Foreshadowing a humid day

Foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author hints certain plot developments that perhaps will come to be later in the story. It is used to arouse the reader, viewer or listener about how the story will proceed and mentally prepare them for how it will unfold.

The Magnificent Mist covered Xian Wall
The Magnificent Mist covered Xian Wall

Exploring the magnificent city walls of Xian during our China Odyssey was definitely an amazing adventure. Here is a taste of our mist covered morning spent on one of the most famous ancient city walls in China. Xian wall is the longest, the most intact and best-preserved, and the largest in scale of the ancient defense systems in the world. This wall has a circumference of 13.74 kilometers which you can walk, bike or for the soft option take a little “golf cart” trip. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Goat in a Coat in Moscow

Goat in a coat

This week the photo challenge is to focus on one thing. Here is definitely one thing that fascinated me while living in Moscow.  On my way to work I would often pass by this old man with his goat in a coat. He would usually be standing close to the metro collecting money for his goat come sunshine, rain or snow.

The old man standing along side the road with his pet goat

Wordless Wednesday: UAE Desert

UAE, Desert
UAE, Desert

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

The Fabulous Summer Palace and its Amazing Gardens in Beijing

situated on Longevity Hill
Summer Palace situated on Longevity Hill

Walking through the Summer Palace where once only Royalty could enter was very high on my Beijing wish list. Our China Odyssey group took taxis to the Summer Palace and unfortunately the taxi drivers dropped us off at different entrances so we were split up for the day. This ended up not being a huge problem as we had all arranged to meet again later that day to attend the Beijing Opera.  

Kunming Lake
The lotus covered Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace of Beijing, is a fabulously huge place dominated by the Kunming Lake which lies right in-front of this huge Palace complex. The Palace buildings are mostly situated on Longevity Hill from where you get the most amazing views over the lotus flower filled Lake.

The huge Kunming Lake covers an area of 2.2 square kilometers and was the sight that greeted us as we entered the Palace grounds. This vast expanse of water with its lotus filled edges is a breathtaking view. The lake is filled with small leisure boats taking tourist out to get a closer view of the lotus flowers or the small islands dotted all over the lake.

Walking through the colourful Long Gallery of the Western Causeway
Walking through the colourful Long Gallery of the Western Causeway
Each pillar had an unique painting
Each pillar had an unique painting above it

The East Causeway of the lake is connected to the West Causeway by the Long painted Gallery, interspersed with pavilions, bridges and wharfs. Walking through this colourful wooden pavilion was an amazing experience. Each pillar section had an unique painting and you could see that it must have taken them ages to decorate this walkway. Each art work depicts a beautiful scene from China’s rich history or the countless beautiful natural scenes that fill it.

Walking along the same path the Emperors of China walked is such an amazing experience.

It was a typical Chinese summer day, very hot and humid but we took our time exploring this amazing place. It was an awesomely huge and great place to explore with lots of old buildings and beautiful views over the lake and forest surrounding the place. 

In the SummerPalace, one finds a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectural structures.

The main archway, entering the SummerPalace
The main archway, entering the SummerPalace
The Cloud-Dispelling Hall
The Cloud-Dispelling Hall

The palace building are all situated along Longevity Hill which is about 60 metres high with loads of steep staircases and pathways leading to the top. The foot of this hill is filled with rich with splendid halls and pavilions, while the back hill, in sharp contrast, is quiet with natural beauty. This was where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu met officials and conducted state affairs. With the same pattern of the imperial palace of China-‘Palace in front and garden behind’, the Court Area consists of sections for both court affairs and living.

This is the most magnificent area with the most constructions. It is symmetrically laid out with many delicate buildings and graceful gardens with the south-facing Tower of Buddhist Incense as the central axis.

Mom and I infront of the Cloud-Dispelling Hall
Mom and I infront of the Cloud-Dispelling Hall

On its southern slope, Longevity Hill is adorned with an ensemble of grand buildings: The Cloud-Dispelling Hall, the Temple of Buddhist Virtue, and the Sea of Wisdom Temple.

Looking out over the Summer Palace courtyard
Looking out over the Summer Palace courtyard
Temple of Buddhist Virtue
Walking up to the Temple of Buddhist Virtue
Temple of Buddhist Virtue
Temple of Buddhist Virtue

In the center of the Temple of Buddhist Virtue stands the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Fo Xiang Ge), which forms the focal point for the buildings on the southern slope of Longevity Hill. The tower is built on a 20-meter-tall stone base, is 41 meters high with three stories and supported by eight ironwood pillars. There are also the Garden of Virtue and Harmony where Cixi was entertained and Yiyun Hall where once lived the Empress Longyu.

Hall of Benevolence and Longevity
Hall of Benevolence and Longevity


East Palace Gate and Hall of Benevolence and Longevity served as office of the Emperor. The Hall of Jade Ripples was for Guangxu to live in and the Hall of Joyful Longevity for Cixi.

The SummerPalace started out life as the ‘Garden of Clear Ripples’  in 1750. It served as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi, who diverted 30 million taels of silver, said to be originally designated for the Chinese navy, into the reconstruction and enlargement of the SummerPalace. This diversion of funds away from military sources came just six years before the first First Sino-Japanese War which China lost.

