Nasi Goreng vs. Mooncakes

Only a few weeks into the semester, and the first mini-holiday presented itself. The Mid-Autumn Festival / Mooncake Festival / Chinese Lantern Festival provided me with an extended weekend, and I of course had to use that opportunity to see more of Asia.

I thus left behind Hong Kong and all the mooncakes, and instead headed off to Jakarta – Indonesia – with my travel companion, Mette.

Travelling by plane was the oddest thing! After so many weeks of travelling by train with Mette through China, it was strange to once again feel the comforts of a plane seat. Flying with Garouda Air, and having the dilemma of choosing what movies to indulge in on the 5 hour journey from Hong Kong was a luxury.

Now, what made this five-day holiday great was undoubtedly the open arms we were met with. Family friends of my parents opened their door to us, and not only provided us with the best accommodation one could wish for, but enlightened us with insider-information and secrets of this wild capital, catered to our taste buds, provided excellent company and late-night talks. It is also because of them that I finally got to watch “The Painted Veil. It is not the first time I have drawn on their hospitality, and I do hope it will not be the last time, either. Experiencing Jakarta would not have been the same without the Hejl-family.

Jakarta served as an interesting contrast to the rest of our journey through Russia, Mongolia and China. The vibe and the dynamics that prevail here differed immensely, and I loved every contrast.

This capital is the most populous city in Southeast Asia, which clearly shows once you try to get trapped in the infamous traffic jams. These macro-jams won’t get any better any time soon. According to the Economist, traffic gridlock will occur by 2014, unless the government makes drastic changes to the infrastructure. Because of urban migration, more and more vehicles are added to the existing roads, putting pressure on the whole setup. Hopefully the future will provide a solution, so as to facilitate and ignite the country and its economy.

The people of Jakarta proved to be absolutely wonderful. Everywhere we turned we were met with the biggest smiles and by joyful laughter. I often feel quite uncomfortable taking pictures of locals, as I feel I am invading a space where I am genuinely not allowed. However, several times we experienced how the Indonesians were the ones contacting us, asking if they could pose for a picture. They found it so amusing. Also, several encounters with children gave us another great insight into Indonesian culture: there is an all-prevailing curiosity, which helped to eliminate all barriers of contact. It was great to have these direct-encounters, even though we could only visit the city for such a short period.

Taman Mini was visited, which is a recreational park displaying the Indonesian culture. I was astonished by the beautiful and detailed architecture you could find here, as local pavilions and houses had been set up to demonstrate just how different such are in the various provinces of Indonesia. We also enjoyed a few hours at the Indonesian Museum, and visited the bird park here – activities which all exceeded my expectations. However, watching Indonesian traditional dances performed by local children hit home run with me. The hand movements are so intricate, and you easily lose all sense of time and space if you keep watching these mesmerizing moves.

Sunday unfolded itself at Thousand Island in the waters of Jakarta Bay. I would not mind spending every Sunday like this. Turquoise waters, sandy beaches and snorkeling opportunities. What more could one ask for?

Experiencing the beautiful Jakarta Cathedral and Istiqlal Mosque also gave me a great insight into this capital. What resonates with me very deeply is when several religions can unfold themselves within the same borders, and I find Indonesia – and also Malaysia – as great examples of such. These two great, religious buildings are not only equally respected, but are also built right next to each other. You only have to cross the main street to move from one sacred building to the other. Mutual respect and understanding is something the rest of the world should take a note of.

Bogor Botanical Gardens also proved worth a visit. Situated some 60 km outside of Jakarta, the park consists of more than 15,000 plants and trees. It is said to be Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who initiated the building of the gardens, so a thick history of colonialism hangs over the place. The trees were gigantic, and it was a great feeling walking around so much greenery after having spent a few days in in a city choked with poverty and pollution.

Yummy in my tummy!

