Asia Things to Do Tips by sourbugger Top 5 Page for this destination
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It is, apparantly, very difficult to tell the difference between a Cormorant and a shag. The only discernable thing is that one provokes a good smirk, whilst the other does not.
One of the 'classic' images of China is of a solitary Fisherman on his bamboo raft on the Li River around Guilin. His trusty cormorant (or shag) will dive for a fish, and dutifully return it to his master. He is prevented from swallowing it whole by a ring tied around his (or her) neck. I'm not sure if this kind of fishing is still a viable business, but I think it will keep going if only for the touristic appeal.
The other main attraction of the river is the incredible scenery. The river cruises are very popular, but you will only see half of the features by that method. The Limestone stacks and cave are littered around the area, but the valley floor itself if very flat. This makes for great country to cycle around.
If you can avoid the clutches of the touristy boat cruises then get yourself on a local ferry. It will cost you next to nothing (the river cruises are very over-priced) and if you hire a cycle, then you can 'hop-off' and explore on your terms and timetable.
Many of the hills and caves have some very daft names to western ears, but on no account miss 'Moon Hill' - it has to be one of the beautiful places I have ever seen
One way of gaining an introduction to the world of the 'Forbidden' city is to watch the film 'The Last emperor'. This epic was the first foreign film to be given permission to film in the forbidden city itself.
An enormous complex of over 8,000 rooms and various assorted gardens, it is the largest collection of UNESCO protected wooden buildings in the world. Parts of the complex are still 'forbidden' in the sense that rennovations mean tourists are shut out. The main tour thus takes in a few of the more spectaular buildings and gardens.
For many years (and probably still now) the audio-tour of the Imperial palace was resplendant with the dulcet tones of Roger Moore carefully intonating the history and traditions of the place. Nice to see that he got some more work after the James Bond thing dried up.
Tianamen square forms the main entrance area, one of the largest public spaces in the world (and soon to be dwarfed by a new square in one of those thrusting industrial cities of China). When I last visted it still had a giant picture of Mao hanging over the outside wall of the Forbidden city. I presume that in the 'New China' that has now probably been replaced by a hoarding for Coca-cola or McDonald's.
The forbidden city remains an absolute must see, even if the Old Emperors must be turning in the graves watching the unwashed masses trundle through their former home.
Why, in the future will the Great Wall of China be lit up at night ?
Imagine this Conversation in 2017, with the launch of the first commercially-funded 'Ming space flight'.
Ming manned space flight contol deck: "Wuxi, Wuxi, are you recieving us ?"
Wuxi Ground control centre: "Sound and clear, go ahead Ming"
Ming : "Wuxi, we have a problem..."
Wuxi : "Go ahead Ming"
Ming : "We can't see the great wall of China, but the Dutch motorway network looks lovely, a really nice glow..."
Wuxi : "Ming, this had better be a joke, everyone knows you can see the great wall of China from space"
Ming : " Well we only had the word of the Americans. Confirm. No sighting of the wall"
Wuxi : "This is a disaster. Chinese millionaires arn't going to pay us millions to look at the
bloody Dutch motorway network, are you sure ?"
Ming : "We confirm Wuxi, but hang on...we have an idea...if you can nip out and buy 8,000Kms of Florescent tubes and put them up on the wall, we just might be able to have a confirmed sighting"
Wuxi : "oh bugger"
It was only in the 1970's that some local farmers whilst sorting out a new well stumbled across a truely amazing discovery.
Thirty years on the excavations are still going apace, with four pits currently discovered (the fourth one is empty). The actual location of the emperor himself still remains to be found (officially at least). It is said that the people who buried him were sealed in the tomb with him, thus making it less likely that his location would be revealed - and it seems to have worked. I bet that they never that particular piece of information on their job description.
To get to that point of burial took up to 700,000 workers nearly 40 years of hard toil. I suspect that such an enterprise must have put a severe strain on the ecomonic system at the time.
The experience of looking at the vast terracotta army in the hanger-like sheds built to protect and show them off was, without doubt, impressive. It somehow reminded me very clearly of that scene in the film 'I Robot' when the Robots are just ready to be sent out - but among them stand one robot with a mind of his own....
With names like the the Garden of Harmonious interests, you could only be in the world of Classical Chinese gardening.
