So how is your first full day in China? Lets first start with the welcome dinner last night. We all walked through crowds and crowds of people to a beautiful restaurant that specialized in “Peking Duck”. All of us ate family style as dish upon dish was brought out. Chicken, beef, deer, mutton, duck and assorted vegetables. A dish that I have never had was bamboo shoots. Loved it. It is served fried, but with no bread crumbs, with the leaves of the bamboo.
Left the restaurant to walk back to the hotel navigating masses of people walking around and to walk through traffic is an experience. You have to gradually nudge your way around the cars until you get to the other side. The population of Beijing is over 22 million and the total population of China is 1.3 billion. To give you an idea, the United States has a population of 350 million. Lots of people and mostly cars, buses, funny looking small vehicles and some motorbikes. No Tuk Tuk’s. The traffic and constant mass of people is enormous.
We all woke up early today. Up and at breakfast at 6 AM and leaving the hotel at 7:15 AM. A photo workshop is hard work. You never sleep late. There will be days when we meet well before dawn to catch the sunrise and then go out late to catch the sunset. A photo workshop is hard work and it is not for everyone. We first went to visit the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was built by the Qing emperors. An empress by the name of Dowager Cixi rebuilt the park in 1873. The Summer Palace or Palaces are around a large lake. The lake is named “Kunming Lake”. There are lots of small and unique looking boats taking people all over the lake. There are beautiful marble and wood bridges that connect various parts off the palaces around the lake. There were lots of people there and very few foreigners. Some of the locals were flying beautiful kites. Normally photographers shy away from a location like this and do not like to be around people and especially masses of people. I liked the fact that there were lots of Chinese people around. It gave the location a more honest look and appeal. We did lots of walking as the temperature started to rise. The sun was out but there was very little humidity and no pollution. Empress Dowager Cixi had a large marble boat built. So impressive. The design, marbles and colored tiles were beautiful. We walked and walked. My back started to hurt as my fingers clicked away. Speaking about walking around, one photographer hired her own Sherpa for today. The Sherpa carries all your photo equipment and anything else and always stays next to you. More on Sherpas tomorrow. Did anyone ever see the movie “The Last Emperor”? He was the last emperor of China and spent lots of time at the Summer Palace. There were pictures of him as a baby and throughout his life. There were beautiful statues of animals throughout the site. There is an area called “The Long Corridor”. It is a 700 meter long corridor lined by individually painted red columns. A roof is on top with beautiful painted pictures of old Chinese life. The emperors were use the corridor to walk outside and be protected from the sun and rain. Another amazing location was “The Pavilion of the Fragrance of Buddha”. It is a large temple that sits on the top of a hill. As you walk through the various palaces, there are windows looking into them. No one is allowed inside. When you look through the windows you see the palaces as they were left. Nothing has been disturbed and changed. Very strange. Near the entrance and exit there was a large pavilion where many Chinese people were singing songs led by a conductor and small band. The music and songs were so relaxing. One old Chinese man with one tooth invited me to sing along with him. We both stood and hugged as we sang looking out at the people. Andy and the others clicked away. I am experiencing a different kind of Chinese person than I have previously experienced. They are warm and very friendly.
It was now time for lunch. Lunch was a very unique experience. We went to an imperial style restaurant where all the help wore Qing Dynasty clothing. There were individual pavilions where people were served by these beautiful looking men and women. Their costumes were so colorful. A large pond was in the middle stocked with beautiful Koi. Small waterfalls and fountains were in the pond. There were beautiful looking Chinese lamps hung up all over. I walked around and around taking pictures. The help always stopped and posed for pictures. The food was very delicious. I suspect that by the end of the trip I will be sick of eating Chinese food.
It was then back into the bus to navigate our way through people and traffic to the “Forbidden City”. “The Forbidden City” was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties for five hundred years. Twenty four emperors have lived here. Again, see “The Last Emperor”. We started at one end and worked our way through. Lots of people. Perfect location even with the lots of people. We walked and walked. This was one of the truly great places I have seen in my travels. The size and scope of the site is enormous. I took so many great pictures as I walked my way through. The bridges separating the sections, the moats, the statues and just the enormous size is incredible. The buildings were so beautiful looking with their tiled roofs. I could go on and on. Looking inside some of the pavilions and seeing the thrones and decorations was incredible. I never expected being taken back this way by “The Forbidden City”.
It was now about 5:30 and it took us almost one hour to get back to our hotel, which was not far away. Had time for a quick shower and then we all met for dinner in the hotel in our own dining room. The food was almost the same. The dishes are very similar. Great fish, meat, shrimp and vegetables all served family style.
Whats on for tomorrow. It is check out time in Beijing at 7:45 AM. All packed and ready to go. We first visit “Tiananmen Square”. “Tiananmen Square” is the largest public square in the world. Then its onto the Great Wall. More on all of this tomorrow including my own Sherpa.