Whilst Jakarta features on many black lists, such as the ugliest city, the most hated city, etc., I certainly found a charm here. Perhaps the Indonesian language gave me positive connotations to my travels in Malaysia, which then may have fogged my judgment. Perhaps, the comforts of staying with family friends blurred reality. However, I came to really enjoy my stay. I ate a lot of Nasi Goreng, was overjoyed by the friendly people I met, and found a beauty in the rough streets. Clouded judgment or not, I wish and hope to come back one day, to explore the rest of Indonesia.

/Krissy

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Dim Sum-ing it in Hong Kong

I am no longer on the road. I have planted my feet on Hong Kong ground and I am here to stay for the coming semester at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. As much as I love to travel over extensive periods, unpacking was a soulful relief.

Cutting straight to some necessary propaganda, I simply just love the campus of CUHK. The University is the second oldest in HK, and is multilingual – ensuring that various sound bits of English, Cantonese and Mandarin reach my ears every day.  Campus is situated in New Territories, a somewhat far journey from your downtown Hong Kong entertainment. Luckily, CUHK is the only university with its own MTR station, meaning that the quest for enjoyments has been successfully eased. However, being in New Territories mean that I am effectively studying in a jungle. Campus constitutes a good 137 hectares of land, which means that we have to share this space with wildlife of all sorts and shapes. Rumour has it that monkeys can be spotted – I will of course be on the lookout and report back if I can confirm such whispers. Whilst I am thoroughly enjoying to be enmeshed in this greenery, I curse the uphill hikes when I have to make it to my political classes at the very top of the campus – You guessed it: New Territories is nothing but jungle and hills.

Orientation week was a blast. Met so many new people with amazing backgrounds and stories to tell. It is just like backpacking, meeting new people with the same adventurous requests as you and you feel an immediate bond. Whilst I’ve met all sorts of nationalities, I somehow manage to spend my majority of my time in a group of mostly Dutch (however, I must acknowledge some French and some American blood in this little group as well). It is almost like I am flying KLM every day.

Wednesday and Thursday nights are to be spent in LKF (Lan Kwai Fong), a district in central, where music from all the bars and clubs reach the main streets in a haze. It is on such days that the infamous LADIES NIGHT unfolds, meaning free drinks to the female species. If I don’t go on these days, my bank account would be nonexistent on my return home. Whilst HK certainly is an expensive city, it does not feel so bad when your home is Denmark – except for the drinks: drinking hurts in HK, not just the head.

After the initial stress of trying to enroll in my desired subjects at CUHK (read: most redundant enrollment system in the entire world), I can finally say I got courses I can approve of: One 20th C. literature class, an anthropology course on ‘Political Violence and Human Rights’, and three political classes: Global Environmental Politics, Ethics & International Affairs and Asian Comparative Politics. The workload is great, my home institution, CBS, seriously made a mistake when they calculated the amount of credits I would have to take abroad. Or maybe I am still on holiday?

What other shenanigans have I been up to in the first few weeks? For starters my roomie took me out, along with a friend of hers, to a delicious, nearby dim sum restaurant for some Sunday-brunch-fun. Probably the best I ever had. And I LOVE dim sum. There was an insane queue going out of the restaurant when we arrived, and we therefore had to wait around for a good half an hour or so – but it was worth it. You settle in at gigantic white-clothed, round tables and intake your food with other families or hungry folks. It is such a lovely way to spend your Sunday, in company of good people and delicious food. Also, food in Hong Kong is simply just GOOD. People who say otherwise obviously went to the wrong part of the world. Unless I increase my sporting activities here, extra kilos will be a given on my journey home – and here I am not referring to my luggage.

Beaches have also been visited, and it is not the worst thing to “study” with your toes dipped in the sand, listening to the sound of waves and admiring the islands scattered out at sea.

I went on a lovely hiking trip, with Per, a fellow student from CBS. Apart from the fact that his legs are made for running up hill it was quite an enjoyable trip. We went from Park view to Stanley, which is said to be the 4th best hiking trip around Hong Kong. It involves 1000 steps and various forms of increasing gradients but the view is stunning. Luckily (or unfortunately for the photos) we went on a cloudy, cool day so the trip was very manageable.

