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Ni hao! ^^

I regret that I went to China in October, co-leading a Cavalier Travels tour, and eight months later, I’ve not turned my notes into a post.  (I’ve been a little busy, and I’m not talking about the blogging aspect of this.)  I’d like to think I’m halfway there–photos and captions are ready.  Captions correspond to the photos above them.  To jump to a city or site, simply click on the anchor links.  Enjoy.

Beijing
Xi’an
Chongqing
Yangtse River
Shanghai

Beijing

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Skewered foods in Donghuamen Night Market in Beijing.  I ate skewered barbecued eel (delicious, to be expected), but I couldn’t do the insects or what looked like rodents.  Had I wished to, I certainly would have had my options.  For the next several shots, it is just Kevin and me.

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Public space for exercise is quite common.  This enclosed park just northeast of the Forbidden City had a lively ping-pong match going.

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First sight of the Drum Tower, by foot.

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Ascending the Drum Tower–this would later turn out to be a less humorous shot than we intended.  The next day, we returned to this site with our travelers and one of the older gentlemen experienced heart failure after the steep ascent.  I seem to recall there being about 80 stairs, and they are abnormally steep and worn so that each stair slopes down.  Try to imagine a language barrier between our group and Chinese EMTs, a stretcher carrying a 200 pound man just over 80 years old, and the descent.  It’s terrifying.  Glad to say he is fine.

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I do love this shot.  I was in awe.


West view from the Drum Tower.  Note the clear sky in Beijing… it happens.  I think American media have been really unfair to the Chinese.


Inside the Lama Temple in Beijing.


Prayers inside the Lama Temple.


One of my favorite nights.  I believe we were in the Qianhai Lake area–expatriot bars and restaurants, where bartenders and European and Chinese bands play American classic rock covers.


So much construction in Beijing, and fascinating architecture.  I took this from a cab on our way to the airport to pick up travelers.

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With travelers in tow.  Olympic pride was visible everywhere.  This was taken in Tiananmen Square, but it’s one of many.  The whole city was aglow for the duration as we coincided with a very rare meeting of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.  Every road was lined with flowerbeds.

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I was very interested in the legacy of Chairman Mao.  One of my best stories from the trip is one of the two (only two) times I split off from the group.  I had the opportunity to see his preserved corpse in Memorial Hall, which has been on occasional display since his death in 1976.  According to my Lonely Planet guidebook, which was completely accurate, viewing hours were only from 8:30-11:30am Tuesday through Sunday, and 2-4pm Tuesday and Thursday excluding July and August.  I was in the Forbidden City with my group on a Thursday, our last full day in Beijing.  I was about a mile north of Memorial Hall at 10:30, with thousands of Forbidden City visitors between me and Mao.  I told my guide Li I wanted to go but expressed reluctance because it would be wrong to leave other travelers.  She seemed surprised, in a good way.  I suggested that there was a chance I could run the length of the Forbidden City, walk through the memorial, and return to our hotel to meet Kevin and our recovering patient to join the group for lunch.  She said GO.  And I did.  I ran, dodging school groups and Chinese guards, and when I finally arrived in Tiananmen Square, breathless, I paid a young local a dollar or two to guide me to the locker area for my purse, then to bring me to the entrance, where I began walking in a single-file line through the memorial.  It was one of the most poignant experiences of my life.  I cried very, very real tears for reasons I do not even know.  And it worked out perfectly.  The group hardly noticed I’d gone.  But so much had happened in that time…


Garden in a former official’s home.

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Sunrise in Beijing.  I was looking for a traditional dumpling breakfast, and I was struck by the fact that I was looking straight at the sun, physically unaffected.  This is how it would be for a lot of the trip, with the combination of fog and pollution.  (I refuse to believe it’s all pollution.)  Sadly, I couldn’t find the dumplings LP recommended, so I brought back McDonald’s sausage and egg biscuits and hash browns.  It was delicious… oh well.

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Dancing girl!


Forbidden City school groups.


Forbidden City.

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A fresh paint job for the Forbidden City–there’s some discrepancy as to what the color should be.  I believe the story is that the authentic tawny color is not as attractive as red, but after painting half of it red, they’re going back to authentic.  It’s just a lot of money spent needlessly.  It was shortly after I took this that I took off for Memorial Hall.

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Locals playing music in the park outside the Temple of Heaven.  I enjoyed that excursion immensely.  Nice cigarette break at the entrance, as I recall.


The Temple of Heaven.  This photo just does not do its beauty justice.  The colors are spectacular.  You can appreciate the circular building within a square foundation–a symbol of heaven.

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There I am!


Chinese Opera.  I was given a booster seat!

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Kevin and I had a fun night off–this is a hostel bar in Beijing.

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Very few minivans in Beijing.

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Great Wall of China!  Our tour group was quite good.  According to Lonely Planet, most groups enter the Great Wall at Badaling, and it’s overcrowded.  We traveled a bit further to access it at Mutianyu.  We still enjoyed a cable car ascent and haggling over souvenirs with aggressive locals, but there were not crowds on the wall itself.  Several of us enjoyed a good hike.  I only made it as far as the top of the “C” in this photo in an hour’s time (with stops in the guard towers to take pictures of the fall foliage from up high).  It’s hard to appreciate the distance.


The Olympic stadium, also known as the “nest,” was still under construction when we visited.

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Kevin took this–caught!  I was just coming back from an emergency shopping trip for our dinner the last night, and I stopped to take a sunset photo then continued to sprint back to the hotel.  He was looking out his window at the sunset, too.  Apparently, we all were.

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Dinner in Beihei Park with University of Virginia alumni.  Quite extraordinary. 

I love Beijing.

Xi’an


1+1 Bar.  Looking at this makes me laugh.  I got some attention.


Xi’an’s Drum Tower, which no one wanted to scale.


Xi’an’s Drum Tower, from our dumpling restaurant.


This looks like a joke, but it’s probably not.  A sign outside a Xi’an bar.


Terracotta Warriors in the tomb of emperor Qin Shi Huang.  It’s a relatively short bus ride from Xi’an.  To think this underground tomb was only discovered in 1974!  The beauty of the newness is that I felt privileged to see successful restoration, ongoing archeological efforts, and unearthed figures just meters from each other.  There are thousands of warriors, each individually sculpted and painted, with a great deal of detail in their facial expressions, hair, attire, and weaponry.  The warriors are being restored, as a jealous general commanded his army to destroy much of the tomb not long after the death of emperor Qin Shi Huang.  They are not repainted [yet?], but I rather like the consistent clay color.  If you have the opportunity to do this tour solo, I recommend it.


I was a huge fan of the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an.  Those are cow heads.  If I’d had longer, I would have tried some interesting meats, but I did manage to fit in a persimmon cake, one of the world’s most delicious treats.  I relished the oil burns.


Inside the Great Mosque in Xi’an.


Nightlife in Xi’an.  I wish I knew the area where we were–great bars!

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Follow the sparkly lights.  Do not take pictures.  Accept cigarettes.  EPIC.


A burial mound on our way to the airport–this is what Qin Shi Huang’s tomb would have looked like before the dig.


Sacrificial clay warriors.  These are miniature, as opposed to the emperor’s full-scale warriors.  But there were some large animal skeletons…

Chongqing


Situated between the Yangtse and Jialing Rivers, Chonqing is foggy, and the pollution more or less exacerbates it.  Five million people and two rivers, though–that’s a lot of bridges.  The world’s largest billboard was constructed on its riverbank, and it was eventually taken down because advertisers would not pay to display a message that wouldn’t be seen. 


Typical apartment building during our bus tour up and down the city cliffs.


Kentucky Fried Chicken Barbie watch.  I will cherish that.  See the grin in the left of the grame.


Just hope it’s not coal and there’s a filter.  Chongqing is a large automobile producer, and it leads in motorcycle production in the world.

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On our way to Dazu to see stone carvings, our bus stopped on the side of the road so we could pay a visit to a rural farm, where four brothers inhabited a complex with their families.  I remember mud, chickens, old calendars, and trash, and hand-made wicker furniture that would sell for hundreds in a Pottery Barn catalog but for the equivalent of a fold-out chair in China.  It was a very stressful experience for me, and I love this candid Kevin got–it says it all.

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Brick-laying along the route.

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Wine fermented with a snake.

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Drinking wine fermented with a snake.  Beware tongue-numbing peppers in the Schezuan region–you’ll think the snake bit.

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I loved our travelers.  Walking with Barbara in Dazu.

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Sculptures carved into rock wall, dated AD 800-1200.  Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist influences.  Monks repaint every so often.

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College art students were working while we were there.


Beer and Pepsi Light–what I drank.  The beer was accidental, but I took it to show off the pull-tab straw technique.  I never mastered it.

Yangtse River Cruise

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The deathboat.

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Me, sitting with an IV in my hand, tapering off of food poisoning.  If they say don’t drink the water, don’t even brush your teeth with the water, for the love of GOD, listen.

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I did nothing but sleep and watch CNN’s coverage of the California fire and read New Yorkers (and be sick) the day before we entered the Three Gorges, so I was up VERY early to see this.

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On the deck.

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Looking at this again for the first time in months, I am in awe.

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A village on the Yangzi, one of many that will soon be submerged with the completion of the Three Gorges Dam.  It is one of my favorite photos from the trip.

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We took a small-boat excursion to the Little Three Gorges.  They are not that little.  Our guide donned a traditional fishing cover and put on a show for us.  Another incredible photo.

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Our cruise ship passed through the locks of the dam overnight, and the lighting was quite spectacular.  I could almost touch the walls of the locks–but I did not try.

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Why I love this photo is because I was seeing what I’d read about in the Atlantic (thank you James Fallows) just months before–with almost identical photos.  I took this on a bus to the Three Gorges Dam, and I was not fully recovered.  Shades of gray and brown are not particularly therapeutic, and I was struggling.

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View of the locks and a ship carrying cars from above.

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Three Gorges Dam.  This photo cannot convey the scale.  Imagine that the white points in what looks like a floating dock are taller than an average person.

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I love English translations.  Photo courtesy of Dee.  Fake smile–I still felt so sick.

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Set up on a date.

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KEVIN!

Shanghai

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The Bund.

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Shanghai by day.  Pearl Tower.

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Finally, a “Pepsi city.”  (I do not like Coke, for the record.)

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The look.

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Bazaar surrounding Yuyuan Gardens.

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“Here we sell of Red Wine important from spain a bottle of RMB 35.00.”

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Yuyuan Gardens.

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Luggage, sunglasses, North Face jackets, and almost anything you want–except, perhaps, an ATM to buy more stuff.

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Chinese acrobats.  There are five, maybe 6, motorcyclists inside that globe.  I was sore after this show because I was so tense watching it.  Imagine how their mothers feel.

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Fireworks.  And a museum full of wonderful rejects.

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I cannot take credit for this shot.  We were in Zhouzhuang, a village of canals.  I suspect it’s a popular excursion for guided tours.  Regardless, traveler Dee took this, and I thank her.

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Facebar.

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Facebar exterior.

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Fabrique, Eurotrash band on Halloween.

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