Saturday, 31 August 2013
Sometimes you need to be flexible if you don't book ahead and plan to buy the train ticket on the day. Since the overnight trains to Xi'an were all fully booked, I decided to just take the fast train there.
This meant a bit less time in Beijing to see the Temple of Heaven and I had to skip the Temple of Earth visit.
Still, the Temple of Heaven visit was a must for me and it was very nice to see it again with a great blue sky.
The park around the temple is also quite big and well visited by people so it's worth wandering if you have the time to see people playing various Chinese instruments, dancing, and singing.
The roof of the temple is all purple and looks great in sunshine, the round shape (to signify heaven) also makes it quite special to see.
I had to rush through a bit but managed to enjoy the temple and even a stroll around the park to get some shade and do some people watching.
There were quite a lot of visitors around so getting a great shot of the temple was not always possible, unless you also wanted to include them in your picture. While I usually like people in my pictures, I wanted to get some pictures of the temple and had to be a bit more creative with the angles and locations from where to take the pictures.
After picking up my bag at the hotel and getting to Beijing West station, i boarded the 'bullet' train for Xi'an North.
Friday, 30 August 2013
After some problems (or not as my Chinese is very limited) with the trains, I had to take the bus to get to Badaling and see the Great Wall today. Taking the 878 or 919 bus is not a big deal however as they are actually faster than the train, depart almost every minute in busy periods (like today) and drop you off only a few hundred meters from the entrance vs the 800m the train station is located from the entrance.
You might now wonder why I chose the most touristy of places to go and see the Great Wall? Well, first it's the easiest to get to from Bejing and second I have been to a different part last time so decided to just give it a try. I mean how bad can it be?
Despite what everybody says, going to Badaling is not all that bad but you have to stay away from the section the crowds frequent. So if you go in through the 'climbing' entrance (and you want to be climbing) head to the south section. Not only will all the crowds be headed to the north section but you also get the nicer views of the north section and landscape around.
The south section is shorter to walk though and less steep overall so you might still want to brave the crowds for the busiest part in case you are done quite fast and want to do more hiking. I have done both and while I liked the south section, I did not like the north section at all and wished that I would have just gone back an forth in the south section.
Once I was satisfied of having seen and climbed the Great Wall enough this time round, I decided to head to the train station and take the train back. It's always fun to take two different modes of transport and find out which is nicer or better.
Since I had some time till the train departed and I saw a sign for the Folk Village of Chadao near the train station, I figured I go and check it out to help pass the time.
Well, what should have been a quick 10-20 minutes wandering around took me almost 2h of walking around and I wished I could have spend the whole day here. What I saw was not a 'Folk Village' or 'Historic Village' but a ghost village, full of deserted and overgrown houses, a mostly empty main street, dusty windows, faded paint and almost no people at all.
It was again a mostly bizarre setting but such a cool one that I forgot everything and just went along taking pictures. I loved it and in some ways was glad not having it seen earlier of the Great Wall visit would not have happened.
There are newly build houses, with electrical switchboards, the piping is laid out, even AC units are installed but everything is empty, unfinished and from the looks abandoned.
Maybe it was a project to attract tourists but as it did not happen as planned, it now just lays to waste. There are people around from what I have seen and most were amused and surprised by me wandering around with a big smile on my face taking pictures of abandoned houses.
So here another one of my tips. If you visit the Great Wall, don't be afraid to go to Badaling (but take the bus or train and save the money for a tour) and climb the south section. On your way back however do make sure you go and visit Chadao Village, you won't regret it and don't be afraid to just wader as nobody will stop you.
Tomorrow, I will have to get myself a ticket to Xi'an and try to squeeze a visit to the Temples of Heaven and Earth before taking the train.
Thursday, 29 August 2013
After the last two rather grey days, the sun was out again with slightly lower, more tolerable temperatures and a rare (for Beijing anyway) clear blue sky, not washed out, greyish blue but proper deep blue.
This was the perfect occasion to finally head to the Forbidden City, Jingshan and Beihai Parks.
It was a very nice days and the crowds were not too bad but I found that while walking through the Forbidden City, I did not have much to add to my previous pictures from 2006.
It is great to revisit certain locations as you can just wander and enjoy them without feeling like you need to document this but it's also strange to hardly take any pictures of a quite cool place.
But rather than taking the same pictures, just with a different camera (was one of my first GRD I trips in 2006), I decided to just taken pictures of things I did not get last time or where I had anything new or different to add.
This continued on through Jingshan Park, where you have the best views of Beijing and I plan to go early in the morning for hopefully a nice sunrise, and then to the Winter Palace or Beihai Park with the nice white Dagoba, where I waited to capture the sunset baking the lake and Dagoba in warm orange light.
Tomorrow, I have a visit to the Great Wall planned and then I am mostly done in Beijing and will move on Saturday evening to Xian, after going to the Temple of Heaven.
No people in today's picture selection after having too many people pictures yesterday.