One weekend was also used to go to Macau, which went above and beyond my expectations. Seeing as it is a former Portuguese colony, the architecture there becomes a mix of Chinese and Southern Europe – very curious indeed. Before I blabber on about how much I loved the architecture, Macau is obviously not known for this, but rather its gambling and Casino offerings. Gambling has been legal since 1850, and is today their biggest source of revenue – in fact Macau has officially overtaken the Las Vegas gambling income. Seeing mostly Chinese men and women playing everywhere at the gaming tables on a late Sunday night, puts this into perspective: Customers are plentiful on all days of the week. However, because I only got to visit the “smaller” casinos when I was there, I will have to go back later to pay “The Venetian” a visit – the largest casino in the world, and a sister casino to the one in Vegas.

Whilst I have so many stories to tell, I think I will conclude this post. I am so excited for my stay here in beautiful Hong Kong, so stay tuned for more campus and city rants.

Painted Veil

Going from Shanghai to Guilin(22 hours) was pure luxury: we finally managed to acquire some hard-sleeper tickets. Being able to lie down whilst sleeping, thus allowing yourself to actually stretch your legs, cannot be praised enough! Time always seems to pass by quickly on the train. I belie it is because you always leave a lot of “stuff” for the train ride, so as to avoid boredom, but then one never ends up being able to do all of it (reading, writing travel-diary, etc.) It can also be difficult to have a continuous sleep as the train rattle and bustle, and such difficulties are increased when you get bunk beds right next to the sink area where Chinese men unfortunately like to practice their spitting skills.

The Painted Veil (2006). A British medical doctor fights a cholera outbreak in a small Chinese village, while also being trapped at home in a loveless marriage to an unfaithful wife. [IMDB]. The 20 Yuan note looks like this:

The final destination of our Chinese backpacking adventure was Yangshuo, best known from the movie ‘The Painted Veil’ (though I am yet to watch it) or the 20 Yuan bill. And what a way to end the journey!!! Situated right by the Li River, and surrounded by stunning peaks this was without a doubt the most beautiful stretch of our travels. It is really difficult to do the nature justice –I promise you, even if you visit it, you will be speechless. We stayed at the best hostel ever –No Kidd Inn– I must really promote and recommend this hostel. Not only was it a cosy interior, but the staff was so friendly and interacted with their guests as if everyone were best friends. Also, their rooftop overlooking the river was not too shabby. Drifting down Li River in a bamboo raft was probably the most serene activity on this trip. It was hard to take it all in. There you are, drifting at the slowest pace possible, having all the time in the world to take in the moment. The peaks are everywhere you turn, and looks like something straight out of a postcard. It is the perfect place to get away from fast-paced modernity. Whilst such a cliché statement is often used in connection with the country-side, these limestone mountains bring about a magical aurora that embraces you and make you forget about the nuisances of everyday life. The different shapes and forms make this an idyllic journey, which you don’t want to miss. We rented bikes from our hostel and had them with us the whole day, and also as we had to cross the river (where Mette had a hard time haggling; the woman clearly had monopoly on that stretch of the river, and there was no other choice but to cross). As most Danes know, biking becomes an everyday activity, especially if you live in Copenhagen: a way of transport, a taken-for-granted endeavor. However, being surrounded by the Yangshuo peaks while biking is absolutely magical. My neck was in severe pain that evening. I had simply been so busy taking in everything during the bike trip. We also stopped at Moon Hill, in order to climb the top and get some amazing views. There is probably no need to say, but we were drenched from sweat that day. A journey was also made to the rice terraces of this Chinese province, an almost 4-hour bus ride away. Unfortunately, we somehow got pressured into first going to a smaller village at the foot of the terraces, where the women are known for having excessively long hair. It was very Disneyland-inspired, but not worth the extra money. But I suppose I now have some very commercial pictures of women combing their hair on a stage. The views of the rice terraces were nonetheless stunning, and made up for the tourist trap. It was definitely disappointing that the trip had already come to an end. Nothing compares to travelling for longer periods at a time. You feel alive and humble as your senses are working in overdrive to take everything in. But as we were heading towards Hong Kong, excitement caught up with me. I will continue elaborating on my adventures whilst I am on exchange at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and I hope continue following my journey. :)

//Krissy

Concrete Jungle

Shanghai is real China, but perhaps just not the real China you had in mind.

