Posts Tagged With: Viking

Lhasa: Potala Palace

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

We had been at altitude for two nights and now it was time for our big test. Could we survive the climb to the Potala Palace, home to Dalai Lamas for centuries? For some of us the answer was no; some did not even go visit the palace at all. Others went and climbed to the main entrance but did not actually go inside the palace walls. For the rest of us we took our time and made it without issue.

The palace is named after Mount Potalaka, the mythical residence of a being that embodies compassion. Construction was begun in 1645 on the orders of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The walls are an average of 3 meters thick – 5 meters thick at the base. The building stands thirteen stories tall and contains over 1000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

We had the chance to take some photos from a favorable spot at street level before starting our journey upwards.

The Potala Palace from street level

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Categories: Asia, China, River Cruise, Tibet, Tours, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

We were originally supposed to visit the Tibetan Museum during our visit but it was closed for renovation, so we made a brief visit to the Canggu Nunnery instead. While Catholic nuns typically cover their heads, Buddhist nuns shave theirs and their habits are very similar to the monks’ garments so when we first saw a nun outside the nunnery some of didn’t realize at first it was a woman we were seeing.

A nun washes a pot outside the nunnery

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Categories: Asia, China, River Cruise, Tibet, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Of our two full days of touring Lhasa, the first morning was spent at the Jokhang Temple and the Barkhor Market area that surrounds it.

We were let out on a street corner not far from the pedestrian-only entrance to the market and made our way up to a large plaza. The Jokhang Temple is a Buddhist place of worship and is the spiritual center of Tibet. The oldest portions of the buildings date from the mid-650s. As with most buildings this old it has served a number of purposes over the years, been occupied by different religious and secular groups and has undergone a number of renovations. The most recent renovation wrapped up in the early 1980s.  It was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.

But well before we got anywhere close to the temple we saw worshipers like these folks who were praying outside the entrance to the plaza. If you’re familiar with the exercises called “burpees”, that is very similar to what these folks were doing: they’d stand up straight, often with their arms over their head, kneel down on both knees and slide their hands forward on the ground until the were completely prone, then slide their hands back toward their knees until they were kneeling and then stand up again. The had either knee pads or something soft to kneel on and pads with straps on the top that they could easily slip their hands in and out of to make the sliding a bit easier. The whole time they did this they were quietly praying.

Morning Worshipers just outside the gates of the plaza

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Categories: Asia, China, River Cruise, Tibet, Tours, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

After visiting the local home, we were all ready to get to the hotel that would be our home for the next three nights, the Shangri-La Lhasa. Nothing in the city of Lhasa is very far away from anything else so it didn’t take us long to reach the hotel’s drive. The hotel is on a fairly major street but has a high wall between the sidewalk and the hotel. The end of the hotel that’s closest to the street is actually part of the conference center so there’s no need to worry about any traffic noise – not that I think it would truly be an issue.

The hotel’s drive continues down beside the building all the way past the conference wing to the lobby. The lobby itself was quite large with numerous seating spaces available. To the left was the buffet restaurant, Altitude. A jag left from there and then straight ahead and you were in the conference wing.

Shangri-La Lhasa Lobby

Shangri-La Lhasa Lobby Seating

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Categories: Asia, China, Hotel, Lodging Review, River Cruise, Shangri-La, Tibet, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Xi’an Wrapup

For a city I’d barely even heard of, I found Xi’an quite interesting. Like many places in China it’s quite the mix of the old and the new.

It’s the third oldest city in China and has been continuously inhabited since about 1100 BC. By contrast Beijing is about 55 years younger and Shanghai doesn’t even make the top 25 list. It’s the start of the Silk Road and is oldest of the Four Great Ancient Capitals, which also includes Beijing, Nanjing and Luoyang.

On the other hand the city was very modern and is the most populous in Northwest China (though geographically it’s not in western China) while emerging as a hub for China’s space exploration program, national security and research and development.

In general, I wouldn’t want to drive in China but in particular I wouldn’t want to drive in Xi’an. Motorbikes dart everywhere but miraculously we never saw a wreck anywhere in China, perhaps because people don’t drive very fast. Whereas in America we seem to hold fast to the ‘this is my spot in my lane don’t you dare interfere’ principle, in China it’s a bit more go-with-the-flow type of driving. But at least they drive on the “right” side of the road!

