east ) of Wanfujing Street is a car-free pedestrian mall, while the right (west) is a wide two way street, filled with cars, smoky buses, and a number of bicycles.

Tomorrow, I'll take the No. 1 subway from Wangfujing Street for a joyride out to Tien an Men Square.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Meroe's Pictures

Are very good and they are to be found here

From her website Kissing Elephants

Friday, November 11, 2005

Work in Progress

Am continuing to add photos to the site, moving things around, and amending or adding to text. If you like a photo, double-click on it and it should get bigger

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Last Night in Hue, Hue Airport

The flight from Hue to Hanoi was a late one, so we had lots of time to walk around Hue town. Not such a special place, but it gave me time to screw around with the digital camera, taking photos after dark.

Motorbikes in the dark

What's the Hue Airport like? Like a school classroom/cafeteria. You could watch Tom and Jerry cartoons on the large screen tv, or you could clear security and hang out by the gate.

Hanoi: Ho Chi Minh Area

Ho Chi Minh is revered by most Vietnamese. In Hanoi, there is a " Ho Chi Minh area " that consists of the mausoleum, the Governor General's house, the Stilt House, and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

Behind me, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We missed seeing him because his embalmed body was being freshened up in Moscow.

Across a garden, the Soviet-designed Ho Chi Minh Museum can be seen.

Inside the Ho Chi Minh Museum, some less-than-crisp military guys walk up the stairs. The museum was a mix of interesting detail of the man's life, and the expected propaganda.

Me and Ho, at Ho Chi Minh Museum.

When the French left, Ho was made the President of Vietnam. But he refused to move into the Governor-General's house ( above ), saying that he did not want to live in luxury when the majority of Vietnamese lived so badly.

They built a relatively spartan " Stilt House " for Ho, near the Governor-General's house. Not exactly prison conditions, but a good symbol of spare living by the ruler. Above, his office.

Leaving the stilt house. Many foreigners and Vietnamese visit this place.

Hanoi: Miscellaneous Photos

A statue of Lenin, across from the Military Museum and the Citadel. We passed it several times, but I saw exactly noone other than myself on the bleak concrete area around the statue.

We were told that there are now only three Lenin statues in the world, and this is one of them. Where are the other two?

The Hanoi Citadel.

Next to the Citadel is the Military Museum. It had a very detailed, dramatic mockup of the Dien Bien Phu, which did not translate into photgraphs. Much of the other stuff was shrill triumphalist propaganda against the Americans. There was enough of that stuff in the War Remnants Museum in Saigon, so I will not bother to post any of those photos here.

Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university. It was established by the Chinese in the 11th Century.

Temple of Literature

The Chinese characters on the stone tablets list all the graduates of the university. Note that they stand atop stone turtles. The turtle is an important animal in Vietnamese legend and is a symbol of Vietnamese nationalism.

Our " peace bus " outside the Temple of Literature

St Joseph's Cathedral

The group peruses menus at Cafe Moca Had a lamb curry dish here that was good...along with draft red and pilsener beers that were fresh and wonderful. By far the best beer I had in Vietnam. I came back to this restaurant on my last ( solo ) day in the country.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hue Area: Tomb of Khai Dinh

Khai Dinh (1885-1925)was the first Vietnamese Emperor to be a " puppet " of the French. His tomb is a massive stone edifice. El called him the " King of Bling " because the altar ( not shown ) has lots of flashy gold.

Marble soldiers. They're short, because they could not be as tall as the Emperor, who was not that big himself.

We stopped at a conical-hat making place before we visited Khai Dinh's tomb. El tried this one on.

Hue Area: Tu Duc's Tomb

Down the path at the tomb of Tu Duc, last independent Emperor of Vietnam. He was a gentle and educated man, who tried to resist French power. Wikopedia says he " died cursing the French with his dying breath "

A beautiful, quiet place

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hanoi- Cyclo Ride to the Water Puppet Show

On the second to last night in Hanoi, the group took a cyclo ride to the Water Puppet Show. Cyclos are basically bicycle-powered rickshaws. They are part of the transit system in Vietnamese cities, not just a tourist thing. The passenger seat of a cyclo will fit two Vietnamese...or one Westerner.

Mr. Cyclo Driver, you are about to get an excellent workout.

All the cyclos you see here are of our group. We went from the Metropole Hotel ( Jane Fonda stayed for two weeks in 1968 ) , past the Opera House, and then on a meanderering route through the old section of town. Seeing these ancient streets in the open-seated cyclo was almost sensory overload.

A headstone firm we passed

Through crowded streets and intersections...

Scenes that could have been from centuries ago

A long cyclo ride, but a great experience.

The Water Puppet Show, played to traditional Vietnamese instruments and song, was great fun

Puppeteers take a bow

Monday, October 31, 2005

Vietnam Roads

Taken at a bridge in Hue, as drivers stop for the light, as the sun has just about set. This is a pretty representative photo of the drivers on a Vietnamese road --the average person travels by low-powered motorcycle. Men, women, children, three or four-year old children--they travel by low-powered motorcycle. Almost always without a helmet.

Once the light changes, off they go.

An endless flow of bikes. See man waving in foreground.

Hue's Angels. I love the faces in this picture.

Here, a bike is used to transport a large plant, or is it two plants? in Saigon. You'd be amazed at what they transport on these little bikes. On two separate occasions, I saw people hauling refrigerators on them. Not full-size Western refrigerators, but not those little college dorm refrigerators either.

Live pigs transported by motorbike, somewhere between Hanoi and Halong Bay. These two bike riders are wearing helmets, an absolute rarity.