Yet another official trip - this time to Beijing, the capital of dragon land. I went for a week to the Aruba office at Xierqi in North West Bejing. The office and the hotel were I stayed was at walking distance from the Xierqi Metro station, making it extremely easy for me to travel around Beijing. The metro is quite good and extremely popular as it connects most parts of Bejing at a very low cost.
My 1st desination was the world famous Tiananmen Square, located almost at the center of Beijing city. It is easily accessible from Tiananmen West or East metro stations on Red line (Line #1) of Beijing Metro. Tiananmen Square is one of the largest city squares in the world and has great cultural significance as it was the venue of many important events in Chinese history. This is a view from the Tiananmen Square, of the Tiananmen gate, which is also the entrance to the Forbidden City or Palace Museum.
Forbidden City is probably the best known heritage site in Beijing and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is a sprawling Palace complex, which housed the various dynasties which ruled over China. This is the 'Hall of Supreme Harmony', the most important building at the Forbidden City.
If the intricate carvings on the roof is not enough proof for the importance of this building, the statuettes on its roof ridge should be.
The number of statuettes at the top is a visible sign for the importance of the building and the ten statuettes at the roof ridge of the 'Hall of Supreme Harmony' is of the highest status, not only in Forbidden City, but the whole of China.
I roamed around the Forbidden City for almost a full day. I wanted to go to Temple of Heaven and headed to Tiantandongmen, metro station in Line #5. But, I took a wrong exit from the station and was unable to find the way to the temple. After roaming around for a while, I changed the plan and headed to Yonghegong station for the Lama temple. It was around 5, by the time I reached the temple, which will close at 4.30. So, I had to call it a day and head back to the hotel.
Being a vegetarian during this time, food was a problem for me in Beijing. First few days, I was having breakfast, lunch and dinner at Subway - not because they had any vegetarian item in the menu, but because I could see what they are adding in to the sandwich. I would usually order a 'Tuna sandwich' and stop them when they were about to add 'Tuna' - so that I can have a vegetarian sandwich :) In a few days, the staff at subway knew me by face and quickly recalled 'no meat', making it easier for me!
Thats were, lunch with colleagues helped. I started going along with them to their usual eateries and they picked up one or two veg items from the menu. This particular restaurant had a mushroom dish, which soon became my favourite! With their help, I could explore a few more places around for lunch and really enjoyed the veg options in some of the eateries! Thanks to Guojun, Yupeng, Hao & James (left to right in Pic) for helping me survive in Beijing for 10 days without non-veg!
Its not just the lunch that they helped me with. Infact, I was planning to take the metro after landing in Beijing airport and Hao totally refused to let me do it! He drove up to the airport and picked me up instead. Though, I managed to sneak out next day and visit Forbidden City, the weekend was totally planned by my colleagues. I was disallowed to sneak out on my own and one person each was assigned for each of the destinations that I wanted to go!
Saturday morning, it was Yupeng's turn to take me to Summer Palace - a beautiful lake side palace and yet another UNESCO site. We took the metro to reach Bagou station on Line #10, near the east gate of Summer Palace. The picture above is from the 'Hall of Benevolence and Longevity'.
The best thing about the summer palace was the beautiful walk around the Kunming lake with a beautiful view of the 'Tower of Buddhist Incense', the tallest tower in summer palace. The tower looked far away and majestic on top of the 'Longevity Hill', especially when seen from the 'Heralding the Spring' pavilion, near the east gate.
We walked along the Kunming lake and took a few wrong turns before finally reaching near the 'Longevity Hill'. On our way to the 'Tower of Buddhist Incense', we also passed through the 'Long Corridor'
'Long Corridor' is a covered walkway richly decorated with paintings on the beams and ceilings. The corridor is 728m long and has more than 14000 paintings - depicting episodes from chinese classical literature.
Another landmark here is the 'Marble Boat' - actually a lakeside pavilion, located at the western end of the 'Long Corridor'. The decks are in reality made of wood, but painted to imitate marble.
Soon, we were climbing up the 'Tower of Buddhist Incense'. The tower was originally planned to be a 9-storey tower, but dismantled after the contruction of the 8th floor and converted to a buddhist tower for worshipping buddha.
After visiting the tower, we crossed the Suzhou street and river, to exit the Summer Palace from the north gate. Beigongmen station in Line #4 of the metro network is close to the north gate.
