Monday, 26 September 2011

Beijing sightseeing 2

There are several sections of the Great Wall that are accessible from Beijing. The Badaling section is the most popular & where most tour groups go, its incredibly touristy with museums, video presentations & a cable car. We went to the Juyong guan section, still pretty busy but not so commercialed.

Being so iconic & well known the Great Wall runs the risk of disappointment - but its one of those rare experiences that lives up to or exceeds expectations. There was an atmospheric feel about climbing the well worn steps although they're quite a hazzard as they vary in height from 2 - 18 inches & the gradient can be as step as a ladder. I climbed to watchtower 6 & was entirely alone as I peered north looking for barbarian hoards, except they were all back in the car & coach park.

Beijing's Lama Temple is the biggest in China & home to the Panchan Lama. All attempts to search the web for more info about the Lama was blocked by the Chinese censor so I can't comment any further - except they've also been blocking my blog since I arrived & I'm having to email copy home to post it from there. So not everything is rosy in the modern Chinese garden & free speech is still seen as an dangerous pest that needs eradicating.

Anyway, the Lama Temple is actully a vast complex of temples & the architecture is similar to that of the Forbidden City. It is a very busy religious site with lots of monks & hundreds of devotees moving from temple to temple following a set ritual of burning three sticks of incence at each temple.

The Olympic park area is surprisingly interesting & has become a popular Beijinger's day out. The Bird's Nest & other buildings really are impressive & they're in a vast acreage of paved open space with milling crowds, little stalls, music, basketball games & lots of kite flying. A surprisingly fun place to visit

Hutongs are the old narrow Chinese city streets & there are so few left in Beijing that they've become a major tourist attraction. There are lots of whinging web reports of rickshaw drivers ripping tourists off, but its usually only a few quid & if people are that bothered its easy enough to get hotes to arrange a tour with a trustworthy driver - its fun & not worth missing out. Behind the walls are small courtyards which 4 family houses facing into & the one we visited people were playing Chinese chess & a guy was painting names with the most stunning animal motifs.
Houhai is the classic, if touristy, Hutong but there are many more less touristy ones around the city.

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