Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Things to Do: ride the Maglev Train/Transrapid, Shanghai, China


Maglev Train/Transrapid  This train is the first commercially operated high-speed magnetic levitation line in the world.  Built by German technicians for the Olympics, it cost US$1.2 billion to build and began service in 2004.  With a top speed of 431 kmh/268 mph, this train rides 2 inches above the rails and takes only 8 minutes to travel 19 miles to the airport.  It is very loud outside the train, but very quiet inside, and the train accelerates from zero to 431 kilometers in 3 minutes (it operates at full acceleration only from 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.).  This train connects Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the outskirts of central Pudong, but at $25/person round-trip it isn’t inexpensive.  Access to the new Disneyland opening in 2016 is coming on another track at the station.



 


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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Monday, June 22, 2015

Sights to See: Huangpu River tour, Shanghai, China


Huangpu River tour  The Huangpu River winds north from its source at Dingshan Lake for about 70 miles to Wusong Kou, where it meets the Yangtze River.  It passes through Shanghai in the middle for about 24 miles.  Though narrow and shallow, the river is important to China's international trade, city water supplies, and fishing.  It’s also a popular route for tourist boats to view the skyscrapers of Pudong and the buildings of the Bund, which are especially stunning when they are lit up in the evening.

tour boat for Huangpu River tour in Shanghai, China

evening skyline from Huangpu River tour in Shanghai, China

night skyline from Huangpu River tour in Shanghai, China

night skyline from Huangpu River tour in Shanghai, China

night skyline from Huangpu River tour in Shanghai, China

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Sights to See: Shanghai, China + Bund/Waitan


Shanghai is China’s most westernized city.  It was very fashionable in the 1930s.  I’ve heard it described as filthy and polluted but didn’t find it so.  It has the world’s longest subway system, and cabs are cheap.  The best weather is in August, but cool, comfortable weather occurs in April.  It is interesting to know that Shanghai was San Francisco’s first sister city and that the two have the longest sister-city relationship between any China-U.S. cities.



Bund/Waitan waterfront  Everyone comes here to stroll along the mile-long semi-circular promenade along the Huangpu river and view Shanghai’s famous and stunning skyline, sometimes referred to as a “museum of international architecture.”  Stark modern skyscrapers are across the river on one side, and older British colonial buildings are across the street on the other.  The Chinese “Big Ben” rings out the hour.  While we strolled, we saw two brides in traditional fluffy deep-red wedding gowns posing with their grooms for their wedding pictures.  I also enjoyed just sitting on steps in an open gallery and people watching. 


Bund waterfront skyline in Shanghai, China

Bund waterfront skyline in Shanghai, China

Bund walkway in Shanghai, China

Bund walkway step seating in Shanghai, China

Chinese wedding couple on Bund in Shanghai, China

Chinese wedding couple on Bund in Shanghai, China

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Great Sleeps: Golden Flower Hotel, Xi'an, China


Golden Flower Hotel  8 Chang Le Road West, 40-min. from airport, (86 29) 8323 2981-4380.  Fitness center.  Restaurant.  Situated in the city center, rooms at this newly renovated 5-star hotel are spacious and attractively appointed.
fresh roses at Golden Flower Hotel in Xi'an, China

check-in desk at Golden Flower Hotel in Xi'an, China

Some classical Chinese furnishings are used, and original woodcuts by local artist Ding Ji Tang adorn the walls.  
duck woodcut by local artist Ding Ji Tang at Golden Flower Hotel in Xi'an, China

Quiet one morning, the spacious breakfast was packed the next.  The extensive buffet included exotic fresh fruits, really good French-style pastries, and both dim sum and American bacon and eggs. 

exotic breakfast fruit at Golden Flower Hotel in Xi'an, China

dim sum at breakfast buffet at Golden Flower Hotel in Xi'an, China

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sights to See: Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an, China


Terracotta Warriors  This UNESCO World Heritage Site displays three pits of archeological excavations.  Pit 1 features an unearthed life-size clay army of men and horses arranged in battle formations.  The army was meant to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who built the Great Wall and also conquered most of China before dying in 210 A.D.  It is astounding that each of the more than 6,000 full-size soldier replicas has a unique hairstyle and facial features.  The tomb itself has not yet been opened, and excavation continues.  The site was discovered in 1974 by local farmers who found pottery pieces while digging a well; the museum opened in 1979.  This immense complex has a popular light-filled, airy restaurant that caters to tour groups.  

Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, China

Terracotta Warriors plus horses in Xi'an, China

lunch dishes in group dining room at Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, China

Nearby, Xi’an Han De Art Work Factory (No. 6 RuiLin St., LinTong, 0086-029-83891270) provides the opportunity to take your picture posed with your head atop the body of a terracotta warrior.  Who dreamed that at this factory you can actually purchase a full size replica warrior and have the head carved to look like you!  I did consider it.  After all, arrangements can be made to ship any items home.  When you first arrive, you will observe workers making reproductions in many different sizes, then you visit the gift shop and are amazed by the array of reproductions that are ready to go.  A vast array of other China souvenirs is also displayed.  Upstairs, you’ll see how lacquer furniture is finished, and observe someone hand-painting it.  New as well as historic pieces are displayed, and most are for sale.

woman in factory reproducing Terracotta Warriors souvenirs in Xi'an, China

gift shop at factory reproducing Terracotta Warriors souvenirs in Xi'an, China

man painting design on laqueur table gift shop at factory reproducing Terracotta Warriors souvenirs in Xi'an, China

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sights to See: Muslim Quarter, Xi'an, China


Muslim Quarter  More than 80 million Muslims live in China.  I don’t think they all live here, but it sort of feels like it as you wander through the tight, mostly pedestrian-only streets and lanes.  (Actually, I checked, and Xi'an was the first city in China to be introduced to Islam, and only 50,000 Muslims live here.)  
pedestrian-only shopping street in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China

As you explore this atmospheric area, you can visit the Great Mosque of Xi’an (entry fee), shop in an exotic covered bazaar for colorful items from both China and the Middle East,
covered bazaar shopping in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China

and indulge in kabobs grilled on fresh tree branches as well as  other enticing street food (we were advised to stay away from the squid and crabs on a stick).
tree brances for kabobs in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China
squid and crab kabobs in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China
squid and crab kabobs in Muslim Quarter
flours and spices in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China
flours and spices
plump dried plums in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China
plump dried plums
pulling sesame candy in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China
pulling sesame candy
rice cake dessert on a stick in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China
rice cake dessert on a stick
You can also meet woodcut artist Ding Ji Tang, who works daily in his stall in the bazaar and sells his own colorful works as well as those of his students.  The Golden Flower Hotel, where I stayed, displays his art on guest room walls, so I noticed and liked his simple style even before this serendipitous opportunity to see him at work.  My only regret is that I couldn’t decide which piece to buy and so left empty-handed.
woodcut artist Ding Ji Tang in Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, China

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sights to See: Big Wild Goose Pagoda/Dayan Pagoda, Xi'an, China


Big Wild Goose Pagoda/Dayan Pagoda  2½ mi. S of downtown.  Built in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and located in the Da Ci'en Temple complex, this well-preserved ancient pagoda has seven tiers.  The complex is a holy place for Buddhists and holds a museum of Buddhist materials from India plus a lovely peony garden that blooms in late spring.

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Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China


  building at Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China


buddha in building at Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China


building detail at Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China


toddler visiting Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China


from India collection at Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China


peony garden at Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China


pretty pink peony in peony garden at Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China


teen in park outside Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sights to See: Xi'an, China + City Wall


The ancient capital of Xi’an is at the starting point of the Silk Road, the road’s eastern end.  Buildings are lower and sparser than in China’s big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and building restrictions for height and style are in place within the inner wall area of downtown.  The most populous city in northwest China, Xi’an is located in the center of the Guanzhong Plain and is one of the oldest cities in China.


City Wall South Gate  This defensive wall was built around the city during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) but has been maintained and upgraded through the ages.  It's the most complete city wall in China and is surrounded by a deep moat.  


I think anyone who is disappointed by the Great Wall is going to be quite pleased here.  Located near the Bell Tower in city center, the South Gate—Yongning--is the most beautifully decorated gate and the most popular one with visitors.  The path atop the wall features piped-in Chinese music—annoying at first, but it grows on you--and runs in a flat 8.5-mile square with no climbing.

Ramparts—98 of them--offer open “windows” out into a manicured city garden, and the wall’s other side opens onto a view of the inner city, which is poor in this area and also smelly.  I enjoyed looking through the various rampart cut-outs at the groomed park below.  Each rampart provided a new view, and when I leaned in to look, a nice breeze broke the heat.  



Bicycles can be rented at this gate—it takes about 2 hours to “conquer” the wall, as our guide put it—and  riders move along in happy squads and provide gaiety to walkers and sitters.



An electric tram also runs the route.  A cheap thrill is to sit here with a cold beer or ice cream and just relax and take in the scene.  Two free museums operate inside the barbican and the archery tower of the South Gate.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Good Eats: Peking Duck, Beijing, China


Once served only to the royal court, Peking Duck is a Beijing area specialty.

Here the duck is hung above an open fire to cook, unlike the more common Cantonese crispy-skin duck which is baked or roasted in an oven.  The skin is crispy with little fat and the meat is lean and tender.



Quanjude RoastDuck Restaurant  No. 18 Putang Rd., Fangzhuang, 010-67602008.  My tour group ate here.  We were able to watch the chef carve our duck.



It was served with plum sauce and scallions and the traditional pancakes.  It was the star, but only part of the extensive feast we enjoyed. 

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers