This was the second of Ahng Yimou's shows we saw on the tour around southern China. It's supposed to have the Jade Mountain as a backdrop, however, the day we were there it was pretty wet with loads of low cloud, so no backdrop.
Around 400 local ethnic Naxi, Bai and Yi people were selected from nearby towns and villages to participate in the performance. They dress up in their ethnic costumes and accessories to perform the singing and dancing.
As you can see it is another grand-scale spectacular! It was pretty wet the day we were there. I am not sure if they always do the show in wellies!
There are 56 recognised different ethnic groups in China. What we in the West (stereo-typically) think of as being Chinese are Han Chinese and they make up around 90% of the population. As I mentioned earlier, one of our friends commented that as you travel around China you will feel you are in a different country: Which is true!
One of the most striking things is how this different ethnicity shows in facial features. Here are some portraits of different people from the South of China. If one goes further West then the Tibetans look different again and the Uyghur (Pronounced Wee-ger.... Kind of like someone from Glasgow) are distinctly different again.
We walked around a really interesting market (in the rain) in Yunnan, where most Bai people come from/live.
I wasn't altogether fussed by going to the show I have to say. I fancied a quiet dinner and a sunset walk round the village where we were staying but the tickets were bought so off we went.
I was expecting some sort of tacky light show with high pitched warbling Chinese music. The show is absolutely stunning. A true spectacular!
The whole thing is put together by the same guy who did the opening ceremony to the Beijing Olympics (This seems to be a water-tight badge of his brilliance as far as the Chinese are concerned!) and has over 600 performers. It is billed as using the mountains as a backdrop for the lights. Hence my concern for some sort of terrible floodlit affair. However, it's night so you can't really see the mountains and it is the spectacle of the 600 performers on the water that makes. it.
On from Chengdu to Guilin in Guangxi province. This is a largely rural part of China and is absolutely wonderful. It is rice fields flanked by weirdly shaped peaks (Karst peaks, apparently!). Most Chinese tours stay in the main town of this area, Yangshuo. We would highly recommend avoiding this and finding something smaller and quieter in the countryside. I have to say, not impressed by the town itself, but the area that surrounds it is hard to beat... anywhere. This is doubly true if you have only experienced the mega-cities of the Eastern seaboard of China.
Before we went, a friend told us how much we would like it as it was like a different country. Hmmm! I'm sure it will be nice and different from here, but a different country? He was right and I was wrong. It is like a different country. Fresh, clear mountain air, lush green scenery, different food, faces. Everything is different.
The famous view is this one:
Very pretty, but if you don't know China you'll be wondering what the fuss is about. The reason it's famous is this is the reverse of the 20Y note.
Chengdu has a reputation amongst the Chinese as being a bit of a lazy place where people are more concerned about enjoying themselves than working hard! We certainly found plenty of evidence to back that up, indeed the locals seems quite proud of their reputation for laziness.
The centre of the city is Tianfu Square which is, as in may Chinese cities a big open area designed for those big mass rallies so beloved by the early communists. It is now quite a nice public space filled with fountains and police! It is over-looked by a huge (and I do mean huge) statue of Mao.
A short walk further on from Tianfu Square is Renmin Park, a perfect example about what I liked about Chengdu.
This was a lovely way to spend a morning. Once you are off the main roads there is very little traffic and it is mostly flat and very pretty.
Another popular option is to take a bamboo punt down the river. Although I have to say, this place was much busier than where we went from. Apparently, it's cheaper and shorter so very popular. They punt downstream, take off the seats, then man-handle the rafts onto a truck and drive back up. You frequently see these lorries piled ridiculously high with the rafts. Despite how it looks, it was a really peaceful hour or so floating down the river.
The rafts only last about three months as the bamboo wears out through crossing the weirs in the river constantly.
However, it is the countryside that is the real star attraction.
I think it's fair to say that zoos in China do not have the best reputation. For example, you can buy chickens and even cows to let loose into the lion's cages and watch the feeding frenzy begin.
This panda centre is excellent. It is set in a large amount of woodland and specialises in breeding programmes.