Such begins the chapter in the ever faithful ‘Lonely Planet’, the backpackers Bible.

When I reminisce and think back to the very beginning of my journey, the contrasts are undeniable. There are no similarities between the Mongolian steppes and this concrete jungle I finally reached: Shanghai. Walking the famous Shanghai pedestrian street of Nanjing Road and strolling along the pier at The Bund, I almost feel like I entered a different country. Modernity screams at you wherever you wander, and you quickly come to realise that this is the future of this region – not the dusty imperial palaces I left behind in Beijing.

Architectural wonders
Architectural wonders

Also, the obsessive picture-requests and the obligatory peace-signs whilst taking such are no longer part of my everyday life. The city is veiled in annoying Western civility. That said, Shanghai has an addictive charm. The city is vibrant and vivacious. The skyscrapers are architectural wonders, and your neck is bent to its limits as you try to take snap-shots of the reflections of the clouds in these wondrous buildings. And lets face it, the glamorous life will always draw humanity in. A year or two in this city would not conjure up much protest from me; nor will my closet object, as it will be replenished by the many shopping opportunities.

An example of the beautifully intricate Chinese Calligraphy. via China the Beautiful.

Shanghai has a really cool art scene, with a few, free delights. We managed to find Shanghai Art Gallery down by The Bund, which had a really fascinating display of modern photography (and other funky installations). The space had a rustic downtown NYC-apartment-feel to it, with a world-class view over Shanghai skyline. However, a thin brown linen was rightfully covering the windows so as not to detract from the art. Shanghai Museum (a museum of ancient Chinese art) was also visited, but because we have seen more potteries, snuff-bottles and bronze figures than my heart can possibly contain (apologies to my archeology roomie back in Denmark!), we skipped most of it and just enjoyed the calligraphy exhibition.

Have a click or 8 on the Google map. Each placemark includes a little info of the site it represents. :)

The Chinese charm can also be found in Old Town, built in the 11th century, where we sloped around in the humid weather. Generally, Shanghai is full of lovely neighborhoods and small quarters, if the skyscrapers and modernity get too much for you.

Shanghai Old Town

Due to the French Concession until 1946, a lot of typical European architectural styles can be easily detected. In fact, many of the streets in this city bring forth many childhood memories, as I spent five or six summers straight in France. Most Shanghai side streets have a row of trees on each side, and this leafy effect, along with the little light that seeps through the canopy makes me feel like I am back in Aix en Provence.

France or China

The Urban Planning Exhibition is also highly recommendable. If you are just the slightest interested in architecture, this is the place for you; one can easily use an entire day here. It will also appeal to the kid inside of you, with a panorama-3D visual video, which takes you through the city. Also, the many after-and-before pictures of Shanghai will evidently shock you. The city sure did not look the same in the 1980s.

The highlight of my stay in Shanghai was definitely the very lovely dinner Mette and I got to enjoy at couch-surfer-Nicole’s beautiful apartment, along with her boyfriend Daniel. I must once again praise this concept. As I entered the apartment, I met two strangers, and after 5 lovely hours, I left the building socially enriched (and also with a stomach full of mouth-watering food). We got around important life-topics, everything from schooling systems, politics and Chinese history and hope I can one day show them around Copenhagen.

And here’s delightful footage of the Bund, taken from The Guardian:


//Krissy

Art(iculate)

Hello.

To readers who were hoping for another travel post from Krissy, I apologize, but I do hope that I disappoint no further. I’m here to explain what it is I’ll be writing about– most likely, I’ll share a rant in between Krissy’s adventures in the East.

This is TurtleTalk and I’d like to share my interests and my thoughts to the world! Now I don’t consider myself a good writer, like Krissy is. Whether my words are beautifully structured or hilariously incoherent (as some thoughts can be), I nonetheless hope to provide some quality content to any curious reader out there.