After noon, it was Guojun's turn and we headed to the 'Temple of Heaven' - another UNESCO world heritage site and a magnificient example of Chinese architecture. The temple is located near the Tiantandongmen station on Line #5. I had come here just a few days back and taken a wrong exit - but this time Guojun was with me and we took the correct exit and soon reached the Temple of Heaven.
Temple of Heaven is a temple complex meant for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. The picture above is of the crowd gathered at the top of 'Circular Mound' aka 'Heaven Worshipping Terrace' - an altar to hold the ceremony for worshipping heaven in winter solstice every year.
There were many sets of stoves around the 'Circular Mound', used to burn the offering to the dieties.
The main building here, the 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests' is a magnificient 3-storeyed circular building, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is fully made of wood, using no nails.
After leaving Temple of Heaven, Guojun took me to the Qianmen street, to the south of Tiananmen square. We took Line #4 of metro and got down at the Qianmen station to take an evening stroll in a very busy Qianmen street.
Next day, it was time to visit one of the seven wonders of the modern world - the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall is actually a series of walls located at the north of Beijing, built to protect it against intrusions by various nomadic groups from North. Only some sections of the wall is open for public - the Juyongguan Great Wall being the closest to Beijing. Mutianyu Great Wall is famous for the landscapes around it, but Badaling is touted as the most spectacular of all.
There are buses and trains running to Badaling from Beijing. Bus 919 or Badaling train starting from Beijing North tran stations were the most obvious options. But, since I wanted to visit Ming Tombs as well, James suggested that we could book a Taxi instead.
At Badaling, we could climb either the north or south sections of the Great Wall and we chose the North section, which also has the tallest tower (the 8th tower) in Badaling. In the North segment, one could hike till the 12th tower, but we chose to turn back after reaching the 8th tower located at an altitude of 888.8m.
Being a weekend day, Badaling was extremely crowded and the wall was full of tourists. Most of the people were turning back at the 8th tower, making it less crowded beyond.
There is an inscription at Badaling - 不到长城非好汉 ('Bu Dao Chang Cheng Fei Hao Han' - Who never climbed the Great Wall cannot be deemed a Man. Thanks to James for the translation). This is a quote from Mao Zedong, which has inspired many a tourists here.
On our way back, we also took a stop at the Ming tombs. One of the main attractions at the Ming Tombs is the 'Sacred Way', a path way lined with huge statues on both sides. The emperors are believed to come from Heaven to the country through the 'Sacred Way' and return to Heaven through the same.
Only three of the Ming Tombs are open to the public and even between them, only Dingling is fully excavated. We decided to visit only Dingling and took the steps down to the underground palace, where the remains of the coffin is on display.
I had seen a lot more in these 10 days, than I expected. In a couple of days, I headed back to Bangalore - and took with me a lot of good memories.
I was back in Beijing again during November 2014, this time with Preethu and Manu in tow. While, I was at work during the weekdays, they managed to take a tour of Beijing.
During the next weekend though, we were off to Badaling Great Wall, in a rented vehicle, along with Amit and Jagan. It was a very cold day and coupled with the huge crowd, Badaling visit was not particularly exciting.
Visiting Mutianyu section of the Great Wall was a much better experience though. There was hardly any crowd and the Great Wall looked spectacular in the mist.
It was tough to get Manu to pose for a picture ... but he did once with Jagan.
Next day, we went to the Summer Palace (Yihe Yuan) ... walking along the Long Corridor (Chang Lang), admiring the paintings and the beautifully carved roof-tops.
We did go up to the 'Tower of Buddhist Incense' and spotted these clouds hovering around.
Even though, it was a cold day, Manu had a good day as well.
In the above pic Preethu is standing along with a blur of pillars at Long Corridor (Chang Lang).
We were outside Summer Palace by noon and Manu had a good time with his favourite Amit uncle!
We also managed to take Manu to the Beijing Zoo, specifically for a visit to the Aquarium and the Dolphin show! The shark here, ended up being his favourite fishy!
Preethu and Manu went back next day, but I had to stay on for some more days.
Thanks to Haifeng, Jian, Jianying, Yupeng and the rest of the team for the wonderful company during the stay.
Dinner with the team before I headed out of Beijing, after what was another beautiful trip.