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Beijing China - October 2005

This was my first time in China and it is an incredible experience. I'd definitely go back, and would like to check out Shanghai at some point. I've culled the ~3000 shots I took down to 116 below.

Some Overall Notes:

The City: I'm not sure what I expected to see, but it didn't feel like a communist country. At times it felt like any large US city, with professionals walking down the sidewalk with suits on and cell phone headsets in their ears, and at others it felt more foreign and third world. It's critical to plan ahead and have your hotel write up the names of the places you want to go in Chinese and always take a hotel business card with the address in Chinese with you, because it's not like Europe where you can sound out the names of the places you want to go and get the idea across to your cab driver. It's also huge! There's around 8 Million people in the city which is over 10-times the size of Seattle.

The Traffic: The traffic is really interesting here. There are tons of cars and at least as many bicycles, but despite the apparent chaos they seem to move rather harmoniously. I was told that around 60% of the licensed drivers in Beijing didn't have their licenses three years ago. There is lots of honking, but short beeps, and no one seems angry, it's just a way to communicate that you're moving over, or coming through. And despite the fact that there is a lot of people cutting off other people I'm not seeing anyone who appears angry or frustrated. No gestures, no visible stress, just little beeps, and continuing on. This is definitely a lesson in "just letting it go" that I'll take home with me. It may add years to my life.

The Sales Pitches: I was constantly getting hit up to buy things, some were hard sells, some were softer, and some were outright scams. It started at the airport where you get approached as soon as you emerge from customs by a guy in a suit asking if you need a cab. He then takes you downstairs explaining that they have access to a road that will cut the trip in half and shows you an official looking rate card. It's a scam and he's going to charge you over three times the going rate. You're constantly getting approached when you're near tourist destinations being offered rides on cycle cabs and postcards and souvenirs. Some of them have cool things to sell and some are just trying to scam you, like the guy who stood in front of the Forbidden City gate and told me that it was not an entrance and I need to go around the other side (it is huge) to the entrance. Luckily I'd been there the day before and blew him off, but I couldn't believe he'd just stand there and lie to me.


 

The Great Wall From the Air

The flight was brutal in coach. 2-hours to San Francisco, and over 12-hours to Beijing. My bottom is still a little numb two days later! I was sitting over the wing so it was hard to take pictures, but I got this one of the wall and cleaned it up a bit in photoshop.

Another From the Air

Here's another shot of the wall from the air. The engine exhaust made it a little blurry, but I cleaned it up as much as I could.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

I read this on the flight over. It's great. Christi and I saw one of the inventors of the game Cranium present once and he said it was outstanding. It talks about releasing your creativity at work and avoiding the bureaucracy to increase your productivity while still driving the goals of the company.

The Ride In

I landed around 4:30, was in the cab by 5:15, and in the Hotel by 6:00, and on the ride in from the airport the sun was so huge and orange you could look right at it. I didn't have my polarized filter on so this shot doesn't do it justice, but it was beautiful!

The Ring Road

Beijing is surrounded by multiple ring roads and my hotel is on the central one. I talked to someone who said they're building an new one outside all the rest that will be hundreds of kilometers.

Crystal Ball

The bannisters in the hotel have these huge crystal balls on the ends of them. I've been so well controlled by not pulling them off and rolling them around. Check out how the image inverts in the shot.

The Room

The room is incredible. I guess they upgraded me because I'm certainly not paying enough for a room this nice.

The Other Side of the Room

The room has a huge bedroom, a living room/office and two full bathrooms with showers and bath tubs. I have no idea why it has two full baths, but I can switch back and forth for a little variety

Soldier and Son

The children riding behind their parents are so adorable. I loved this one of the soldier riding with his son.

Homework on the Road

This little boy had his school work pressed up against his mother's back and was reading as they rode down the street.

Morning Rush

There was never less than 40 cyclists on any given block. It's an incredible sight to see, and that's just on the weekend. I can't wait to see what it's like during the week.