What is art?

I’ve always found myself to be more in tune with visual arts, such as drawing, design, painting and photography. I’ve always had a feel for these sort of things. Ever since I was young, I’ve had the knack for creating art through my hands and through my eyes. Now I emphasize the word because really, what is art? When we were young, many of us drew stick men sketches of our family – certainly without any knowledge or concept of what art was. But to our parents, those doodles were hung up on the fridge as real works of art. How about those holiday snapshots we took with our disposable cameras? Back then, I took the shots without any real idea of why I was taking them, beyond the desire to hold on to a memory. If the purpose of the photograph is to capture what already is, is it art? Is it really art when all it does is imitate? Think of actors on a stage, imitating Shakespearean characters; of paint on a canvas, imitating a sunset; of a set of words on a page, imitating life. Are these then considered as works of art?

Is art synonymous with beauty or does it encompass the ugly, the unpleasant? We’re all familiar with the proverb, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Here, we get into aesthetics and the philosophy of art. What creates an aesthetic experience? Why are we drawn to some things and repelled by others? I suppose all art is beautiful, depending on how we look at it, depending on our understanding of it.

Take a look at this painting called “The Triumph of Death” by Pieter Bruegel.

The Triumph of Death via Wikipedia

The painting depicts a bleak landscape, pervaded with death and destruction.

How about this photograph of a young Libyan, revolting against the rule of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

A young Libyan shows off the gun he has taken from the Gaddafi family compound, in Tripoli, on 23 September. Via World Press Photo.

Both images revolve around war. To me, war is not beautiful but I can see and appreciate the beauty behind the two pieces. In the photograph, for example, there’s beauty in the way that it was captured. The contrasting themes become apparent as you examine the picture. Oppression vs freedom. A regime that is withering away in flames vs a country that will arise in the new dawn. There is art in the execution.

So then what is art and what is non-art? Well, at the end of the day, I would argue: that which has no artistic intention, no ambition to evoke attentiveness, is non-art. However, I find it’s more meaningful to try and describe what art is, rather than try to define what it is not. That it’s more pertinent to try and describe what art means to us, for a satisfactory definition is yet to be found. Art is so many things to so many people. And that’s just the beauty of it. I also believe that art forms an emotional connection between artist and audience.

I kind of touched upon a lot of topics here. Originally, I just wanted to show some photographs I’ve taken on my iPhone 4. But I also wanted to share some thoughts and questions that have flowed through my mind. Thoughts and questions about art, and what art means to me. But without further ado, I present to you my first art post. There will surely be many more to come, and I’ll get more into the artistic journey I’m about to embark on. More on that later.

For these photos, I used several apps for the post-processing, hence them not looking so natural. I find it interesting to go beyond the natural, to see where I can go with the image. With photography, I like to capture moments. I like simplicity. I like contrast. And damn, I love scenery. Sometimes I like to take a photo of something that, to me, is simply fun.

Instagram – Click on an image for a direct link to its Instagram page, or go to my Instacanvas gallery, where you’ll find more of my pictures.

I want to share this quote, which resonates deeply with me:

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

Ansel Adams

What I love about art, in all of its forms, is all the passion that it brings forth from within the artist. I find it truly inspiring to experience art. To have your emotions be aroused. Whether it is to the flow of movement to music, to brushstrokes against a canvas, or to a web of carefully spun words that form syntax and meaning. It is a wonderful thing to witness the vision of the artist, and to absorb the essence of the piece. Every detail, minute or big, all the inspiration within the melting pot that coalesce and form the final piece of art. To experience that, and be moved by it, is a beautiful thing. If we cast away all conceptual baggage of theories and definitions of what art is, then perhaps we are rewarded with the ability to approach art with fresh “eyes”, and experience it in a more profound and authentic manner.

So are my photos works of art? I don’t know, you tell me. I just know I want to share them to the world, and whenever I create, I always feel inspired. Most importantly, I have fun! :)

Wonton trivia! Number of ?’s in this post: 14. Haha, I think I asked more questions than I answered!

