I finally have access to LJ. Yay! It took getting to Hong Kong to do it. LJ appears to be one of the sites blocked from China but is still accessible in Hong Kong. So far it's been very hectic. The 9 day tour through China was fantastic. We hit alot of the historic and natural sights I've always wanted to see. Here's a brief synopsis of the trip so far.
First Day (flying to Beijing, 13 1/2 hours)
The red-eye flight was long but uneventful. We arrived around 6pm, met the other people on the tour. Some are from Vancouver, Calgary, the US and one from Australia. Went to a nice chinese dinner, but was too tired to remember much from it. Went to the Jade Palace Hotel and crashed for the night.
Day Two (Beijing)
This was a full day with the highlights being visits to Tienanmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Going through the gated entrance with the large portrait of Mao, you arrive at the .outer court area of the Forbidden City, the Hall of Imperial Peace. The Imperial Palace (which is also known as the Forbidden City) was the center of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It's a huge complex which housed the Emperor, his family and all of his attendants, at its zenith, twelve thousand people lived within its walls. It covers over 1 million square meters. The buildings themselves account for 170,000 sq meters.
We arrived at Tienanmien Square first. It truly is huge. Loads of tourists. It's hard to believe that a week ago, during the China's nationalist holiday that there were even more people. The square is surrounded by two ancient towers on one end, the entrance to the Forbidden City (with Chairman Mao's portrait on the wall), the Great Hall and the National Museum. Inside the square, other than for the hordes of people, was a lantern display left over from the national holiday plus a popular one for the Olympics.
This visit verified something that I had heard when visiting the National Palace museum in Taiwan. It was said that the majority of the relics from the Forbidden City were taken away by Chiang Kai-Shek and the people who founded Taiwan. Well, it appears that this is a fact. In a tour of the Imperial Palace, we were told that 70% of the artifacts from the palace did indeed reside in Taiwan. The only things that weren't taken were mainly the things too large to be moved.
Visiting these two sites, I'm really struck by how grand a scale everything is. They don't do things by halves here, not even in the ancient days, which made the living areas surprising. The personal living area (bedroom) for the Emperor and his concubines (of course there were up to 3000 of them at one time) are quite small in comparison to the Palace grounds, the gardens, etc.
The Temple of Heaven is a large round temple that was constructed without any nails. Each piece fits exactly.
There was also an acrobatic show in the evening to round out the day.
Entering into Tienanmen Square
Two ancient gates in Tienanmen Square
Great Hall of the People on the west side
Lantern display inside the square
Monument to the People's Heroes
An Olympic displays inside the square
National Museum of China on the east side of the square which covers the history of China up to the end of the Qing Dynasty</p>
Approaching the Mausoleum to Mao, which is also the entrance to the Forbidden City
Closer view to Mausoleum
Just inside the entrance to the Forbidden City