The old town with all its canals
The old town with all its canals
The old town with all its canals
The old town with all its canals

The Rear Hill area to the North is quiet compared to the Front Hill Area. Most constructions were never able to be repaired after wars, only a few ruins are left. In the axis of Rear Hill Area, there used to be a religious building group-HoudaTemple, a composite structure with both Han and Tibetan characters. Although the constructions are fewer here, it has a unique landscape with dense green trees and winding paths. Situated in the heart of this area is the old town with all its canals and walkways. This canal filled street is known as Suzhou Steet. It was built as an exact copy of Shantang Steet for the Empress Dowager, Cixi (1835–1908), of the Qing Dynasty for her amusement.

The Rear Hill area to the North
The Rear Hill area to the North of the Summer Palace
This canal filled street is known as Suzhou Steet.
This canal filled street is known as Suzhou Steet.
Artisan captured at work
Artisan captured at work

In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.” 

 It was built as an exact copy of Shantang Steet for the Empress Dowager,
It was built as an exact copy of Shantang Steet for the Empress Dowager,

Super fresh handmade pasta in Suzhou, China

Suzhou, the morning after the Typhoon
Suzhou, the morning after the Typhoon
Small cafe across from our hotel
Small cafe across from our hotel

One of my most tasty noodle dishes was having fresh rice noodles with vegetables at a small local cafe in Suzhou.

This small local place was situated across the street from our hotel where we were spending the night. After spending the day exploring Suzhou by braving the Typhoon we were chilled to the bone and didn’t want to venture too far for dinner. With the Typhoon still raging outside we found dry refuge inside this little cosy noodle cafe.

We were not expecting much as the dishes were priced quite cheap and were pleasantly surprised when our noodles were made right in front of us. The guy worked with so much skill and made the rice noodles all by hand, not once did he use a pasta roller or cutter.

Our vegetables were just as fresh as we could actually watch them being washed and then prepared for us.

Noodles are an essential ingredient and staple in Chinese cuisine. There is a great variety of Chinese noodles, which vary according to their region of production, ingredients, shape or width, and manner of preparation. These wheat noodles are made with eggs, which adds flavour, colour, and body. They are actually called ‘pulled noodles’ of LanZhou.  They are made by stretching and folding the dough into strands. However, the twisting and subsequent stretching of the strips of dough happens due to the weight of the dough. Depending on the number of times the dough gets folded, the strands can be made in various lengths and thicknesses.

Mom enjoying our fresh noodles and vegetable breakfast
Mom enjoying our fresh noodles and vegetable breakfast

We returned for another bowl of fresh noodles the next morning for breakfast. The weather had cleared up a bit by then so I could actually take some photos. This was definitely one of the top ten dishes we had while exploring China on our China Odyssey tour.

Walking Through Chinese Gardens and Parks during a Typhoon

Our crazy guide Jay
Our crazy guide Jay

During our month long China Odyssey we had hot and humid weather but as we arrived in Suzhou it was raining and the wind was blowing. We actually arrived smack in the middle of a typhoon hitting Suzhou. Normally people would stay indoors during a Typhoon and only venture out if it was really necessary. But unfortunately we only had one full day to explore Suzhou so actually braved the Typhoon.

Originally founded in 514 BC, Suzhou has over 2,500 years of rich history, and relics of the past are abundant to this day. The city’s canals, stone bridges, pagodas, and meticulously designed gardens have contributed to its status as one of the top tourist attractions in China. 

Braving the Typhoon to see the famous waterways of Suzhou
Braving the Typhoon to see the famous waterways of Suzhou

known as the Venice of china
Known as the Venice of china

Armed with umbrellas and rain jackets we took the last outgoing boat to see what is known as the Venice of china.

It was pouring down and the wind was picking up so we had to appreciate the scenery through rain streaked windows or get soaked when we opened it to take a picture.  

 

Both eight hundred-year-old Pingjiang Street and twelve hundred-year-old Shantang Street made it to the list of China’s “famous history and culture streets”, and both feature elegant bridges, flowing waters and unique architecture.

When Bai Juyi (772–846), a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, was mayor of Suzhou, he got the people to dig ditches and build roads. They developed a waterway, the Shantang River, and Shantang St to connect Tiger Hill with Suzhou. Then the street gradually became a popular tourism resort with Wu characteristics and plenty of ethnic customs.

cultural area of old Suzhou and has been in existence for 1,000 years
This cultural area of old Suzhou and has been in existence for 1,000 years
Houses along the waterway
Houses along the waterway

The Pingjiang Street is in the northeastern part of old Suzhou on a 116.5-hectare area, which has a 2,500-year history and the best-preserved cultural-protection zone of old Suzhou. Throughout history, many literary scholars, high officials, and members of the nobility lived in the quarter. It is an open district consisting mainly of residential buildings and its true value lies in the traditional style of living. The Pingjiang Quarter is part of the historic, cultural area of old Suzhou and has been in existence for 1,000 years, maintaining the style of the Song Dynasty. It is a portrait of “water and land, and rivers adjacent to the streets,” and a good example of the waterside towns south of the Yangtze River with their “small bridges over flowing streams, and whitewashed walls and black tiles”.

Suzhou is famous for its classical gardens and we couldnt leave without visiting them although it was pouring down outside. We ended up walking through two of Suzhous most beautiful gardens.

Braving the Typhoon!
Braving the Typhoon!

While walking through the parks umbrellas got blown away and we were soaked from head to toes by the time we finished exploring the second beautiful park.

Because of the Typhoon the parks were quite empty so we could get lovely photos of the gardens. Not a lot of people seemed crazy enough to walk through a park during a typhoon.

The Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest garden in Suzhou and is considered by some to be the finest garden in all of southern China. It was the residence and garden of Lu Guimeng, a Tang Dynasty scholar. Later in the Yuan Dynasty it became the Dahong Temple’s garden.

The Humble Administrator's Garden
The Humble Administrator’s Garden
The Humble Administrator's Garden
The Humble Administrator’s Garden

In 1513 CE, Wang Xiancheng, an Imperial Envoy and poet of the Ming Dynasty created a garden on the site of the dilapidated Dahong Temple which had been burnt during the Ming conquest. In 1510, he retired to his native home of Suzhou under the occasion of his father’s death. He had experienced a tumultuous official life punctuated by various demotions and promotions, and gave up his last official post as magistrate of Yongjia county in Zhejiang province, and began to work on the garden.

An Idle Life, “I enjoy a carefree life by planting trees and building my own house…I irrigate my garden and grow vegetables for me to eat…such a life suits a retired official like me well.”[4] This verse symbolized Wang’s desire to retire from politics and adopt a hermits life in the manner of Tao Yuanming.

The Humble Administrator's Garden
Walking through the Humble Administrator’s Garden

Wang’s son lost the garden to pay gambling debts, and it has changed hands many times since. In 1860, it became the residence of a Taiping prince, Li Xiucheng and it was remodeled, and the current aspect of the garden is said to be inherited from this period.

The Humble Administrator's GardenThe Humble Administrator's Garden
In the middle of the Humble Administrator’s Garden
The garden contains numerous pavilions and bridges
The garden contains numerous pavilions and bridges

The garden contains numerous pavilions and bridges set among a maze of connected pools and islands. We couldnt apreciate the full beauty of it in the puring rain but it was still an amazing experience walking through this garden.

In total, the garden contains 48 different buildings with 101 tablets, 40 stelae, 21 precious old trees, and over 700 Suzhou-style penjing/penzai. No wonder we got lost a bit and it took us a while to find the exit again.

The second Garden we braved in the Typhoon was Lingering Garden a renowned classical Chinese garden.

Lingering Garden
Lingering Garden

Lingering Garden was commissioned by Xu Taishi an impeached and later exonerated official in 1593 CE. Stonemason Zhou Shicheng designed and built the East Garden as it was initially called. The East Garden became famous in its day when the magistrates of Wu and Changzhou County both praised the design of Shi Ping Peak, a rockery constructed to resemble Tiantai Mountain in Putao.

Lingering Garden
Lingering Garden

From 1823 CE the garden was open to public, and became a famed resort.

During Sino-Japanese War, the garden was abandoned, and it even degenerated into breeding zone for army’s horses. After establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Suzhou government took over and renovated the garden. It was reopened to the public in 1954. 

View of the garden out of the pavillion
View of the garden out of the pavillion

The 23,310 m2 garden is divided into four distinctly themed sections; East, Central, West, and North. The Central area is the oldest part of the garden. Buildings, the primary feature of any Chinese garden, occupy one third of the total area.

A unique feature this garden is the 700 m covered walk which connects the different sections.
A unique feature this garden is the 700 m covered walk which connects the different sections.

A unique feature this garden is the 700 m covered walk which connects the different sections. 

The built elements of the garden are grouped by section. The ensemble of structures in the central garden encircles a pond and grotto main feature.

 Old Hermit Scholars' House
Old Hermit Scholars’ House

Behind the Old Hermit Scholars’ House is the SmallCourtofStoneForest, a collection of Scholar stones and connected minor courtyards.

The classical gardens in Suzhou were added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997 and 2000. 

Standing and Walking on The Great Wall of China!!

The Great Wall of China
This is where we will be going on the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the Architectural Wonders of the Middle Ages and getting to see and stand on it has been one of the highlights of my travel adventures up to date. The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese against intrusions.

The Great Wall of China
Im snanding on the Great Wall of China!!

The Great Wall of ChinaThe Great Wall, one of the greatest wonders of the world, was listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. Just like a gigantic dragon, the Great Wall winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, stretching approximately 8,851.8 kilometers  from east to west of China. Our China Odyssey group got to visit the  Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China located about 70 km northeast of central Beijing.

 We actually had a choice of either taking a cable car to the wall or climb the 4000+ steps from the base to the wall entrance. Everybody in our group was quite eager to take the cable car up and skip to steep 4000+ step climb up.

This section of the Great Wall is surrounded by woodland and streams and we traveled up the forest covered mountainside to the watchtower. 

The Great Wall of China
Mom and I together on the Great Wall of China

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, and surprising ly enough it wasn’t as crowded as expected. The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs.

Mom and I had a fabulous time up on the Great Wall! We walked around but stopped nearly every 5 steps to take  photos of the wall and the stunning scenery surrounding it. Stepping out across the peaceful semi-ruin of a section of the Great Wall is like walking in the footsteps of the past. Far from the madding tourist crowds we are able to get a great sense of the scale and the majesty of this remarkable piece of engineering without rushing through in a big group. We were quite lucky to get some shots of the Great Wall without people in it!!

The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China

It was amazing to be up there and so special to be able to share this amazing moment with my mom.

Mom hiding in the Great Wall!!
Mom hiding in the Great Wall!!
The Great Wall of China
Having loads of fun on the Great Wall of China
Watchtowers
Behind me is the Watchtower

Built mainly with granite, the wall is 7–8.5 meters high and the top is 4–5 meters wide. Compared with other sections of Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall possesses some unique characteristics in its construction.

Watchtowers are densely placed along this section of the Great Wall – 22 watchtowers on this 2,250-metre-long stretch.