That’s all for now.

Gideon out.

Oh, wait! But what about comparing art forms? Okay, maybe we shouldn’t go there. It would be like asking, “Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?” Apples and oranges, I say.

Warriors and Love

Calligraphy - Xi'an
Calligraphy – Xi’an

Mette and I decided to add some extra adventures to our already tight schedule. We therefore embarked on a 12+ hour train-ride with the locals heading for Xi’an. For some unexplainable reason we thought it would be fairly simple to get tickets, if only we used the hostels to help us write down the right cities and stations in Chinese characters. But of course, in a city considered one of the most populous in the world, others are bound to have the same idea of taking the train. On such trains, you will find an array of ticket choices: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat, hard seat, no seat. Luckily, there were hard seats left (read: do-able seats, but expect some back/neck pain and very little sleep). Once again, we were the main attraction on the entire ride. Walking to and from the less than rosy toilet becomes a journey you would rather avoid. And expect the floor to be flooded by cup-noodle and nutshells. Despite a night with very little sleeping, everyone proved friendly and just showed their curiosity – and we managed to reach Xi’an on a budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 9, 2012

Archaeologists have unveiled 110 new terracotta army statues excavated near the 2,000-year tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang. [via Globalpost]

Tourists visit Xi’an to go see the Terracotta Army, which is an hours bus-ride away from the city walls. What is most astonishing about this site is how it was found randomly by some Chinese farmers as they were digging for a well. It’s hard to imagine their faces when they found more than 6000 stone warriors, each different in size and with varying facial expressions. A lot of archeological activity is still going on, so you almost feel included in this astonishing find as you walk around the various pits, which make up the museum.

However, the city of Xi’an is underrated.

Mette and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the Muslim Quarter where it is exceptionally atmospheric at night with all the food stalls and the steam clouding your face as you stroll around the lanes. So much food we have never seen before. Women were bearing colourful scarfs and the most delightful smells will hit you – make sure to spend some time here.

Venice of the east – Suzhou

From Xi’an we took the train to Suzhou, an even longer train ride -> still on hard seats.  Suzhou is known for its classical gardens and its water canals, like a little mini Venice of the East. These areas were so peaceful and serene, and had we been luckier with the weather, two days would easily have been too short a stay. It was also my first time to try couch-surfing here. Carly was the best first-hostess one could have hoped for, and when I get back to Denmark I have to persuade my roomies so that we sign up as couch-surfers as well. Such an amazing opportunity to get an authentic experience and meet new amazing people. Carly and her roomie not only treated us to a home-cooked meal, but also took us out for hot pot and Tsingtao, and I hope both will come visit us in Copenhagen one day.

Suzhou was also filled with love and romance. We happened to hit up the city on the Chinese Valentines Day, where glittery roses can be purchased on most street corners for the lucky lady. The story behind this day was told to us by several locals, and it is a rather cute one. In short, cowherd meets fairy-like girl, love and marriage, heavenly Goddess finds out, forbids girl to love a mere mortal, boy and girl can only meet one night a year.

And with such a tragic yet heartwarming ending, this post on our extra adventures shall be considered complete.

The photos are taken by me, using my trusty Sony point-and-shoot camera, and edited in Lightroom 4 by my boyfriend back at home. ♥

/Krissy

Nihao China

Crossing the border from Mongolia to China was neither fun nor a speedy experience. First you stop for hours on the Mongolian side whilst passports are collected and forms are filled out. After hours of just standing still, not being allowed out, you roll over the border only to repeat the procedure with the Chinese officials. Only in China, the wheels of the train also had to be switched so as to fit the Chinese railway system — so you can add a few hours of lifting and sinking the entire train.

Coming from one of the least populated countries (yes, Mongolia) to a city like Beijing was simply just absurd. The contradictions were undeniable. No holes in the roads, gargantuan billboard signs, modernity and masses of human flesh everywhere. And it was GREAT! We stayed at Peking Youth Hostel, somewhat pricier than others, but definitely worth the extra dimes you throw in. It is not only impeccably clean, but you live in the middle of a gorgeous hutong (Chinese old-school alleys), and you only need to step out to one of the first side-roads to find your 5 yuan-dumplings for a hearty breakfast.

