Thursday, June 29, 2006

The '2-dollar' China Tour - Beijing Part 1

Here is to China - may the bottom never come!

One may well wonder why I have headed the China Blog '2-dollar'. For starters, it has nothing to do with currency. Our delightful Tour Director - Faye Hao, informed us that when spoken, 2-dollar sounds similar to the Chinese word meaning 'all present & correct'. Before leaving for anywhere, Faye would conduct a count and pronounce '2-dollar', giving the driver the all-clear to drive off. So much for the title of this series of blog chapters.

Our arrival in Beijing was uncomplicated and a wheelchair was waiting at the aircraft for Carol's comfort. It also meant we bypassed the normal channels and she was whisked through a designated channel. Very efficient, as indeed was the rest of Beijing International Airport.
Our first meeting with some members of our party; Bev, Pat & Graham.

Final construction and roadworks in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics:
Our hotels generally were good and we were quick to settle into the casual look for our travels, camera at the ready:
Our group numbered 22, mostly Australians who were delighted to welcome two English couples. They will be the richer for the experience, we are sure! And here we all are, at Tiananmen Square with Chairman Mao keeping a benevolent eye on us:
Faye Hao proved to a wonderful and able guide who we all appreciated. We counted ourselves exceedingly fortunate to have her.This lovely lady carefully guided us by bus, plane, train & ship for 26 days throughout China. Here is a glimpse on the map. Follow our journey:
After a good night's sleep, it was on the road to Tiananmen Square & the Forbidden City. Our local guide, Eric, was most considerate and suggested we hire a wheelchair for Carol as there was a lot of walking to do. We were most grateful for this suggestion and it allowed Carol a wonderful day, pushed around by both me and other guys - she loved it!!
On the way we passed this establishment. Yes, parts of Disney can also be found in China:

Tiananmen Square brought memories back of what we saw on TV during the students demonstrations many years ago. Faye told us that none of that was known in China. She only knew of it because of what tourists tell her. Here are just a few shots of Tiananmen Square:

Like kids anywhere in the world, they just loved to have a bit of a wrestle!

Our entry into the Forbidden City was under the portrait of Chairman Mao - most imposing!What surprised us was a lack of flowers in the gardens, they were mainly shrubs and water features. Even so it was impressive and covered a number of hectares of prime real estate:

You will note in the bottom right picture the number of figures on the ridge-capping. The more figures, the more important the building. This one rates 9, therefore it is a high ranking building - not surprising as it belonged to the Emperor!
Equally, the buildings had some colourful decorations that we admired:
We took it all in and took lots of photos, much to the apparent amusement of the guards - well museum attendants.

Siebrand on 'guard duty' to protect the treasures?
There a few of those:
Pretty awesome!

And we must tell you about Concubine Zhen who was thrown into this well - awfully small.
We retraced her steps later in the Summer Palace.

A stroll among the local folk was a real treat. We arrived in Beijing during their week-long national public holiday. We delighted in the relaxed and happy atmosphere of people making music and having fun:

It seemed fitting to visit the Emperor's special Retreat - The Temple of Heaven, where once a year he would make special sacrifices to ensure an excellent harvest.For us, it was an imposing series of buildings and we enjoyed this visit. With our local guide Eric and our tour director Faye. Perhaps discussing the history, or was just about tonight's dinner?
It must have been about dinner. Peking Duck sounded rather fancy and yummy and the chef made a showing slicing the duck before our eyes. After that, it just became just another dish among the many other dishes on our table.Enjoying our meal and becoming proficient in the use of chopsticks. From left Phil, Ricki, Helen, Colin & Carol:
Well, that wasn't too bad for one day's activities. Part two covering the Great Wall and Summer Palace will follow.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Jess in Tassie 2

I have just returned from a walk along Lauderdale & Roches Beach and thoroughly enjoyed the turbulent sea that crashed on our shores. The seas again cut into the dunes further eroding them. Where I normally access the beach I could see that the seas had got up well on to the dunes. The erosion is quite a concern.

Because of the high tides, there were not as many birds as normal. But I did come accross a bird that I had not encountered here before. Here it is:
When it flew off, I was quite surprised by the wing span:

Today's walk also reminded me that Jess & I had a marvellous walk along the beach during her time here. It was a sunny, but rather cool day and we thoroughly enjoyed the beauty that was all around us. So, to share the occasion with you, here are just a few pics:
There is one place on the point that is rather special for me. I call it my prayer rock and often have a talk to God up there, remembering the many blessings we receive - particularly our family. Well, again Jess shared this special little spot. A view down to the sea, one of Jess and another looking towards the airport will gives some idea that the seas were quite turbulent:

And finally, our gentle giant that fell years ago. It looked just very different that day and I am sure you will enjoy it:

On another day, there was time to visit the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery. Unbeknown to us, there were a couple of special exhibitions that were most enjoyable to look at, including one about Australian Heritage - absolutely fascinating. There were exhibits of many major Australian events including Ned Kelly!

The other was an exhibition by well known Tasmanian Artist - Max Angus, now 91 years old.
There was also an excellent exhibition about the Antarctic, and yes that is Jess in front of a Albatross:

There were other enjoyable activities, such as going out with Gemma, having a meal with three girl cousins and Grandma (and yes, I too was invited, though I wondered whether to put on a skirt). Plus, one must not forget that Jess checked out her young cousins at Tim & Jacquie's place.

Aren't we thoroughly blessed?!!