All of the guidebooks say get there early while they are still eating otherwise they become lifeless and shy. This is certainly something we would echo. By the time we had walked round a bit the main adult panda area was much quieter than when first got there and they were filling their faces.
The river here can be quite picturesque given the right weather. It also looks better while frozen on one of those cold, crisp, clear winter mornings. Perfect for a winter's morning walk.
I really like the repeating patterns in these apartment blocks. They also look good at night when some of the lights are on.... One day!
Harbin is a city in the far North East of China. It's closer to Vladivostok than Beijing and is only about 200KM from the Russian border. Obviously, being that close to Siberia it's chuffin' cold in the winter. We were told to expect temperatures down to MINUS 26 and, indeed, that's what they were the week before we went. However, it was a positively tropical minus 5-10 during the day so not too bad at all.
There is but one reason to risk the cold and go to Harbin in the middle of its winter and that's for the Ice Festival. A mega-event where several parts of the city are given over to buildings and sculptures made of ice. We were discussing this the other night and although that is what you go for (and it is amazing) it is the other stuff that makes it. The same is true of Xi'an and the Terracotta Warriors. The warriors are amazing and that is why you go to Xi'an, but the city is also really cool and interesting.
One of the interesting things about Harbin is the Russian influence. Lots of the shops still have Cyrillic lettering over their doors, there are lots of shops selling Russian themed tourist tat, including rocket launchers and land mines!
No trip of ours to Beijing would be complete without a wander around 798 a bite to eat and some quality people watching.
Definitely one of my favourite parts of China... Although (Dare I say it?) becoming quite commercial even in the 18 months we've been going. As if I would know commercial art from pile of dirty underwear!
To round off our week off for the Lunar New Year we took a trip down to the water park and the TV tower. The water park is a massive man made lake with some impressive, but new bridges that look like traditional Chinese/Japanese bridges. The whole thing was built because of Tianjin being an Olympic city. What? You missed that? Tianjin hosted some of the Olympic football and so therefore to be an Olympic city!
The water park is also home to the world's least impressive fun-fair. I am not even slightly sure that I trust Chinese built and maintained roller-coasters even if they were working (Which they weren't!).
First off, I thought Dagu was the swampy planet where Yoda lived! But no! Apparently it is a gun emplacement that defended Beijing's port city (Tianjin). The website describes it thus:
'The Dagu Kou Forts, also called the Taku Forts... [were] built in 1816 to protect Beijing, the capital of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). As a heroic symbol of China's fight against foreign invasion, the emplacement is considered one of the three treasures of Tianjin by its people.' I'll come back to the last sentence in the quote in bit.
Getting there was fun! We took the light rail from Tianjin station (a bargain at 90p for an hour's journey). I do have to say that if you are ever planning to make a film and need a set for that post nuclear apocalypse scene then the place to come and scout for locations is anywhere along the that journey.
The observatory sits on top of one of the few remaining parts of the city walls. So, a trip here is also a rare chance to see those too.
There are some small, but very nice gardens to walk around that house an interesting collection of planetary position fixing gear, all of which is ornately covered in the usual dragons.
The guy to the left is the one who was responsible for all of this physics stuff and there are a couple of statues to him. At the top of the watch tower are some bigger pieces of kit which look very impressive but I have no idea what they do/did.
One of the highlights is a water clock that uses uses a bunny to help measure the time but, unfortunately, the pictures of this didn't come out very well as it was inside and the light was too low. In the end we decided that it was more of a stopwatch than a clock: still it was querky.
Three adults, two children all for the bargain price of 65Y (GBP6.50) which I thought was pretty good value.
One of Beijing's lesser known sights but very interesting none-the-less and well worth a look see.
Shanghai was my first experience of China five years ago and I was not impressed! It was a big, ugly, dirty city. Either time has changed it for the better or I have got used to not living in lovely Taipei quicker than I thought.
Another belated Easter travels post (I have been having 'computer issues' of late).
