Sunday, October 28, 2007

day 2 - The Great Wall - 6 Nov 2006

I have no idea what we did in the morning. I certainly do not appear to have taken any photos. In the afternoon we headed out to SiMaTai. It seems that this place has caused much confusion to cause people to think that I went to SiMaSai in Thailand. But that is another story.

This was my second visit to this location. I went there in 1999 and climed up to the right. It is when my vertigo struck back with a savage vengeance. In the image below it is the part of the wall in the distance. I was walking up the wall with no problems. Then we hit a part with no sides and with just a mound of rock. I turned around and saw the thousand foot drop and went week in the knees. I had to let the others continue. I could not go on. Two American men, coming back down the wall talked me down to a flat part. I thanked them and was very grateful.

"great wall" by yewenyi [?]
great wall

This time we headed up to the left. It was not without issues as a suspension footbridge had to be crossed and when I got further up I could not continue on the sections with no sides and had to wait for the others to return. Because it was a photography trip, Ewen arranged for us to be there at the best time of day to get the best light. Hence I have a nice set of images with great light.

"suspension bridge" by yewenyi [?]
suspension bridge

In the evening we stopped off at a restaurant en-route to Beijing and had a nice meal in a very steamy restaurant.

"Ordering Dinner" by yewenyi [?]
Ordering Dinner

Saturday, October 20, 2007

want or need?

When in BeiJing in 1999, I was wandering back from the CBD to my accommodation at BeiJing University. Rather than go the direct route, I headed off to one side to see what was there. I did not know it at the time, but this was supposedly a more disreputable part of town.

I came to an intersection. There was a group of 5 people, 4 men and one woman. They were standing in the center of the road at a trolley bus stop. They saw me coming and there was some odd body language in their reaction. Perhaps they were surprised. As I approached the woman cupped her hands, like she was holding some testicles and said what I thought was you ma? This confused me greatly and the quickly scattered.

With reflection I think she probably said yao ma? That is need? rather than have? In characters the difference is much clearer.
  • 要嗎 need/want?
  • 有嗎 have?

Friday, October 05, 2007

A first day for Photography - 5 November 2006

The next day was officially the first day of the tour. In the morning we headed off to the Drum tower and spent the morning wandering the Hutongs. The tower was quite impressive and we were there for a session on the drums. It also has good views of the city. From here it is clear that BeiJing is donut shaped. There is the old city, surrounded by the old suburbs and then by ring of modern high rises. I was quite impressed from up here about how the development had been handled on the macro scale.

"group meeting" by yewenyi [?]
group meeting

"bang the drum" by yewenyi [?]
bang the drum

We wandered through the hutongs. I do not remember which bit I visited in 1999, but the 1999 version was alive and vibrant. Markets and people everywhere. Maybe different parts are different. Maybe the decline of these places as people move out is the cause. Now the place was a bit deserted and the famous wind and dust of BeiJing were in full force. There were lines of rickshaws for the tourist trade and people selling food. Before I left many people here in Australia commented on how it was a tragedy that the government was pulling down the hutongs. But I do not feel this way. I certainly feel that some should be kept as a historical zone. But life in the hutongs is not pleasant. Mostly families live in one or two room houses around a courtyard. There is a communal toilet for the courtyard. There is no running water and the houses have no kitchens. So they eat out all the time, which is the source of china's well know and excellent cuisine. Also the lack of fridges means that it is a more effective method of suppling food to have a central restaurant using freshly made produce in significant quantity. It minimizes the need for storage.

"down into the depths" by yewenyi [?]
down into the depths

In the afternoon Ewen and I went to the Temple of Heaven to have a private photography lesson. I had visited the temple in 1999 and remember being generally unimpressed. But this time it was much more interesting. They have spent a lot of money on repainting it and doing other restorations. So it was the opposite of the hutong experience. The glory of Imperial China had been restored.

"Hall for prayer for good harvests" by yewenyi [?]
Hall for prayer for good harvests

In the eventing we went to see the acrobatics. I was not really interested in going as I was expecting a dull tourist driven experience. But I was pleasantly surprised. While it is clearly set up for the tourists, it was a good sampler of the different dance styles. Kind of like a compilation CD is for music of an era.

"Acrobatic plate twirling" by yewenyi [?]
Acrobatic plate twirling

Afterwards we retired to a Tibetan restaurant in the diplomatic district. It was a bit americanized, but we had Yak. Hm, I do not think Yak is one of my favorite meats. But maybe it was the preparation. Unlike the others I really enjoyed the music.

"Tibetans" by yewenyi [?]