Friday, March 28, 2008

Dazu craving stones

We spent one day at Dazu craving stones. There were many potholes on the roads along the way to this countryside town, but our brave bus driver was not daunted and sped along, resulting in many huge bounces and bumps. However, it was great to visit the Dazu Carvings to get a chance to catch a glimpse of the traditional Chinese art. Some sculptures were small, some were huge; some were brightly painted and tell religious, moral and historical stories. The masterpieces were captivating. Highlights included the niches depicting heaven and hell and a golden Buddha with over 1,000 hands carved into the cliff-face, all painted in gold.

We returned back to city at about 11pm and we ventured out into the streets of Chongqing in search of a good massage. I enjoyed a two hour accupressure massage with one hour dedicated to my feet and another hour dedicated to the whole rest of me. It was a great relaxant after an exhausting day. Next stop and final destination..............Xiamen.

stone carvings of Buddha, Dazu Grottoes

remarkable sculptures

the greenery surrounding the carvings

A thousand-hand Guanyin Bodhisattva statue

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chongqing-The Mountain City

Taking the train to Chongqing was definitely a long ride. It was the usual overcrowded hustle and bustle of the china folks. Hundreds of people were flocking all over the station, rushing to get into the train first. I don't understand though, as we all have numbered seats. The Chinese just feel the need to rush around. It's their mentality to be the first in every situation. I noticed that most locals carried huge packages full of only god knows.

We arrived early morning and jumped in a taxi to our hotel. Couldn't wait to get to J.W. Marriot hotel for a well deserved shower. We didn't have much sleep in the train so, we actually had some rest at the hotel before the commencement of our shopping activities. Later, we strolled along the streets and came across some traditional chinese dancing going on in a square and watched for a while. There were several little backstreet markets around town. Here you had the opportunity to purchase very fresh (still alive and moving) fish and eels which were placed in buckets, frogs, chickens and ducks which were butchered then and there if you wished. Prostitutes could be found at almost every turn, bravely plying their trade on five-foot ways and street corners. I had to confess they were young and voluptuous. I wouldn't say my hubby didn't enjoy what he saw. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. There's a price to pay if you mess around and bring back sexually transmitted disease as a souveneir.

Anyway, the reason we were in Chongqing was to visit the Dazu Craving stone. To be continued......

Chongqing's super high rise apartments and overpowering structures

Chongqing skyline at night

In the evening, you can see beautiful sunsets here

Rooftop Terrace of a hotel

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 7- Terracotta warriors, Xian

There's not much activities on Day 5 & Day 6 as my hubby has some unfinished assignments to complete. After days of walking tirelessly in Beijing, I need to perk up my energy level. I actually had plenty of time to rest at the hotel but I didn't sleep the whole time. Infact, I enjoy strolling around the city searching for souveniers and lingering over my cuppa at one of the many streetside cafes. My vacation to Beijing is something I'll cherish for years to come.

As this was our 1st train journey within China we didnt really know what to expect. Hubby and I arrived in Xian at 7 a.m., after 12 hours on a sleeper train from Beijing. It is a bit of a walk to the 3 huge pits that house the terracotta warriors and there are many vendors along the way. The vastness of the tomb and the attention to detail is simply amazing. There is a lot of ground to cover and the main pit ,No. 1, is the largest and most popular. There is approximately 6000 warriors, all facing East, in battle formation, towards the Emperor Qin's tomb, which is 2000 years old. All warriors are ranked and dressed accordingly. Each warrior has a different and unique appearance, no two are exactly the same. What we saw in the museum is only a fraction of the army; many, many more figures remain buried. The Chinese have not decided how to excavate the emperor's tomb because the ground contains very high levels of mercury. Although picture taking is strictly forbidden, we were lucky to be visiting on a day when the Chinese guard was oblivious to tourists using digital still cameras.

Then it was time to catch another overnight train (17 hours this time) to Chongqing. We would have all liked to stay longer in Xian, it was a great place to just wander around in.

The major excavation pit (Pit 1)

Horses ready for battle

Every piece carefully put together

Pit 3

Restored for exhibition

Many of the figures have been restored but are missing heads.

Restored for exhibition (Pit 2)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 3: Summer Palace

The main structures on Longevity Hill

Kunming Lake

A bronze statue in front of the gate of the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity

The summer palace is really a residence befitting an Emperor or Empress. This huge summer residence - complete with palace, lake, islands, pavilions, marble boat and other sights. Mainly consists of Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake which serve as the scenery browsing area. It makes for a nice scenic walk, offering great views of trees, water and a contrast between the red of the buildings and the green foliage. You could spend a longer time here if you the have time too. You can take a sheltered outdoor walk of more than 1/2 mile under a "long corridor" with thousands of paintings. Be prepared to walk a lot in this park.