Watchtowers
Inside one of the Watchtowers
Walking along the Great Wall!!
Walking along the Great Wall!!

To get to the bottom of the hillside again we had a couple of option. We could either walk the 4000+ steps down or choose between a two-rider chairlift or four-rider to descend. Another feature of the wall at Mutianyu is an alternate method of descent by single-rider personal wheeled toboggan. This allows single riders to descend from the wall to the valley on a winding metal track.

Our China Odessey group on the Great Wall
Our China Odessey group on the Great Wall
My mom and I took the cable car down
My mom and I taking the cable car down

My mom and I took the cable car down and at the bottom of the foothill we stopped to buy some wall postcards. We looked through some of the other wall souvenirs and then walked down the cobbled road to the parking lot where we were meeting the rest of out group. As we reached the bottom my mom realized that her camera was missing. I think my mom nearly had a heart attack and went white from shock. We ran back up the cobbled steps and luckily the postcard lady had kept the camera that my mom had left there.  This was another reminder that I had to constantly check that my mom had all her stuff with her as she kept loosing things.

Shops at the bottom of the Great Wall
Shops at the bottom of the Great Wall

Stepping foot into China’s Forbidden City in Beijing

Entering the Forbidden City through the East Glorious Gate,
Entering the Forbidden City through the East Glorious Gate,

Walking through the Forbidden City of Beijing has always been very high on my wishlist and getting to walk through this Chinese imperial palace while on our China Odyssey was a dream come true.

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.

Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 720,000 m2. So you need more than a day to be able to explore the whole palace and its surrounding gardens. We spent a whole day exploring the Palace and only saw the most important parts.

Me in front of the East Glorius Gates we just walked through to enter the Forbidden City.
Me in front of the East Glorius Gates we just walked through to enter the Forbidden City.

We entered the Forbidden City through the East Glorious Gate, walking through the Imperial palace and ending our adventure in the ImperialGarden at the North Gate. 

As we entered the city we walked along the central gateway, a stone flagged path that forms the central axis of the Forbidden City and leads all the way from the Gate of China in the south to Jingshan in the north. Only the Emperor was allowed to walk or ride on the Imperial Way, except for the Empress on the occasion of her wedding, so I felt quite royal walking along this path. 

Standing on the Royal Walkway!!!
Standing on the Royal Walkway!!!

Traditionally, the Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The Outer Court which was used for ceremonial purposes. The Inner Court or BackPalace which was the residence of the Emperor and his family, and was used for day-to-day affairs of state.

Entering from the Meridian Gate, we encountered a large square, pierced by the meandering Inner Golden Water River, which is crossed by five bridges.

the Gate of Supreme Harmony
Crossing the bridge to the Gate of Supreme Harmony

Behind that is the Hall of Supreme Harmony Square. A three-tiered white marble terrace rises from this square. Three halls stand on top of this terrace, the focus of the palace complex.

Hall of Supreme Harmony Square
Hall of Supreme Harmony Square
The Hall of Supreme Harmony
The Hall of Supreme Harmony

From the south, these are the Hall of Supreme Harmony , the Hall of Central Harmony , and the Hall of Preserving Harmony .

The Hall of Supreme Harmony  is the largest, and rises some 30 metres above the level of the surrounding square. It is the ceremonial centre of imperial power, and the largest surviving wooden structure in China. Set into the ceiling at the centre of the hall is an intricate caisson decorated with a coiled dragon, from the mouth of which issues a chandelier-like set of metal balls, called the “Xuanyuan Mirror”.

Yellow is the color of the Emperor. Thus almost all roofs in the Forbidden City bear yellow glazed tiles. 

The Hall of Central Peace is a smaller, square hall, used by the Emperor to prepare and rest before and during ceremonies. 

Hall of Preserving Harmony
Hall of Preserving Harmony

Behind it, the Hall of Preserving Harmony, was used for rehearsing ceremonies, and was also the site of the final stage of the Imperial examination. All three halls feature imperial thrones, the largest and most elaborate one being that in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

ceremonial ramps
Infront of the ceremonial ramps

At the centre of the ramps leading up to the terraces are ceremonial ramps, part of the Imperial Way, featuring elaborate and symbolic bas-relief carvings.

The Inner Court
Entering the Inner Court
Our Choina Oddesey tour group!!
Our Choina Oddesey tour group!!

The Inner Court is separated from the Outer Court by an oblong courtyard and was the home of the Emperor and his family. In the Qing Dynasty, the Emperor lived and worked almost exclusively in the Inner Court, with the Outer Court used only for ceremonial purposes.

Water spouts between levels in the Inner Court prevent flooding on the higher levels.
Water spouts between levels in the Inner Court prevent flooding on the higher levels.
•The sloping ridges of building roofs are decorated with a line of statuettes led by a man riding a phoenix and followed by an imperial dragon. The number of statuettes represents the status of the building – a minor building might have 3 or 5. The Hall of Supreme Harmony has 10, the only building in the country to be permitted this in Imperial times.
The sloping ridges of building roofs are decorated with a line of statuettes led by a man riding a phoenix and followed by an imperial dragon. The number of statuettes represents the status of the building – a minor building might have 3 or 5. The Hall of Supreme Harmony has 10, the only building in the country to be permitted this in Imperial times.

At the centre of the Inner Court is another set of three halls . From the south, these are the Palace of Heavenly CourtHall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. Smaller than the Outer Court halls, the three halls of the Inner Court were the official residences of the Emperor and the Empress.