The Summer palace seeks to out-do any imperial garden on the face of the earth. Although parts of it are still in ruins, the parkland area is an absolute must see. It is also a welcom antidote to the smog and fumes (and spring duststorms) of the city centre.
The Summer Palace was begun in 1750, as it was commissioned by Emperor Qinglong as a gift for his mother's birthday (wan't that nice of him, he loved his 'ol mum you know) . It took 15 years to complete. The Opium wars led to most of the buildings being destroyed in 1860 (a war fought over Opium supply ? nice to know they had a good reason for the conflict).
They were renovated in 1888 by Empress Dowager Cixi.
Boating on the lake is a great diversion, and taking photographs of the Summer Palaces's most famous daft feature, the marble boat is also a must do. It must be one ofg the world's most expensive follies.
Dressing up as an emperor or dowager and poncing around the place for touristy photographs ? I'll give that one a skip. Thanks, but no thanks.
Unless you are into cheating (*) then prepare yourself for 7,200 steps up China's most holy mountain. You will certainly have calfs like rock-hard tree trunks by the time you get down again.
People have been climbing the mountain for over 3,000 years and in that time dozens of temples and hundred of inscriptions have embellished the journey.
Mao said of Mount Tai : "To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather", never one given to understatement he also said in an attempt at a cryptic saying, after he had ascended the mountain and looked at the Sunrise "The East is Red". That was a real rib-tickler, Mao. Ha Ha.
You will not be alone on any ascent, the mountain attracted six million visitors last year.
(*) You can cheat by taking a bus up to half-way before you begin walking, or be even more lazy and take the cablecar as well.
There is 1000 year old saying that goes something like this : "In heaven there is paradise, down on earth there are Suzhou and Hangzhou".
With self-promotion like that, it is not suprising that Suzhou appears on virtually any tour of China. Rightly so, I would argue. The medium-sized city has a wealth of gardens, often planted by retired official / politician / bigwigs and a collection of that most Asian of architectural forms, the Pagoda.
I defy anyone not to be taken in by the charms of this city.
Some architects regard the Pagoda as a 'perfect shape', rather like a large egg, that is full of other-wordly symbolism. I would like to think that the world0famous archtect I.M.Pei might have been inspired in his work by being born here and seeing such wonderful forms at an early age. I understand that he has returned to his birthplace, and is overseeing the construction of a new municipal museum in the city.
An absolute must in China - and a bit of serenity for your soul to partake in as well !
The 'Bund' is a mile long piece of waterfront in Shaghai. It has long history of being the commercial centre of the city in the days when foreign companies and their employees made Shanghai a byword for frivolity, hedonism and depravity !
These days the building have a much more 'staid' feel to them. The fifty odd important ones now come with some kind of preservation order on them.
It is still a great place to go for a stroll, taking in the sights on the Shanghai side, and looking over the buzy working river to Pudong as well. Despite it's unfortunate name Pudong is the gleaming 'New York' style sky-scraper area of the city that seems to expanding upwards at a terrifying rate
The city of Pingyao is one of the treasures or China. Despite it's wealth of buildings, museums and virtually complete city walls it does not get the number of tourists that more prominent sites do.
It has been a UNESCO world hertitage site since 1997, and the restoration work has been able to proceed at a greater pace. With most roads unpaved and running water still lacking in many parts of the city it is quite a challenge. The challenge is to introduce things like a modern sewage system without destroying an almost perfectly preserved 14th century town.
There is a danger it will become an overly-touristed hotspot, but I hope the UNSECO expertise will prevent the town going down this path
"A man should practice what he preaches, but a man should also preach what he practices." I heartily agree with that sentiment.
Despite extensive research it remains umproven that he also said "Woman who cook Carrot and pea in same pot, not Hygenic".
The complex of buildings in this little town are well worth stopping off for. They are easily visited as they lie on the main route between Shanghai ad Bejing. I was quite taken by the peace and 'laid-back' feel of the town, and of course the buildings and temples themselves form the second largest set of historical buildings in China after the forbidden city.
There is something of a debate as to whether the teachings on Confucius can be construed as a religion. What is not in doubt, however, is the profound influence he had of the morals and politics of China over many centuries.
Quite how he would view modern day China is anybody's guess. A country that claims to be communist in outlook, but is home to so much Capitalist activity hardly fulfills the axiom of Confucius at the top of the page.
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