Clean Up

There are tons of public workers on the streets. The street sweepers were all using these brooms that looked like they were fashioned out of brush.

What I Saw

I saw the most incredible thing one morning. An older man was riding down the road on his bike with the handle bars weighed down with spare bike tires. He stopped momentarily in the bike lane (they are the size of a regular lane in the states) and set a small traingular object by his rear tire. (continued on next picture)

What I Saw Continued

I had been walking by and watching him and got suspicious so I walked back to see what he'd set down. As I got closer a group of cyclists came down the path and sure enough, one ran over the object and I could hear the hiss of his tire blowing out. He pulled over momentarily and then continued on. I was so shocked I didn't take a single picture of the incident.

Bike Cab

There's lots of these little motorcycle cabs around the city

Little Boy

This little boy watched me closely as he rode by with his mom. He was just adorable.

People's Culture Palace

Right across from Tiananmen Square is the People's Culture Palace. There's lots of cool soldiers around it and always tons of people.

Tiananmen Square Cyclists

A group of cyclists lined up at the intersection in front of Tiananmen Square

Bus Guide

These uniformed bus guides were at every stop with megaphones. The red sash says "Please Line Up". Translation thanks to my sister Annie's friend Dickson.

On the March

As these soldiers marched by I saw this little boy join in behind them and march along for a few moments.

Reflecting Dragons

This was a small pond in front of a hotel between mine and Tiananmen square. I'm hoping to see more stuff like this when I go to the Forbidden City.

Extreme Sweeping

This woman was sliding down this huge bannister while sweeping it

Sheep!

We took a mini-bus out to the great wall and I saw these Sheep on the side of the road with a little boy herding them along. All the trees along the road were painted white on the bottom. We weren't sure why, but I found out later that it was to protect against insects.

Puppy!

My travel doctor would be mad at me. She said no petting dogs because of rabies, but this guy was so adorable I couldn't help it. After I played with him he kept following me around the parking lot of the Cloisonne factory.

The Cloisonne Factory

We toured a factory where they make Cloisonne. Christi had told me about her tour of a Cloisonne factory when she was over here about seven years ago and it was incredible.

Cloisonne Process 1

Here's the write-ups they had of the cloisonne process

Cloisonne Process 2

Cloisonne Process 3

Cloisonne Process 4 & 5

Cloisonne Process 6

Craftsman

I am at a total loss for what this guy was doing. The guide was telling us, but I was so fascinated by taking pictures that I forgot what she said. He was painting something on the side of the copper pots.

Applying the Pattern

These women were attaching flattened copper wire to the pots to create intricate shapes.

Quality Control

This woman sat in the same room and reviewed every piece, making small modifications to any of the pots that did not meet the standard.

Up Close

Here's what the pieces look like when they're done attaching the wire to the sides of the pot.

Adding the Color

They use ground up minerals mixed into a paste and paint it into the spaces between the copper wire. They have to do one coat, fire it to melt the mineral into a glassy glaze, then another coat, and so on until it is thick enough.

The Firing Process

This man fired the pieces over this incredibly hot flame. They said it only needs to fire for a few minutes before going back for another coat.

Grinding them Smooth

Then in another room men attached the pieces to a device that spun them while they used stones to grind the glaze and copper wire down to make a perfectly smooth surface.

The Finished Product

We then went to their showroom where we could see (and buy) the finished product. It was incredible to see the completed work when you understood what went into it.

In Front of the Factory

My friend Jim from work took this shot of me in front of the factory.

Camel!

This camel was at the base of the wall. I think he was just there so tourists could get their picture with him. I wanted to pet him, but the woman tending him was yelling at me for just taking pictures as I walked by.

The Wall at Mutianyu

We took a cable car up to the wall. There were stairs to a lower portion, but the only way to get to the upper section was by cable car.

Jim

Here's a shot of Jim on the great wall. It was great having him to hang out with, and we met some really cool people in the tour group as well.

Me on the Wall

The requisite shot of me on the wall

The Walk

We walked from where I took this shot down the wall to a tower about 75% of the way up the hill you can see in the distance.

