China : Beijing – Of summer palaces and pretty hair-pins

<Side note: These posts are from a trip I made in 2012 and lived in a gorgeous city named Chengdu for 5 months. Nevertheless its memories are fresh and warm in my mind and I’d love to share them with you. >

Day 3:

The next day was started from another friend’s apartment that we had reached the previous night after changing 5 trains and significant help with hauling my luggage. We then started off with the Zoo. While we were treated to the sight of gorgeous specimens of snakes and reptiles, and impish monkeys alternately enjoying attention and making faces at the crowd, we were the most enthusiastic at seeing the pandas and the penguins. For me, it was the first time seeing both and what a delight they were. There’s something endearing about the sight of penguins waddling in the water actually responding to the people around.

Just a beautiful snake resting away

The pandas too were wobbling around their cage, some just sleeping comfortably on an awkward branch or chewing on some leaves. No matter what they did, they managed to look utterly huggable; the teddy-bear phenomena seems to have blinded us to even think of them as remotely capable of harm.


Ignoring the boards towards the lions and rhinoceros we headed to the Summer Palace as our next stop. As beautiful as the pathways to it were, it must have been outright heavenly in the summer for leisurely walks through meandering paths by the lake with a sprinkling of towers and bridges. 26012012272The Suzhou Street that seemed to have a variety of local craftwork and other colourful bits and pieces, however, was closed by the time we got back. One place I’d definitely like to visit again to do it justice.

The frozen lake amidst the market


Day 4:

The Museum started off our day and quite a treat it was too. Absolutely divine filigree work, work on porcelain and the calm looking Buddha statues. I found myself open mouthed at the gorgeous work in gold from sachets to hair pins, to crowns, to other adornments.

An early version of the sun-signs

Everything displayed seemed to have been through a lot of painstaking effort, whether they were incense burners, sceptres, or pottery with poetry and stories on them. The statues, of course, were of a 100 avatars of a mostly Budhha but also several other deities. DSCF2665.JPGAfter also witnessing a live clay modelling demonstration, seeing the myriad lanterns of all shapes and colours, and many specimens of folk art we headed to the next pit stop, Silk Street.


The subway conveniently has an exit right into the building. And yes, Silk Street is a building and not a street. Oh, the haggling! It was crazy how they’d directly price something at 300 RMB only to let you buy it at 20RMB! It was easy to get looted if one did not know the prices of things there. I did manage to pick a couple of things there. Nevertheless, the building was a place one could perhaps spend a day easily looking at things ranging from hair clips to jackets to carpets.

China : Beijing – Of forbidden cities and welcoming people

Day 2 and we started off with the enticingly named “Forbidden City”. They weren’t kidding when they added City to its name. It is freakishly huge and seems to go on forever. They sure loved exaggeration when they named the halls though – Gate of Divine Might, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Military Eminence, Palace of Heavenly Purity, Hall of Mental Cultivation, and Palace of Tranquil Longevity.One would think we were in some city of noble boons coming true.

Just one of the endless palaces there


After a time, I completely lost track of where we were supposed to be on the map. The Imperial Garden, however, was a sight even in the dry winter. It must be gorgeous during the spring with the numerous trees in bloom.

Just getting out of the Forbidden City near the moat outside of it, we see this lovely family taking a break from their own trip. The young boy shyly comes up to us and slowly enunciates “Where are you from?” Such an ice-breaker as we replied and they actually offered us snacks and smiles.  Though they couldn’t help us with our next route (they were tourists themselves), it was a warm meet that seemed to thaw the cold around a wee bit.

The moat just outside the Forbidden City


As we walked around looking for the subway, we unintentionally passed by the hutons Beijing is popular for. Most of them seemed to be closed for the spring festival. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant walk down the avenue glancing at shops that sold knick knacks and food of various types.

The Tianenman Square was our next stop and even before we got there, though the subway station itself we witnessed the ceremonial march of soldiers towards the Square. They seemed to be used to the attention and camera clicking of the tourists. The place felt like the equivalent of Jalianwalabagh in India and had more security than most other tourist spots. It’s right between the Forbidden City and the Beijing Museum. Like most symbols of struggle in history, it seemed to be struggling to elicit the same emotions from the people of this generation. That being said, there were still photos being taken with flags and salutes by the little children even if in innocence, indicating a trace of loyalty.DSCF2703.jpg