While down in Shanghai we decided we would have a couple of nights in Suzhou. This is one of the many canal towns around Shangers. It's also one of the many places to call itself the 'Venice of the..' (insert geographical location), although Marco Polo thought it was pretty good! It is famed as the centre of Chinese garden design.
It also appears to be THE place to go to have your wedding photies taken.
I have to say that it is a top little (well, its a huge city, but the old town is quite compact) place.
This is a belated update following our grand tour around Eastern China with my Mother-in-law. The Terracotta Warriors are something you 'just have to see' while your in China. Not so sure about that, but they are unique and you won't see them anywhere else.
After the world heritage site of the Great Wall, the other thing we did during the Lunar New Year holiday was to look at some of the historical stuff in Tianjin. This is mainly centred on the 8 concession areas (There were 9 but America gave hers to Britain), in the same way that Shanghai has the concessions so too does Tianjin. Although to a large extent the original sutff has gone, there are still some interesting things to see. For example Pu Yi's house is there which is OK but not the most interesting thing, even if it is important.
So, I've returned to probably my two favourite Tianjin themes... The Station and the frozen river. I just can't get enough of the space age architecture of the station, which was just incredibly busy as most of Chinagets on a train during that week it seems.
More or less 6 months after moving to China I thought I should probably see what all the fuss was about and get out and see the wall. The wall is about 8500KM long so the first question is which bit? Most people seem to head up to Beijing to see it and I am sure we will too in the end.
As the river freezes people use it to fish. No comments as it speaks for itself. Was a bit nervous at first standing on the ice.
We'd been told that it gets really cold here (it does!) but that the air was so dry there was never a frost (doesn't seem to be) or much in the way of snow... Two out of three's not too bad.
This was the centre of the Middle Kingdom. The link between Heaven and the more mundane world here. This is where the Emperor would come to receive guidance on what to do only after the three days of fasting had attuned him to the frequency of the Gods (They probably sounded like Elvis or possibly Johnny Cash). During the procession from the Imperial Palace it was forbidden for commoners to view the court's procession so they had to stay inside with their windows shuttered.
The whole of the main temple is wooden and there is not a single nail used in its construction.
These are the old residential districts of Beijing. Sadly(?) many, if not most, have now gone but the remaining ones seem to be protected from the developers. They are basically just streets but are charming and there is a sense of community in them.
Well worth a gentle stroll. You won't see anything jaw-droppingly beautiful or spectacular.... They're just nice and peaceful, which is rare commodity in Beijing.
Our first half-term holiday and we took the 35 minute journey on the High Speed train to Beijing. Only 6GBP per person in first class, so we splashed out. Very impressed with China's railway system... Very clean, efficient and cheap!
First stop was the Forbidden City and then round to Tianaman Sq. They were a short walk from the hotel, so we thought would make a nice afternoon outing. The only problem was so did everyone else. According to the news the day we were there and the day before saw a total of 2.5 million people in the square.
Everyone else's pictures of this place show a vast deserted sq, it is (I believe) the largest public space in the world. So, even when there are a lot of people around it still looks empty.
Not on the day we went.... It was heaving. A double holiday of Moon festival and National day. Apparently they will make sure they don't fall at the same time in the future as it was so busy everywhere.
Still got the classic shot of the portrait of Mao though
Big floodlit buildings, bridges and statues, a reflection or two, add in some blurred movement from a boat and Bob's your Uncle... Neil's looking to get the camera and tripod out.
This is the first instalment of what I imagine will be a recurring theme as I work my way down the river... There a number of really interesting bridges and pieces of public art.
The Steel work was quite eye-catching at night.
This is the same bridge as before but showing a boat moving down the river and the Jin Tower, which is the tallest building in Tianjin in the background.
The next bridge up, which leads to the Old Italian Concession, is modelled on a Parisian theme. It sounds fairly bad, but actually the effect is quite nice. The Italian concesion is full of EUropean resaurants and is not a bad place to eat, but it does, to me a t least, feel really touristy.
This will be a blog about my latest shots and what I liked or was trying to do with them
I am a teacher of Economics and have worked in various schools in Europe & Asia. One of the things I love doing is getting out and about with my camera.
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