Did I Mention...

Did I mention I went to the great wall? Well I did! I had to struggle to keep perma-grin off my face the entire time I was there.

Shadows on the Wall

I like how the shadows of the crenallations fall on the top of the wall in this shot.

Meandering

It is just incredible to think about how they built this all along the peaks of these mountains. It was hard enough for us to get there. Imagine the building process. The guide said one emperor conscripted fully one-fifth of the population of China to build the wall, and an ancient Chinese myth states that each stone in the wall stands for a life lost during the wall's construction (which is apparently not far from the truth).

Steep Climb

My legs were dying when we got to the steep part. The stairs were taller in some places than others and it required constant focus.

The End of the Line

We stopped at tower 20 where the restoration of the wall stopped and we could see the wall decaying as it continued on.

Heading Back

Here's the view looking back the way we came up the wall.

Wow, That Was Steep

Looking back up to tower 20 that I'd just hiked down from.

The Foliage

The foliage was dense and came right up to the wall. I saw a picture in a book of a section of the wall where the entire path down the top of the wall is covered with vegetation. It was beautiful.

The Gantlet

When you come down from the wall you're routed through a gantlet of vendors who are brutally insistent. I was buffeted back and forth by them on my way down to the bus. I've never said "no thank you" more times in my life!

Lambkin

And of course Lambkin had to have her picture taken in front of the wall.

Donkey Cart

On the road back from the wall there were donkey carts on the road with all the cars.

No Driver?

This cart didn't look like it had a driver, but as we drove by we saw the driver sleeping in the cart as the donkey just made his way home.

Overloaded

Check out this little cart loaded high with some sort of crop

From the Front

Here's the same cart from the front

Sundown

The sun is huge and incredible in the evening (probably the result of polution, but neat to look at). Here it is as I walked to Tiananmen square.

Soldier

He was holding back the crowd that had gathered for the flag lowering in Tiananmen Square.

Lowering the Flag

There is a ceremony every morning at sunrise and every night at sunset to raise and lower the flag

Changing of the Guard

These two soldiers just switched positions outside of the Culture Palace

Guarding Mao

I love this shot of a lone soldier in front of the poster of Mao

Tiananmen Square

A shot of Tiananmen Square at night

Police Officer at the Stairs

I saw this great shot of a soldier standing at the top of the stairs as we emerged from an underground passageway across the street

One Dream

I wonder if it's Martin Luther King's dream, or if it's some other one?

One World

Oh, One Dream, One World, maybe One World is the one dream. Oh well, it was very shiny.

Tiananmen Square

A cool monument in the middle of Tiananmen Square

Countdown

The countdown to the Olympics

Culture Palace

The Culture Palace at Night

Roast Duck Anyone?

We had Peking (Beijing) Duck at one of the oldest restaurants in Beijing. It was very yummy!

The Restaurant

A shot of the interior of the Beijing Duck Restaurant

Vendor

I got this shot of a vendor pulling her cart in front of the Microsoft building

Cup Guidance

This guidance on usage of paper cups cracked me up

Crossing Guard

There were tons of crossing guards at intersections. Despite this it seemed like you were taking your life in your own hands every time you crossed the road.

Want a Ride?

The vendors are quite insistent and would follow you around trying to convince you to buy their goods or services

Forbidden City

A building in the Forbidden City reflected in a pond.

Soldier

I just can't stop taking pictures of soldiers, however I may have to since this one raised his hand at me right after I got this shot and didn't seem that happy with me.

Riding High

This little dog has it made

Major on a Bike

I went out early this morning to take pictures of people. This soldier on a bike came out really cool. You can tell he's a Major by the two lines and one star on his shoulder. My sister Annie's friend Dickson who's from China gave me the lowdown on rank insignias.

A Chat

Most of the people I saw weren't smiling so these two caught my eye.

Snack Break

A great opportunity to get a shot of one of the street sweepers.

Crossing Guard

I see this guy every day. He's got such a cool face.