The Emperor, representing Yang and the Heavens, would occupy the Palace of Heavenly Purity.
The Emperor, representing Yang and the Heavens, would occupy the Palace of Heavenly Purity.
The Empress, representing Yin and the Earth, would occupy the Palace of Earthly Tranquility.
The Empress, representing Yin and the Earth, would occupy the Palace of Earthly Tranquility.
In between them was the Hall of Union, where the Yin and Yang mixed to produce harmony.
In between them was the Hall of Union, where the Yin and Yang mixed to produce harmony.
Hall of Union
Im in the courtyard of the Hall of Union

Behind these three halls lies the Imperial Garden. Relatively small, and compact in design, the garden nevertheless contains several elaborate landscaping features. 

From 1420 to 1644, the Forbidden City was the seat of the Ming Dynasty. After being the home of 24 emperors – 14 of the Ming Dynasty and 10 of the Qing Dynasty – the Forbidden City ceased being the political centre of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last Emperor of China. Under an agreement with the new Republic of China government, Puyi remained in the Inner Court, while the Outer Court was given over to public use, until he was evicted after a coup in 1924.

The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. I would definitely recommend a visit to this amazing palace!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shanghai Horizon

The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai
The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai

Horizon. The space or line where the sky meets the earth. So many places where the sky meets the earth around the world, and millions of interactions between two elements. Here is one of the most beautiful city skylines I came across during our exploration of the concrete forest that is Shanghai.

The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai
The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai
The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai
The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai

Shanghai is the largest city by population in China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010. It is a popular tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks such as The BundCity God Temple and Yu Garden, as well as the extensive and growing Lujiazui skyline. It has been described as the “showpiece” of the booming economy of mainland China.

The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai
The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai

Early morning, before the worst humidity of the day made walking around difficult, we took a walk along the waterfront called the  Bund to check out the famous Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai. Pictures of the Lujiazui skyline dominate Shanghai tourism materials.

Currently, there are more than 30 buildings over 25 stories high with commerce as their leading function, and over 504 domestic and overseas financial and insurance corporations located in Lujiazui.

The Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai
TOur China tour group infront of the Lujiazui skyline of Shanghai

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.
The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.
The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.
The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.

” Share a photograph with a prominent colour that reveals more about you. It could be a symbolic, meaningful shade; a colour that expresses how you currently feel; or a combination of colours that excites you and tells a visual story.”

The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.
The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.

One of my favourite colours has always been yellow. I think it is a “happy” colour and it cheers me up so I always have yellow flowers in my house. This year I was fortunate enough to be ably to walk through the rapeseed fields of England while they were in bloom.

The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.
The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.

In the meanings of color in color psychology, the color yellow is the color of the mind and the intellect. It is optimistic and cheerful. It inspires original thought and inquisitiveness. The color yellow loves a challenge, particularly a mental challenge.

The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.
The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.

Yellow is the best color to create enthusiasm for life and can awaken greater confidence and optimism. Being the lightest hue of the spectrum, the color psychology of yellow is uplifting and illuminating, offering hope, happiness, cheerfulness and fun. This is definirely the way I like to go through life.

Carefree and happy!!

The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.
The rapeseed fields of Cambridgeshire, England.

Water and lights show at the Goose Pagoda in Xian.

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

While exploring Xian on our China Odyssey we visited the Wild Goose Pagoda where there was a great water and lights show on that evening.  The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda located in southern Xi’an, built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty. We were lucky enough to arrive at just the right time to get ourselves good standing places to watch this show. There were the usual large crowds all around the very large arena, everybody pushing and shoving to get to a good vantage point. This is the largest such water show in Asia, so understandably it was a tourist hot spot.

Water jets are synchronized with loud music and it was very impressive.

Water jets are synchronized with loud music and it was very impressive.
Water jets are synchronized with loud music and it was very impressive.
The Goose Pagoda water and lights show!!
The Goose Pagoda water and lights show!!

There were a number of excitable guards keeping people off the parapet wall and behind the ropes surrounding the water pond. They were whistle crazy and ended up blowing their whistles at me and mom a couple of times as we tried to get a better view of the show. The beautiful Goose Pagoda looked spectacular, lit with coloured lights and set as the background to the water and lights show. 

The Goose Pagoda water and lights show!!
The Goose Pagoda water and lights show!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinite Lavender Fields

Norfolk Lavender, England
Norfolk Lavender, England

Infinity can produce contrasting effects on (and in) us: it might make us feel dwarfed or amplified, afraid or empowered. It might take the form of a wide panorama or a zoomed-in fraction of an object. A starry sky? A sea of commuters on a train platform? Rows of corn in a field? No pun intended, but the possibilities really are endless.

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO THAT SHOWS US A GLIMPSE OF THE INFINITE.

Norfolk Lavender, England
Norfolk Lavender, England

The heady scent and purple haze of lavender stretching out as far as the eye can see makes for a stunning sight in Norfolk, England.  As we walked through the Laveder fields my senses became awash with vibrant lilac views and strong relaxing aroma that filled the air. Norfolk Lavender is a very memorable landmark sitting within the rolling woods and open fields of the Norfolk countryside.

Amidst the purple is Caley Mill, dating back to 1837. Norfolk Lavender has been England’s premier lavender farm since 1932 and has nearly 100 acres under cultivation. Many of the fields are on the Queen’s private estate in nearby Sandringham which can be viewed by taking an organised tour but there are plenty of varieties and shades to see amongst the 18 acres of grounds at this top Norfolk attraction.