Motorbikes and Pedestrians crowd the crossing

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Categories: Asia, China, River Cruise, Tibet, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

After our trip to see the Terra Cotta Warriors we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that “just so happened” to be inside a building that also housed a shop selling jade and beautifully lacquered furniture. Yes, it was basically another tourist trap but they did have some lovely things and I ended up buying a couple of tiny jade figures, just to commemorate the trip.

Once back at the hotel we had the late afternoon to ourselves. In the evening some of us chose to attend the Tang Dynasty Dinner & Show as an optional excursion. We were taken by bus to the theater where we enjoyed Cantonese cuisine before the show.

The story is based on the life of Mei-niang who was born in 624 AD. As a young teen she was the concubine of the Taizong Emperor but when he died, she was sent to a nunnery for several years.

Mei-niang is just one of several lovely young women trying to catch the eye of the emperor

She had known the future Emperor Gaozong while she lived in the palace and once he took over, she became his first wife and when he died, she became Empress Wu Ze-tian in 690 AD.

Dancing with the emperor

Her story is told in five acts from being selected as a young woman to her ascension to the throne. It’s quite dramatic with lots of dancing and amazing costumes.

After her husband dies, Mei-niang becomes Empress

The Empress ascends the throne

I thought the show was well worth seeing. Those of us who had paid for dinner had better seats than those who had only come for the show, so my recommendation would be to do both activities. The food was good and there was plenty of it so even if everything wasn’t to your taste there was still plenty of other things to eat.

This is a fun evening and I managed to learn a bit about a historical figure that I had known nothing of before this performance.

Categories: Asia, China, River Cruise, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Our day in Xi’an was a beautiful one. Still a little cool but sunny skies were plentiful. Today was one of the highlights of the tour for me. I moved to Memphis in 1994 and the next year there was an exhibit at the convention center called Imperial Tombs of China featuring some of the terra cotta warriors. I talked a friend into going with me so it was a thrill for us to see the warriors in their “natural habitat” some 22 years later.

Qin Shi Huang (chin shee hwang) was the first emperor of China. He took the throne in 246 BC at the age of 13 and that’s when this project began as an appropriate burial spot was found using feng shui. As was noted with the Ming Tombs, the tomb is at the base of a mountain which extends around it in a curving fashion, almost as if the emperor is in a chair with arms on either side for protection.

Emperor Qin says hi

By the time Qin died in 210 BC at the age of 49, the project had grown to approximately 38 square miles and it is estimated that there are over 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and another 150 cavalry horses contained in three large archeological pits. Most of these figures have not and will not be uncovered until technology advances further. The figures were painted when they were buried yet in as little as 15 seconds after exposure to the dry air the colors begin to peel and fade. A fourth large pit was found but is empty. Outside the main necropolis were a number of smaller pits containing non-military figures such as bronze carriages, terra cotta acrobats and strong men, stone armor suits and burial sites of both horses and laborers.

After going through the gates, it’s a bit of a walk to reach the pits. It’s not a difficult walk but it is perhaps a kilometer away. Alternately you can pay to ride the tram (as was included with our Viking tour). I found it amusing that here among ancient tombs, the presence of McDonald’s was on display.

Trams, I’m Lovin’ It!

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Categories: Asia, China, River Cruise, Tours, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Our plane landed in Xi’an (see-in) after dark and after making sure the porters had our luggage we boarded a motorcoach to our home for the next two nights, the Hotel Shangi-La Xi’an. I had signed up for the Shangri-La Golden Circle club on the off-chance that we might be able to earn points for the stay but, as I suspected, our stay was not eligible for points-earning. Still, I provided my membership number and after we left I received a survey via email asking for feedback about our stay.

The lobby was quite large and very striking, with the faux marble finishes everywhere. One of the first things you notice upon entering is this exhibit celebrating the hotel’s 10th anniversary with a miniature set of warriors based on the life-sized terra cotta ones that we’d come to see.