The Great Mao, cute like a Teletubby. :D

The Forbidden City is a vast tourist trap – but nonetheless a trap you want to be caught in. The impressive Mao painting greets you as you enter the No. 1 sight in Beijing, where emperors have done their living (with their many concubines), 500 years ago. I expected to see a lot of tourists at this historic site. Only, 99% of them are Chinese tourists, and it just feels like you are enmeshed in China. The highlight of our Forbidden City visit was, however, the lining up of Chinese kids and young fellas who all wanted their pictures taken with us (in particular the beautiful, blonde Mette was an instant hit). Here we are, standing in front of a UNESCO World Heritage site and people are throwing peace signs around, yelling if they can just have one more picture, plastering babies up on our laps and giggling fervently as they move on.

Forbidden City

Of course we also did the mandatory trip to The Great Wall. It might be somewhat of a cliché, but this site easily makes one of my highlights of this trip so far. The oldest sections of the wall were built 2000 years ago, and it is difficult to grasp how humans constructed this protective installment, high up in the Chinese mountains.

The way the wall almost meanders and rolls from mountain peak to mountain peak was breathtaking. We went to the Jinshanling section of the wall, which I can recommend. Stories from other backpackers have been horrendous, especially at the Badaling section, where it seems like you cannot HIKE the wall, you can only STAND STILL – simply due to masses and masses of the species we tend to call tourists. Our hike was in total around 8 km and though I wish it could have gone on longer, I enjoyed every minute and every mountain peak of it.

Great Wall of China (Jinshanling)
The Great Wall expedition was particularly memorable because of the ending to the day: Peking duck for dinner. Mette and I managed to randomly pick a restaurant, which happened to be the very same one recommended by the Peking Youth Hostel. Whilst duck is always good, you simply cannot go to Beijing without trying out this specialty.

The Summer Palace was also given a visit, and once again the size of the site took me aback. Bring good shoes and spend most of your day here. You can enjoy beautiful views from the Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion, overlooking Kunming Lake, which makes up most of the palace grounds. We ended the day by going past the Bird’s Nest-or the 2008 Olympics stadium-which despite much architectural protest, Mette and I still find quite mesmerizing.

Peking opera is the most absurd entertainment form, I’ve ever witnessed. Part singing, part dancing, part martial arts and part acting – you certainly get value for money. The costumes and make-up are fascinating, but the music and the “opera” takes some getting used to. However, I really love, that we have taken our time to watch a cultural performance at each location, which we have been fortunate enough to visit. Watching, and trying to understand the beauty of each art form, has given me an almost intimate insight into the country’s culture and heritage.

Peking opera

You will find the true Beijing spirit in their many parks. You can always find elderly doing some workout, dance sequences with swords, and best of all: couples dancing in the evening. It seems like the parks serve as a platform for social interaction and some outdoors exercising, and it has been really moving to observe. I hope when I grow old that I will go dancing in the park on a summer evening with my boo.

Usually, when you relay your memories from your Asian travels, you often dedicate at least one paragraph to describe the insane driving done in such parts of the world. And whilst I’ll go ahead and make the same kind of dedication, I must disappoint and praise the infrastructure in Beijing instead. Sure we had a little traffic jam in the morning and in the evening going to and back from The Great Wall, but nothing that came close to Mongolia (or Vietnam or Malaysia or any other place I’ve travelled through). And the metro system simply works, especially if you push and shove just like the Chinese to ensure a spot on the new-tuned vehicles.

I will admit that all my praise may not have been as rightfully fitting prior to 2008. The Olympics certainly ensured a sprucing up of the city. Nonetheless, Beijing proved wonderful, and I leave it with a full stomach and happy memories.

Food stall in Beijing
Uhm….I’ll have the third from the left, please!
The photos are taken by me using my trusty point-and-shoot camera, and edited in Lightroom 4 by my boyfriend back at home. :)

/Krissy