Norfolk Lavender, England
Norfolk Lavender, England
Caley Mill
Caley Mill, the Lavender farm in Norfolk

Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Morning Vietnam!

Sunrise boat trip along the Mekong Delta
Sunrise boat trip along the Mekong Delta

We all start our days in different ways: going for a run, hitting snooze 17 times, or watching the morning news, among many, many others.

Sunrise boat trip along the Mekong Delta
Sunrise boat trip along the Mekong Delta

Floating along the Mekong Delta during sunrise was definitely one of the most memorable and amazing mornings I have ever shared with my mom. 

Sunrise boat trip along the Mekong Delta
Sunrise boat trip along the Mekong Delta

THIS WEEK, SHOW US A PHOTO THAT SAYS “GOOD MORNING!”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated Chinese Opera

The outfits worn by Chinese Opera performers are not just colorful , they are actually saturated with color. I took this photo in Shanghai at the Opera.

Chinese Opera

Exploring the mist shrouded Xian City Wall the “easy” way

Early mornimg walking through Xian
Early mornimg walking through Xian

We arrived in Xian after a 17 hour train ride from Chengdu. This super long train ride was not as bad as I expected as we played some card games and I actually had a chance to catch up on my travel writing. Sleeping on the bumpy ride was a bit difficult though, so by the time we arrived in Xian at 5 am we were all a bit tired and grumpy. The only thing I could think of was having a shower and a cup of coffee.

Xi’an is one of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history. With so much history within the ground the city lies upon, it is no wonder that there are so many historical ruins, museums and cultural relics to be found here.

After checking into our hotel and went for a walk through the quiet streets of this historicity.

The Drum and Bell tower which is close to the south gate of the famous Xian City Wall was only a bus ride away from our little hotel. The Drum and Bell tower was erected in 1380 during the early Ming Dynasty. This early in the morning most places were still closed so we had to wait before we could get a cup of coffee. After a lovely ice coffee we headed for the beautiful City Wall!!

The fortifications of Xi’an represent one of the oldest and best preserved Chinese City Walls as well as being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. This ancient city wall stretches for 13.7 km round the old city with a deep moat surrounding it. The City wall stands 12 meters tall, 12-14 meters wide at the top and 15-18 meters thick at the bottom.

The South Gate Tower
The South Gate Tower
Choosing the “easy” way to explore Xian City Wall
Choosing the “easy” way to explore Xian City Wall

We entered through the south gate, Yongning (eternal peace), which is the most beautifully decorated of the four. It is very near to the Bell Tower in the center of the city.

We had the option of actually cycling the whole length of the wall or to take an open mini bus. All the other members of our China Odyssey group got ready for their 14km bicycle tour of the City wall.

Luckily for me mom wasn’t feeling up to it after that long grueling 17 hour train ride so we decided not to join the group and opted for the “soft option”. We ended up joining a group taking a little open bus that drove you along the top of the wall.

Our Xian City Wall adventure starts!!
Our Xian City Wall adventure starts!!
Driving along the empty mist shrouded City Wall
Driving along the empty mist shrouded City Wall
I can understand why the Xian City Wall is world famous, it is stunning!!
I can understand why the Xian City Wall is world famous, it is stunning!!

Every 120 meters, there is a rampart which extends out from the main wall. All together, there are 98 ramparts, which were built to defend against the enemy climbing up. Each rampart has a sentry building, in which the soldiers could protect the entire wall without exposing themselves to the enemy.

The City wall stands 12 meters tall
The City wall stands 12 meters tall

The first city wall of Xi’an was built of earth, rammed layer upon layer. The base layer was made of earth, quick lime, and glutinous rice extract, tamped together. It made the wall extremely strong and firm. Later, the wall was totally enclosed with bricks. A moat, wide and deep, ran around the city. Over the moat, there used to be a huge drawbridge, which would cut off the way in and out of the city, once lifted.

What a beautiful sight having the deserted wall stretch out in front of us.
What a beautiful sight having the deserted wall stretch out in front of us.

Driving along the wall we got to observe the Old city it surrounded and protected. It was quite sad that most of the original old houses are now gone and replaced by modern high rises and apartment blocks.

Remnants of the Old City inside the City Walls.
Remnants of the Old City inside the City Walls.

The gates of the city wall were the only way to go into and out of town. Therefore, these gates were important strategic points, which the feudal rulers racked their brains to try to defend. We stopped at each gate and got to explore the wall and surrounding area for 15 minutes before the little bus drove on.

Our first stop at one of the four gates of the city wall
Our first stop at one of the four gates of the city wall
A war bell at the gate tower
A war bell at the gate tower

 In Xi’an’s case, the north, south, east and west gates, each consist of three towers: the gate tower, which holds the drawbridge, the narrow tower and the main tower. The gate tower stands proud of the wall. It is used to lift and lower the drawbridge. The narrow tower is in the middle. Its inner walls have square windows to shoot arrows from. The main tower is the innermost one, and forms the entrance to the city.

One of the gate towers
One of the gate towers

A watch tower is located on each of the four corners of the wall. The one at the southwestern corner is round, probably after the model of the imperial city wall of the Tang Dynasty, but the other three are square-shaped.

There were a few lost cyclists along the wall, otherwise it was quite deserted
There were a few lost cyclists along the wall, otherwise it was quite deserted
Such an amazing experience!
Such an amazing experience!