Day 3: Great Wall Of China

Needless to say, no trip to Beijing is complete without a trip to the great wall. The Great Wall is truly awesome. It is much bigger than I had ever imagined. There are 3 sections of the wall that are open to the public. The most famous stretch of Great Wall is at a place called Badaling. Access to the wall is extremely easy here and safer for visitors to climb to the Great Wall . To visit all of the Walls is impossible and obviously hubby and I only climb a tiny part of it. Looking at crowds of all walks of life, you can't stop thinking that no matter how high or long the walls are, on the long run they can't separate people.

The steps are rather steep , uneven and quite narrow at some points. And do not underestimate the effort needed on some parts of the wall. Challenging but quite exhausting though. Honestly, the climb down is pretty scarier than the climb up, as all of a sudden you can view just how steep the wall is, but thankfully there are handles on the side to help yourself down.

There are many stories, true or legend, about the workers who lost their lives during the building of the wall, and whose bodies were buried under sections of the wall itself. So sad, huh?

For those who are going independently, the easiest route is by taking the 919 bus (green and white) from Deshengmen Long Distance Bus station. The bus ride takes approximately 1 hr 30mins to Badaling. It is very regular. After walking the wall I returned to where the bus had arrived and easily got another one back to the city. Anyway, enough talk...just go see it for yourself!!! Embrace Great Wall of China!

Practical information
Badaling: 70 km from Beijing, open every day 6.30am-8pm, 45 yuans.
Mutianyu: 100 km from Beijing, open every day, 7am-8pm, 35 yuans.
Simatai: 110 km from Beijing, open every day, 8am-5pm, 35 yuans.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 2: Temple of heaven

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Built in the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Temple of Heaven is the center of prayer, traditional ceremonies and sacrificial rites. The air is so fresh, the long wide marble road, can make you think about how powerful the emperor was. Visitors are only allowed to peek into the hall, but it is enough for one to be amazed at the level of craftmanship. You could easily spend all day here like many local Chinese seem to do. The area is big, so do acquaint yourself with the map and plan what route to take to see all that you want to see. Some buildings are being renovated for the Beijing Olympics, but the rest is well worth the visit.

The detail is just splendid in its external appearance

The circular wooden structure is wholly made of wood without the use of a single nail or cement.

Getting around in Beijing couldn't be any easier. The Beijing subway is the quickest and cheapest way to get around the city with low level pollution. Subway trains arrived every few minutes, however carriages are always crowded. Tickets cost only 2 yuan, regardless of destination. The route signs are bilingual and useful maps showing station exits are located in every platform.
You can take Subway Line 2 and get off at the Chongwenmen station, then take a taxi for 10 yuan.

Holiday breakaway in China - Day 1

I've finally arrived Beijing at about 7pm. Hubby was already waiting for me when I arrived. The checking-out and baggage claim took a long time, so he had to wait quite a bit.
The journey was a 4 hour ride from Penang to Hongkong. I had to transit for almost 4 hours in Hongkong awaiting for my next connecting flight to Beijing, so you can just imagine how bored I was. Infact, I didn't do much on my first day in Beijing, March 6 apart from catching up on some sleep, channel-surfing, wandering aimlessly around the famous Wang Fu Jing pedestrian street where our hotel was located nearby. There are many restaurants in the area, but even if you’re not there to eat or shop, it is still a great place for people to watch and enjoy the crowds.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sweet moments are made of these

When you are facing crazy deadlines at work, it's good to unwind once in a while to gather yourself and destress. I won't be able to blog for the next couple of weeks as I'll be going on a backpacking holiday in Beijing, Xian, Chongqing & Xiamen with my hubby. Infact, I'll be out of town from 6/3 onwards which means I won't be able to cast my ballot this Saturday (8/3).
What more can I say? An experience of a lifetime awaits me in Great Wall of China. So can anyone blame me? It's going to be a great escapade for me. he he
Rest assured, I'll keep you posted when I come back.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Warkah Untuk PM

The government has recently launched a new website Warkah untuk PM. It's another BN Manifesto developed by several non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This website which is available in four languages (Malay, English, Mandarin, Tamil) allows us to express our views, suggestions, complaints on the performance of the government.

According to Najib, each message from the public will get a response from Pak Lah. I'm sure tons of feedbacks will be pouring in to the website, voicing a number of concerns. Does this mean that our PM will spend his precious time responding to the messages? I feel doubtful about this. What's more interesting is, 100 people who sent concrete ideas would get a chance to meet our beloved PM.

So people, what are you waiting for? Here's the opportunity to submit your warkah to Pak Lah and see what reply you get. You may be one of those lucky ones.