10th Anniversary of the Shangri-La Xi’an

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Categories: Asia, China, Hotel, River Cruise, Shangri-La, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

The next morning we were scheduled to leave Beijing but we had a couple of stops to make first. Naturally since we were leaving it was a gorgeous, sunny day. It was a bit cooler than the days prior but still very pleasant in the sun.

Hutong Tour

Our first tour was of the traditional hutong (hoo-tong) areas of Beijing via rickshaw. After being driven to our starting point, we paired up into bicycle-powered rickshaws (or pedicabs) for a tour of the older parts of the modern city.

Pedicabs awaiting patrons

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Categories: Asia, China, River Cruise, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beijing: The Forbidden City

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

We approached the Forbidden City from Tiananmen Square via a tunnel that crosses under the busy street running between the two sites. After seeing the way people drive in busy sections of China, I was very glad we didn’t have to dodge any cars!

The Tiananmen Gate faces the square of the same name and is the main entrance

The palace is the former seat of the throne of Imperial China which began with the Ming Dynasty in 1420 and lasted through the end of the Qing (“ching”) Dynasty in 1912 – nearly 500 years. It was both the home of the emperor and his household and the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government. If you’ve seen the movie The Last Emperor starring John Lone, it was the first feature film ever authorized by the PRC to be filmed inside the Forbidden City.

An ornamental column with the dragon facing out, waiting for the emperor to return

The name “Forbidden City” is a translation of its Chinese name that literally means “Purple Forbidden City”. The purple would refer to the North Star which in Chinese astrology refers to the heavenly abode of the Celestial Emperor and thus the emperor’s residence is its counterpart here on earth.

It is a massive complex of over 980 buildings covering over 180 acres. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

The moat is diverted to create a stream running through the grounds.  This stream is called the Golden Water:

A view from one of the bridges over the Golden Water

Though the design of the walls and the buildings were different, the general flow of the buildings reminded me a bit of the Topkapi Palace complex in Istanbul: Entering via a gate into a courtyard, then through another gate into a courtyard and so on until finally reaching the family quarters at the far end. I guess it’s not surprising as Topkapi was built a few decades after this palace so it’s very possible this was a tried-and-true style of the times.

The Meridian Gate is now the site of the ticket counter

This is the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest surviving wood structure in China. It was here that the Emperor held court though in its later years as court was held more often, a less grand location was used instead. By then this hall was used mostly for ceremonies including coronations and imperial weddings.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony

This is throne in the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which was used for rehearsing ceremonies and was where imperial examinations, to see who was qualified to become members of the bureaucracy, were held.

Throne in the Hall of Preserving Harmony

There were several interesting sculptures around including Cranes and the Bixi Turtle like we’d seen the day before at the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs:

Crane Sculpture

Bixi Turtle

And we saw at least a few things that we didn’t know what they were for but they looked interesting:

Maybe for keeping water hot?

I have no idea what this is for!

The corners of most of the roofs have a line of statuettes featuring a man riding a phoenix followed by an imperial dragon. The number of statuettes indicates how important the building is. The Hall of Supreme Harmony had 10, the only building permitted to have so many during imperial times.

Statuettes on the Roof

This is the throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity, which was initially the residence of the Emperor but during the Qing dynasty became the Emperor’s audience hall.

Throne in the Hall of Preserving Harmony

Toward the back of the complex was the residence of the Empress.

The Dragon (Emperor) and the Deer (Empress) outside the residence of the Empress.

A glimpse into the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, the residence of the Empress

In the Imperial Garden were a number of rocks worn by water over time, making for some interesting art pieces.

A pagoda in the Imperial Garden

The moat is 171 feet wide and 20 feet deep.

The Tongzi Moat

The walls are 26 feet high and over 28 feet wide at the base though they taper to just under 22 feet at the top. Their core is rammed earth with layers of baked bricks on both sides.

Walls of the Forbidden City

We were thrilled that the rain finally let up when we were about halfway through the tour. We didn’t get to visit any of the internal exhibits of jade, porcelain or artwork but it was enough to soak in all the parts we did see. My pictures don’t come close to doing it justice – it’s just a vast, amazing place.

Categories: Asia, China, River Cruise, Tours, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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