|For a different perspective on our trip, look at the children's travel journals:
Monday: Lessons, Hongqiao toy market
Tuesday: Lessons, Paul out, Karyn swimming with Suzanna and Ben
Wednesday: Military museum
Thursday: Paul, Suzanna and Ben at ripsticking, ball games, skipping, catch, computer games, Karyn to Forbidden City
Friday: Lessons, packing, train to Pingyao
Saturday: Tours of Pingyao and Qiao family compound
Sunday: Tours of Chang family compound and Jinci Temple, train back to Beijing
Monday: Lessons, home afternoon
Another week has gone by and now it's May! The weather here is really warming up. It was over 30°C on the weekend. Today was the first thunderstorm we've seen in Beijing - heavy rain. The seed from the cottonwood trees has been blowing all around, it looks like it's snowing!
Monday we went to Hong Qiao toy market. Paul bought a small remote controlled helicopter for RMB 95 (NZ$19). There was a lot of Lego look-alike also, we didn't buy any.
Tuesday Paul went to a car show to look at fancy new cars. The children and I went swimming.
We spent Wednesday at the Military Museum. It's full of displays of the People's Revolution, guns, tanks, aeroplanes, missiles... The children really enjoyed it - especially climbing all over a missle boat, tank, guns and an aeroplane.
The children and Paul stayed at home on Thursday. They played ball games, ripsticking, computer games etc while I went to the Forbidden City for the day. The subway train was really crowded on the way there. However, once at the Forbidden City I had a great time just wandering around looking at everything. It is an amazing place, a huge outer palace that was for public use where everything is built on a grand scale and an equally huge inner palace built on a smaller scale that was where the emperor and family lived. The inner palace was built as a series of smaller walled areas with courtyards and buildings within each area. Some of the carving details within the palace are beautiful. I've included photos of a few. The outer palace has lovely garden areas on each side. The cherry trees are all in bloom at the moment, so it really feels like spring has arrived.
After lessons on Friday we packed our bags and went to the train station to catch a train to Taiyuan and then a bus to Pingyao with our friends Allan, Jessica, Eddie and Cindy. Jessica organised the trip and an English speaking tour guide. Pingyao is an ancient walled city that was the original financial capital of China. The existing city was built about 600 years ago. The wall is 3-6m wide, 10-12m high and 6km long. About 20,000 people still live within the city walls. Few cars are allowed, but there are many bicycles and electric golf carts - it seems that there are few road rules, so traffic jams are common. We stayed in a an old courtyard style hotel which was lovely.
On Saturday we wandered along the city walls looking at roof tops - as you can see in the photos some need repair while others are used for drying corn. We visited the offices of China's first major bank, started in 1823, the court house, university and wandered the streets. After a late lunch we headed off to the Qiao family compound, built in 1756. This is a bit like the inner palace area of the Forbidden City - many walled areas with houses built around courtyards inside each area. This house has become very famous as "Raise the Red Lantern" was filmed there (we all watched the movie earlier in the week). We saw the houses where the 3rd and 4th mistresses lived. The children liked seeing the places from the movie, but the whole place was extremely crowded as this was the May holiday weekend. Suzanna and Ben were soon tired of people asking to take their photos and began hiding behind me, or hiding beneath their hats.
We left Pingyao on Sunday morning. On the way out of town we saw a very grumpy looking camel. Suzanna sat on his back and had her photo taken. Our first stop was the Chang family compound - similar to the Qiao compound, but on a much larger scale. It originally covered 600,000m2 with a main street about 1km long. We found a lovely garden area which the children enjoyed. Next stop was Jinci Temple - a lovely old garden and Buddhist temple built about 1400 years ago. More wonderful carvings, and grass to sit on! We arrived back in Taiyuan and took the the train back to Beijing.
After lessons on Monday we unpacked our bags and rested after a very busy weekend!
For those who are interested, there are good entries for Pingyao, Qiao compound, Chang compound and Jinci temple in Wikipedia.
Google maps links:
Qiao compound http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=107449966713883803213.0004824790731c4d14e8a&ll=39.240763,112.423096&spn=4.458264,6.437988&t=h&z=7&iwloc=000485afba19d475d1da1
Chang compound http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=107449966713883803213.0004824790731c4d14e8a&ll=39.495563,112.763672&spn=4.442042,6.437988&t=h&z=7&iwloc=000485afae1b04a6e8495
Jinci Temple http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=107449966713883803213.0004824790731c4d14e8a&ll=39.53794,112.763672&spn=4.439336,6.437988&t=h&z=7&iwloc=000485afb5bbb90f0b5ce