It was great as we got to see the whole wall and weren’t dead tired by the end of our adventure. I don’t think either one of us would have enjoyed our “wall experience” this much if we had peddle the whole 14km.

Looking down onto the south gate square
Looking down onto the south gate square

After the wall adventure we stood around watching people practice for an upcoming show at the South Gate. Important greeting ceremonies organized by the Provincial Government are usually held in the south gate square. We got to listen to the band and even watched the whole parade practice after which we went and had our photos taken with some of the “soldiers”. 

Loved watching the greeting ceremony
“Soldiers” at work
Loved watching the greeting ceremony
Loved watching the greeting ceremony

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns

From lines to patterns. We see lines and patterns in the world around us, in nature and things man-made. Sometimes we don’t realize they’re there: on the street, across the walls, up in the sky, and along the ground on which we walk.

Today’s challenge is inspired by Evan Zelermyer‘s stunning urban, abstract, and architectural images from his “Shape, Line, Texture, Pattern” post published earlier this week.

Lines ans patters formed by the columns of Luxor Temple
Lines ans patters formed by the columns of Luxor Temple

I took these photos at Luxor Temple in Egypt. This temple was founded in 1400 BCE and is located on the east bank of the Nile River in the city today known as Luxor. The numerous columns filled with their hieroglyphics amazed me and I tried to capture them from every angle possible.  

Lines ans patters formed by the columns of Luxor Temple
Looking up at the columns of Luxor Temple

Drinking Flowering Tea Inside Shanghai’s Oldest Teahouse

Huxinting Teahouse, the Oldest Teahouse of historic Shanghai
Huxinting Teahouse, the Oldest Teahouse of historic Shanghai

Huxinting Teahouse, the Oldest Teahouse of historic Shanghai is situated in the heart of the city across the Yuyuan Gardens. This old teahouse is a big pavilion in the middle of a small lake originally built in 1784 in the Qing Dynasty.

It is situated in a very popular part of Shanghai filled with small shops and teahouses teeming with people. The Old Teahouse was the perfect place for Mom and I to relax and escape the heat and the hoards of people outside.

Infront of the Oldest Teahouse of Shanghai!!
Infront of the Oldest Teahouse of Shanghai!!

Tea and China are synonymous. They go hand in hand, much like bread and butter or wine and cheese. For more than 4,000 years, tea has been a major part of the Chinese heritage. During the Tang Dynasty, tea was considered the “Drink of the Nation.” I couldn’t wait to actually get to drink some beautiful and fragrant Chinese flower tea while sitting in this lovely teahouse. This was one of the top things on my list of things to do in China.

The Teahouse is surrounded by a small lake
The Teahouse is surrounded by a small lake
Me inside the Lacquere filled Teahouse
Me inside the Lacquere filled Teahouse

The ornate exterior is nicely matched by the brightly decorative interior and created a very peaceful ambiance in which we could relax and enjoy a fragrant cup of Chinese tea. Lacquered wood surfaces stretched all around the teahouse, and framed prints adorned virtually all wall and ceiling spaces. The teahouse was filled with red lanterns and tons of natural light streaming in from the panoramic windows that circle the seating area. My mom and I chose a comfy booth next to the windows that offered great views of both the lake and the colorful procession of people outside.

A selection of the huge selection of flowering teas
A selection of the huge selection of flowering teas

Mom and I had a look through the huge selection of flowering teas and eventually decided on two flavours that intrigued us. The two fragrances we chose were: “National beauty and heavenly fragrance” and “Flowers blossom for riches”.

Our Flowering tea had arrived!!
Our Flowering tea had arrived!!
Slowly the flowers open up
Slowly the flowers open up

They brought the fragrant flowering tea in beautiful glass teapots and we got to watch the flower open up as it soaked up the hot water and released its fragrance.

Flowering tea or blooming tea consist each of a bundle of dried tea leaves wrapped around one or more dried flowers. These are made by binding tea leaves and flowers together into a bulb and are then set to dry. When steeped, the bundle expands and unfurls in a process that emulates a blooming flower, while the flowers inside emerge as the centerpiece.

After a couple of minutes the flowers inside emerge as the centerpiece
After a couple of minutes the flowers inside emerge as the centerpiece

It was very quiet inside so we stayed quite a while just soaking up the atmosphere and trying to work out what the snacks were that had accompanied our tea! The tea came with a selection of cute tea snacks which we think were quail eggs, tofu, and sticky tea cakes. 

Our Flowering tea with a selection of cute tea snacks
Our Flowering tea with a selection of cute tea snacks
Our own Chinese Flowering Tea with tiny quials eggs!!
Our own Chinese Flowering Tea with tiny quials eggs!!

The tea was not cheap, but the experience alone was worth it. The Old Teahouse definitely figures prominently in the pleasant memories I have of this amazing city.

Drinking Flowering tea In the Oldest Teahouse with my mom is an unforgettable experience!
Drinking Flowering tea In the Oldest Teahouse with my mom is an unforgettable experience!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside the Great Wall

This week’s photo challenge is to share what you see on the inside. This is a view taken from  the inside of the Great Wall of China.

View from inside the Great Wall
View from inside the Great Wall

Inside a watchtower of Mutianyu, a section of the Great Wall of China located 70 km northeast of central Beijing.

Inside a Mutianyu watchtower
Writing our names Inside a Mutianyu watchtower
Inside a Mutianyu watchtower
Me standing Inside a Mutianyu watchtower

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO THAT SAYS INSIDE.

New to The Daily Post? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in Post a Day / Post a Week. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.