We headed next to the Beijing Olympic stadium and were greeted by the lovely site of kite sellers displaying their ware, interestingly in an endless string of kites just soaring with the strong wind there in the open. To my utter glee, one of them let me even hold the end of the string and at least for a few moments I actually enjoyed the experience of letting the wind and the kites take over.  Even before we got into the stadium, a young lady who seemed to be travelling with her extended family came up to us and asked if they could have a picture with us. Before my friend could react, I said, “Sure, why not”. I really wish we had taken a shot of that in our camera too. The grandma was so glad to see us and even shook my hand like I was some sort of celebrity, while I gave her a quick hug as she was so adorable 😀 Just after thank yous were exchanged, the young girl says “You are so beautiful!” while I stood there wondering how to react and all I could say was “Thank you”. We asked them where they were from and they said they were from Outer Mongolia. So it makes me smile now thinking that someone from Outer Mongolia has a pic of mine grinning like an idiot.


Could try some skating the next time around

The stadium itself was lovely and had a snow festival with skating and all sorts of games in the snow. Unfortunately, we had reached quite near the closing time so it wouldn’t have been worth the high price of entry to the snow area. Still, it was fun watching kids and grownups alike enjoying the snow after which we had to call it a day.dscf2722.jpg


China: Beijing- The old Great wall and the new TV Tower

<Side note: These posts are from a trip I made in 2012 and lived in a gorgeous city named Chengdu for 5 months. Nevertheless, its memories are fresh and warm in my mind and I’d love to share them with you. >


After a lot of last minute on the spot planning during the Chinese New year holidays, with a person who was almost a stranger,  I managed to get to Beijing. My only request from the city was not to freeze me to death.

The flight had a breathtaking view of the mountain range (presumed Qingling Mountains). The sight was like mounds of dark chocolate sauce on white chocolate (Ok. Maybe I was craving some chocolate). In the shuttle service from the flight to the airport gate, I casually gave up my seat to an older lady with some luggage after explaining to her with hand gestures. Just as I turn back, I see quite a few people smiling and a lovely old man giving me a wide grin and a thumbs-up sign. Who says you need language.

It was an experience of firsts taking a train within the airport to take us out of it, only to reach out to a taxi stand where finally the experience of haggling with auto-drivers in Bangalore came to my rescue. The first evening as we went searching for dinner, interestingly what immediately made us both feel at home was the ChengDu restaurant we saw!  It’s amazing how quickly we can change our definition of home.

And of course, when in Beijing, we had to go to the Great Wall. After some confusion about the bus routes, we entered the bus and took our seats as I promised myself to enjoy my first long bus ride in China. A minute later, I promptly fell asleep only to be woken up by my friend to the view of the Wall itself. 🙂  I realised that any trace of moisturiser from my face was already gone and the day would have me trying to save my very skin from falling off my face in the cold.

We got off and made our way to the start of the climb. I expected steps but the steep tiles on a part of the climb were a surprise. An even bigger surprise was a lady wearing high heels and managing a child making the climb casually! We joined the swarm of people to see what the whole deal about the wall was. After some amount of walking, quite a few moments of me getting literally blown away by the wind, and a lot of numbness in the hands and face, we took the cable car on the way back. So we did enjoy a lovely view of the dry region with the wispy foliage on our way down.

The winter landscape 


I was delighted by the Bactrian camel outside and agreed to the overly charged price to take a picture with it but it seemed so worth it. It’s a gorgeous animal with amazingly soft fur though in the picture I do look like I’m lost in its fur.

Both the camel and I are looking away, but you get the picture

After a quick meal of (ahem) egg fried rice at the restaurant nearby, we headed off to the Great Wall Museum which is a more leisurely way to enjoy the great wall and its stories. My favourite of the exhibits has got to be the model of the army or maybe it was just because I’ve really been looking forward to seeing the Qin Terracotta Army in China for a long time.DSCF2613.JPG


Just seeing the Beijing Subway map, our next impromptu destination was chosen to be YongHeGong Lama Temple. However, on reaching the station and following the crowd, we saw a mela was on, presumably for the new year. The colours and the food and the items on sale were an absolute treat. We could barely stop ourselves from picking up small knick knacks from every stall we passed by. There were games, soft toys, a variety of food, masks and art work of all types.

Decorations everywhere we went for the Chinese new year


The last pit stop was the CCTV tower. After multiple attempts at reaching the right station (we got off at each one and were told it was the wrong one, despite having checked online), we did get there and the building was impressive. However, we walked all around it in a pradakshina  of sorts for quite a huge distance and still didn’t find it’s entrance. So sadly we finally gave up after just enjoying images of the revolving restaurant on the 18th floor in our minds.


Up next : Mysore and Mandya – Unexpected dancing and feathered friends