Shanghai to Beijing
5 May – 9 May 2017
We left bright and early(6.30) for our drive out of Shanghai to avoid the peak hour traffic. We had a journey of over 700 kms to complete before arriving in Qufu – the home of Confucius. The kms speed pass as we made our way down the freeways. The tolls are high but are worth the expense. Shamrock is doing well and the service it had in Shanghai has improved the performance. The motoring was fine until we came to a grinding halt on the highway – we waited… and waited… and waited. Nothing moved, people were out walking around chatting to each other so we thought we would have lunch. It was a picturesque spot on a bridge over a river with lots of trees by the side of the road. Fortunately we didn’t move far from the cars because after several tow trucks, police and ambulance whizzed by in the emergency lane we were moving again after only 2 ½ hours. As we passed by the scene of the accident we could see a semitrailer had crashed through the central barrier onto the other side of the freeway.
As we neared Qufu the air quality deteriorated badly and the wind increased so much so we thought we had hit a dust storm. We found out that a severe dust storm, the worst in about 50 years had hit Beijing.
Qufu is the home of Confucius and we visited his temple and mansion the next morning. It was so serene, cypress and juniper trees scented the air. Our guide was very informative especially about the significance of the 3,5,7,9 dragons on the curved roof ends of the various temples. Restoration work is everywhere – repainting the detailed woodwork in the roof and eaves, cleaning and repairing the stone tablets. We were fortunately to see a ‘’Good Luck’’ ceremony at the 9th temple. Much pageantry, flowers and colourful costumes were worn including those of the young students. It really added to the atmosphere of the temples and enabled you to imagine what it must have been like in days gone by. Confucius‘s Mansion was another beautifully quiet place – very large and constantly extended over the generations; which included stunning gardens filled with Peony Roses- China’s national flower.
It was only a short drive from Qufu to Taishan one of the 5 great mountains but it was so smoggy and dusty we settled for a long walk through to town and a vigorous Chinese massage. The next morning you could see the mountain more clearly but we were on our way to Beijing via Ji’’an, another 500km plus day on the freeway.
Sunday 7 May
Taishan to Beijing
The cars are doing well after their services and coped very well with the 1 hour and 40 minute delay in stop start traffic at a Police check just after a Toll gate. Driving into Beijing was led by Peter who gave clear and concise instructions via the CB radios as we negotiated our way through 6 rings roads to our hotel near Tiananmen Square. Green our guide was with him and had her Chinese Garmin – our maps are pretty useless for some reason. As we entered Beijing the traffic increased dramatically but we managed. The highways and roads are lined with the most colourful and superbly maintained floral displays, mainly of huge blooming archways of roses, inpatients, stocks, petunias, salvias to name a few. The modern towers of housing and commercial buildings stunned us with the innovative and creative designs.
For an enormous city of over 20 million people, Beijing is surprising quiet. Namely because people are either using bicycles or electric scooters – so you don’t hear the roar of motor bike engines and you only hear the occasional toot of a cars. Cars are new and modern – BMW 5 series, Audis, Benz, Range Rover and other makes but all only up to 4-5 years old. The buses are trolley buses running on electricity. As far as smog it was a little hazy but we saw the moon and stars clearly at night. Throughout China they work on one time zone Beijing time – same as Perth time.
Monday 8 May 2017
Great Wall and Ming Tombs
No I didn’t buy a tee-shirt with I climbed the Great Wall on it but we did take a few photos after we took the cable car up to the top at Mutianyu. The views are extraordinary from the top of the wall. The massive stone wall snakes its way along the ridge tops of the mountains with towers of different configurations at the peaks of each ridge. You can see how quickly messages could be sent via bonfires across the land. But what an isolated existence for the soldiers who were stationed on these lonely outposts. We hope to see more of the Wall in other areas from other times, so the construction will be different.
Ming tombs were only 70 kms from Beijing but took about 2 hours to get back to the hotel at peak hour were interesting to see the different construction as well. We saw Changling and Dingling’s tombs. Dingling’s tomb was a massive underground arrangement of hemispherical tunnels reached by about 8 double flights of stairs. Changling’s was a series of 9 temples with a huge earth mound – like a small mountain where he was supposedly buried.
Tuesday 9 May 2017
Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Summer Palace
I think most of the Chinese population were at the above locations – not really but there were lots of people. Now the authorities are limiting the numbers to around 80,000 – 100,000 a day. The Square is closed at 5.00pm and the journey to the Forbidden City is well orchestrated, with people movement going in one direction only. What I found interesting was that the number 9 was used exclusively by the emperor. The Palace was occupied by the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1368 – 1911. 9 temples, buildings and inner courts and 9 motifs or baby dragons on the ends of the roofs. Each building was given the most imaginative sounding names, such as Gate of Divine Prowess, Hall of supreme Harmony and Palace of Heavenly Purity to name just a few. The Forbidden City is stunning with gleaming yellow/gold coloured glazed roof tiles and intricately painted decorations around the eaves and under them as well.
The Summer Palace is situated around a manmade lake – Kunming Lake and has the longest corridor in the world beside it nearly 800 meters long with a multitude of painted scenes every few meters. The object is to walk to the Marble Boat which looks like a paddle steamer with lead light windows and carvings as it rests tranquilly at the edge of the lake. As you walk you can see various temples and buildings – all built by the Dragon Empress who ruled as regent for her son and nephew in the late 19 and early 20 century.
Once again everything is big – the Square, the Palace, the Wall even the National museum and Mao’s mausoleum is BIG. The wonderful modern architecture is creative and BIG.
I could write about all the amazing places forever but once again Beijing and its development, history and culture is something one has to see for yourself.