Here’s how it works:

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter — we’ll highlight great photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV

Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids
Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids

Unusual. In this week’s Photography 101 post on point of viewLynn Wohlers offers great advice on how to show your own unique way of looking at the world:

“Challenge yourself to rethink your ideas about what subjects are appropriate, and then challenge yourself again to find an unusual perspective on your subject.”

Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids
Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids

For this challenge I am sharing some photos of Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids with an UNUSUAL POINT OF VIEW. The most famous Egyptian pyramids are those found at Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo and I had the opportunity to visit them last year. Here are some of the countless photos I took that day. 

Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids
Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids

Constructed about 2,500 BCE, the pyramids are the oldest and the only one of the “7 Wonders of the Ancient World” surviving today. They were built by a grandfather, father, and son. Each generation built their pyramid smaller than their predecessor’s.

Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids
Camels and the Egyptian Pyramids

Wordless Wednesday: Russia

All through out WordPress, bloggers post a photo without an explanation, it’s called Wordless Wednesday!

Moscow, Russia
Moscow, Russia

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea and Sunsets

The sun starts to set behind a line of yachts in the harbour
The sun starts to set behind a line of yachts in the harbour

There is something about sunsets and beaches that make me feel close to nature. It is as if you get a glimpse of the magnificence of nature through a sunset over the ocean.

As the sun sets the beach starts to cool down after a hot sunny day
As the sun sets the beach starts to cool down after a hot sunny day
The beach is deserted and I really appreciated the quiet  with the sunset
The beach is deserted and I really appreciated the quiet with the sunset

 Walking along at the stretch of beach at the harbour in Richards Bay on a lovely summer evening in December. Sitting down watching the sunset across the harbour and lost in thought.

A lovely sunset between the yacht in the harbour
A lovely sunset between the yacht in the harbour
The perfect time for a sun-downer on the beach
The perfect time for a sun-downer on the beach
The last rays of sunlight reflecting of the water and bringing with it a cool breeze
The last rays of sunlight reflecting of the water and bringing with it a cool breeze

We don’t stop and just watch the sunset often enough in our busy lives. We should all watch a sunset at least once a week as it only takes a couple of minutes and it really has a calming effect!

As the last rays fade we say goodbye to a lovely day
As the last rays fade we say goodbye to a lovely day
A peacefulness descends over me as I watch the sunset
A peacefulness descends over me as I watch the sunset

 I really think that South Africa still has some very beautiful beaches and that the sunsets are spectacular!!

Walking along the beach just before dark descends onto it
Walking along the beach just before dark descends onto it

To learn more about the Weekly Photo Challenge, click here.

Wordless Wednesday: London

All through out WordPress, bloggers post a photo without an explanation, it’s called Wordless Wednesday!

London, Leicester Square
London, Leicester Square

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

Focus. This week’s challenge is inspired by Matthew George’s post on focus, in which he introduced us to the basics of depth of field and aperture.  In the first shot taken at the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong the focus is on the fragrant incense with the foreground blurred, giving a bit more depth of field to the photo.

fragrant incense

In contrast, the focal point of the very second shot is in the foreground (the beautiful bougainvillea flowers) of the image.

fragrant incense

Incense is aromatic material which releases fragrant smoke when burned and is used for a variety of purposes, including the ceremonies of all the main religions. The earliest documented instance of incense utilization comes from the ancient Chinese, who employed incense composed of herbs and plant products as a component of formalized ceremonial rites. The burned incense may be intended as a sacrificial offering to various deity or to serve as an aid in prayer.

Here are more pictures for this week’s theme.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Lotus Flower in Xian

One of my most carefree and untroubled moments during our China odyssey was sitting down and enjoying the peace and tranquility of the lotus pond at a park in Xian.  

Lotus Flower in Xian

A lotus flower is a symbol of purity which rises unsullied through muddy water. It is also one of the Eight Buddhist symbols of good fortune. 

Lotus Flower in Xian

Lotus flower has been used to indicate different meanings in different circumstances. In a relationship, it is normally used to mean being totally in love with someone and being forgetful of all that has happened in the past between you. It is also used in Asian religions especially in India to represent awakening to the spiritual reality of life.

Lotus Flower in Xian

In general, the lotus flower represents life and beauty. To Buddhist, it represents spiritual awakening and reality. In Japanese culture, the lotus flower is considered a sacred symbol. The lotus flower can represent enlightenment and purity.

Lotus Flower in Xian

The Lotus flower essentially represents the clarity of heart as well as the mind. It also represents strength, good luck, long life as well as honour and respect.

Lotus Flower in Xian

Wordless Wednesday: Yangshuo

All through out WordPress, bloggers post a photo without an explanation, it’s called Wordless Wednesday!

Yangshuo, China
Yangshuo, China

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

“For this challenge, capture two images — a horizontal and a vertical version — of the same scene or subject.”
—WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge

New to The Daily Post? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.
Here’s how it works:

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Subscribe to The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh from China

Fresh from Yangshuo
Fresh from Yangshuo

Fresh. The definition for fresh has a bit of a fork in it – it’s a state (new, recent, previously unknown) and it’s a taste or sensation (cool, sweet, invigorating, refreshing). Fresh homegrown fruit indigenous to Southeast Asia picked in the early hours of the morning, and carried down from the hills of Northeast China, to be sold in Yangshuo.

Overflowing from the baskets are beautiful purple mangosteens which are sweet, tangy and juicy and green Lotus seed pods which are of great importance to East Asian cuisine and used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine.