A Travellerspoint blog

Beijing-Shanghai

Suzhou: May 13

sunny -25 °C

Today began with a 4:00 am wake up call. We were on the bus by 5:00 am and on our flight to Shanghai (the financial centre of China) by 7:00 am. It was a two hour flight and included breakfast. Once we'd picked up our luggage and loaded it onto the bus, we headed for Suzhou. (We will spend two days touring Shanghai before we leave for home.) It took about an hour and a half during which Joe, our guide, told us a lot about China eg. Beijing has 20 million people, Shanghai has 24 million people - Canada has 40 million people. Quite the contrast! Beijing has about 6 million cars and their rush hour is from 8 till 8. The traffic is unbelievable. It made the drive from the airport to the hotel take 3-4 times longer than the distance required.

Upon landing, in Shanghai we boarded a bus that took us to Suzhou. We stopped at Golden Rooster Lake for a little walk about before going for another delicious lunch. Following lunch, a real treat was in store for us at a famous local garden known as Master of the Nets. Suzhou is a city of many gardens and though this one is the smallest it is among the most beautiful. If we manage to upload some pictures, you will see why. It encompasses about 8 acres of water, stone and varied plants and trees cultivated with exquisite attention to detail. It originally belonged to only one family. The owner designed this private garden and his home to listen to intimate concerts, entertain friends, and above all, view and relax with nature. His gardens had outstanding ponds with rock formations and pagodas that totally relaxed you in their presence. The furniture was antique (over 200 years old) from the Qing Dynasty)

Our next stop was really interesting. We learned about the life cycle of the silk worm and how silk was made. The silk worm is mature in 25 days, spins its cocoon in 72 hours and becomes a moth in a matter of days. The cocoons are harvested and each one provides 1200 - 1500 meters of silk thread. It is washed and wound on spools for silk thread painting etc. For duvets, double cocoons are used. They are soaked in water and stretched to about 6x9 inches. Those pieces are then stretched again over an arched frame to about double the size and then passed on to four women who stretch them to the required bed size. The small cocoon can stretch to a king or queen size duvet. The threads are very strong. We had the opportunity to see some beautiful paintings on silk and rice paper there that were really impressive.

We also went to a demonstration of silk thread painting on a silk fabric. We were amazed at the skill and the patience of the women doing the work. We watched one 71 year old woman doing a double-sided painting - no knots on either side. It requires so much skill and patience. A finished painting of the Mona Lisa took two years. You couldn't tell that it was done with thread because the thread used was 1/24 of a strand.

We stopped at Time Square to see a 500 meter sky TV (the longest in the world) on our way to The Grand Canal. The Grand Canal, which is over 1100 km, was created from Suzhou to Beijing, at the request of the emperor, hundreds of years ago. He loved the pretty girls from Suzhou as his concubines so he wanted an easy route to go to select them. We enjoyed a relaxing 45 minute cruise, on a dragon boat, down the canal seeing many old buildings and homes since the canal was in their back yard. It is sometimes called Venice of the East.

Our last stop before dinner was a breathtaking tour of silk thread painting. The masters must have at least 20 years experience. We watched one master (72 years old) as she worked on a two-sided painting, equally-beautiful from both sides. It seems impossible but we watched her do it. Her thread was 1/6 of a strand. When she works with thread 1/24 of a strand, she can't work there where a breeze could destroy her work. For those paintings, she stays at home with everything closed up. One painting of the Mona Lisa took two years to complete. Each en on close inspection the threads are invisible. Another painting of Princess Diana took a year to complete (thread not as fine) but her hair alone required 24 thread colours. This is the only place you can get these paintings. They are not exported.

Another feast completed our itinerary, then we went to our hotel, the Grand Metropark Hotel. It was amazing from the chandelier in the lobby to our suites on the 21st floor. WOW! What a classy place! Joe said that we had an upgrade. Our room was a suite with a large entertaining area, a large king size sleeping area and a classy 4 piece bathroom. Our view from the 21st floor overlooked the old and new city and the river. Absolutely gorgeous!!

Posted by jkroetsch 12:42 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beijing

Temple of Heaven

sunny -27 °C

Beijing: May 12

On the bus at 8:00 am.to go to the Temple of Heaven where, in the time of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Emperor went four times a year (each season ) to worship heaven and to offer prayers for peace, bountiful harvest etc. Only the Emperor was allowed inside. It was beautifully constructed. Since 1911 (People's Revolution ) it is open to the public and is surrounded by a beautiful park. What a happy place! People were playing cards, dominoes and other games. Some women were crocheting or doing other crafts. Some seniors were there with their grandchildren; others were on their own exercising on the equipment provided (one elderly fellow was doing chin ups, or joined with a group doing taiji or dancercise. The park was filled with people enjoying themselves.

We explored Tia'namen Square next (biggest city central square in the world.). It can hold a million people.We saw Mao Tse Tung's mausoleum and took Dan's picture beside a huge photo of the Chairman.

Leaving there, we continued on to walk through the Forbidden City from South Gate to the North Gate which required more than two hours. The emperor lived here with his family and conducted business and ceremonies within its walls. The dignitaries lived outside in the Imperial City and outside its gates were the homes and businesses of the common people. Anyone who passed the examinations held in the Forbidden City became officials.

We traveled to the Tea House that served the Emperor until 1911 after which it was taken over by the state. We tasted some delicious teas before proceeding to our cultural entertainment The Golden Mask Dynasty. This show was amazing - one of the best we have ever seen - from the costumes, acrobatics, choreography and seamless scene changes to the on stage flood. Our seats were front row centre and we were surrounded by flowing water that covered the stage as a rocky falls and came almost to our seats.

On our way to the hotel, we made a quick stop at The Place to see the first electronic dream backdrop (sky TV) in Asia and the second largest with the length of three football fields (about 300 meters).

Posted by jkroetsch 12:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

Forbidden City

Beijing: Day 2

sunny

On the bus at 8:00 am.to go to the Temple of Heaven where, in the time of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Emperor went four times a year (each season ) to worship heaven and to offer prayers for peace, bountiful harvest etc. Only the Emperor was allowed inside. It was beautifully constructed. Since 1911 (People's Revolution ) it is open to the public and is surrounded by a beautiful park. What a happy place! People were playing cards, dominoes and other games. Some women were crocheting or doing other crafts. Some seniors were there with their grandchildren; others were on their own exercising on the equipment provided (one elderly fellow was doing chin ups, or joined with a group doing taiji or dancercise. The park was filled with people enjoying themselves.

We explored Tia'namen Square next (biggest city central square in the world.). It can hold a million people.We saw Mao Tse Tung's mausoleum and took Dan's picture beside a huge photo of the Chairman.

Leaving there, we continued on to walk through the Forbidden City from South Gate to the North Gate which required more than two hours. The emperor lived here with his family and conducted business and ceremonies within its walls. The dignitaries lived outside in the Imperial City and outside its gates were the homes and businesses of the common people. Anyone who passed the examinations held in the Forbidden City became officials.

We traveled to the Tea House that served the Emperor until 1911 after which it was taken over by the state. We tasted some delicious teas before proceeding to our cultural entertainment The Golden Mask Dynasty. This show was amazing - one of the best we have ever seen - from the costumes, acrobatics, choreography and seamless scene changes to the on stage flood. Our seats were front row centre and we were surrounded by flowing water that covered the stage as a rocky falls and came almost to our seats.

On our way to the hotel, we made a quick stop at The Place to see the first electronic dream backdrop (sky TV) in Asia and the second largest with the length of three football fields (about 300 meters).

Posted by jkroetsch 17:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

Awesome Day

Beijing: Day 1

sunny 22 °C

Our first three days in Beijing are in Hotel Jen -a new and beautiful 5 star hotel. Everyday will start with a 6:30 am call. We had an excellent buffet to start the day with lots of energy that carried us through the morning. The morning expedition took us out of the city towards the Great Wall of China which was originally built in 220 BC and then restored in the Beijing area recently. The first stop was at a Jade factory. This gem is very famous in the history of China. It was carved into so many beautiful jewelry pieces and objects that are part of China's culture. Upon reaching the Wall, our climb up the steps from the valley was a very challenging undertaking since the step heights varied greatly. That section of the wall rose about 700 steps above the valley. We took some beautiful pictures of the wall that followed the profile of the mountain. On our way down to the valley we stopped to do a Tai Chi set which felt so appropriate on this wall. Judy decided to climb the steep section on the other side of the valley and got up to the first lookout level.
Our next stop was at a Cloisonne factory which is enamel ware usually used for decorative vases and plates. The core of the products are molded copper. The girls use thin copper wire which is very accurately shaped to the pattern design and glued to the vases where there will be any change in colour. The colors are mixed and added. After a baking process the vase is ready for final polishing. They had many beautiful pieces on display.
After lunch we stopped along the way for picture-taking of some of the 2008 Summer Olympic site buildings- the birds nest which housed the opening and closing ceremonies and the water cube which was used for the swimming and diving sports. There was a very tall building that looked like 5 olympic torches but they call it The Five Nails.
The absolute best experience so far was the Golden Mask Dynasty show which included outstanding dancing, acrobatics,costumes, background scenery and a fantastic waterfall display that covered the whole stage. The show was created by the same person that created the 2008 Olympic Opening and Closing ceremonies.
Our supper was at a famous 100 year old restaurant that has the best Peking Duck meal. A chef carved a duck at each of the tables for us.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped to view a covered LED screen that was 250 x 30 meters that could display one huge display or smaller individual scenes

Posted by jkroetsch 07:22 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

A Long Day

Good Flight

We were up bright and early this morning and arrived at the airport more than three hours prior to our departure so we could try and change our seating and be together. With a group tour the seats are pre-assigned. To our surprise, the check in line was already really long. They said that they couldn't do anything about it because the flight was oversold. Once on board, Dan went to the back of the plane to his seat where he convinced the single man to switch with Judy. The flight was uneventful as a good flight should be and after thirteen and a half hours,we had a beautiful landing in Beijing. We connected with our tour guides (Joe and. Brian) without a hitch. It was raining on our arrival, so we weren't tempted to go out on our own. Sorry to have missed the opportunity to visit the night market at Hou hai Lake. Off to sleep now.

Posted by jkroetsch 14:54 Archived in China Comments (0)

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