Smog

Some days the haze is just brutal. Today in particular it was like taking pictures in chocolate milk.

Bicycle Corral Guards

Each of the bicycle corrals had its own guard who checked people in and organized the bikes for maximum efficiency

The Original Pick-up

It may carry less than a pick-up but it doesn't contribute to the pollution

Self Portrait

A shot of me in the reflection of a shop window near the Forbidden City

A Disappearing Artform

He was writing on the paving stones in the park using water and it was disappearing behind him

Dragons

Inside the Forbidden City I saw these dragons set in the wall

Pagoda in the Garden

I forgot the name of the garden, but it's in the Forbidden city and was really nifty

Guards

Okay, another depth of field shot of guards, but they're so much fun to take

An Artist from Mongolia

This guy was student from Mongolia and they were selling their artwork within the Forbidden City. The paintings of the doors in the background were his.

Starbucks in the Forbidden City

Not so forbidden now I guess, since there's actually a Starbucks in there. I had a Grande, Mocha, Frappucino, and I had it with whip since I'd been walking for hours.

Palace

There is palace after palace within the Forbidden City. Due to the haze I only got a few shots where the color popped, but this one was good.

Another Palace

The color isn't as good on this shot, but the building is beautiful

Large Courtyard

The next day there was almost no haze so I ran back to the Forbidden city to get a couple more shots. Here's a cool one that shows the scale of the courtyard.

Workman

On my way out of the Forbidden City I saw this workman crossing a bridge

Night Bridge

Jim and I had dinner in a cool restaurant near the Forbidden City. It specializes in Imperial cuisine and was pretty yummy.

Flag Raising Ceremony

I got up early this morning and got to Tiananmen Square at 5:15 for the Flag Raising. It happens at about 6:15, but thousands line up early so you have to get there early.

Up Goes the Flag

The ceremony was incredible, lots of soldiers marching, hundreds of school children, and military music playing from the loudspeakers.

Little Girl

This little girl was incredibly adorable.

Lambkin in Tiananmen Square

Of course Lambkin was insistent that she get her picture in Tiananmen Square.

Take a Photo With Us

The guy on the left came up to me while I was taking pictures and pointed to his camera saying "will you take a picture with us?" I assumed he meant "of us" and agreed. He was all excited and brought me over to a group of his friends. Then he proceeded to ask someone else to take our picture. It was funny. I had the same person take one with my camera too.

No Exploding Trucks

My feeling is that exploding trucks should be excluded everywhere, but apparently at this gate it was particularily important.

Going to Market

This shot of a woman with vegetables strapped onto her bike with the Chinese characters on the side of the bus behind her really caught my eye.

Full Cart

You can just read the history in the lines on this guy's face. I watched him as he slowly came down an alley and worked his way onto the main street, competing with morning traffic.

The Summer Palace

Dickson recommended that I check out the Summer Palace just outside of town. It was incredible. This shot is taken from a little island near the main gate.

Looking Left

Still standing on the Island I looked to the left and got this shot of a palace (or something cool looking) in the distance on the hill.

A Tower

Further off to the left is this far out tower on a hill.

The Long Corridor

Apparently the longest covered corridor in the world this goes all around the base of the Summer Palace and is decorated with incredible paintings all along the length. This is a shot of the ceiling beams as they disappear into the distance.

Decorations on the Eaves

The eaves of many of the buildings had incredible little sculptures on the corners.

The Front Gate

I think this is the "Front Gate" of Tiananmen Square. It looked really cool with the sun setting.

A Long Cup of Tea

They re-fill your teapot from about a foot away with this neat long spouted teapot.

No Thanks on the Scorpions

This was one of the options for dinner. A great deal at only about $14 USD, but I had to take a pass on the scorpions.

Coming Home!

China was really cool, but I was psyched to get home. Here's a neat shot of Seattle from the plane.

Space Needle

We did a u-turn over Seattle to head back to land at Seatac and I was able to get this cool shot of the space needle and Seattle Center