Harbin ice city
15th, Feb '10

A wonky triangle in a few weeks of late winter 

Well my time in china was finally coming to an end and at the time I was very keen for it to do this but my stingy agency had only given the minimal amount of visa so it was a rush to see the places I wanted to see. The first stop on the list was the terracotta warriors as they were only a few hours away and I had tried to see them unsuccessfully before. But first i had to deal with settling up with my agency something that wasn’t fun because after a few hours of debate on exactly what I should pay for my assistant whom I had worked with for a few months was only interested in what gift I’d give her so I gave her a hug, she was less than impressed… 30 minuets later I was on the first bus my life in my hands again ready for a new adventure.

Xi’an

Royal boats frozen in place at the summer place; during winter.

Royal boats frozen in place at the summer place; during winter.

The fist stop was Xi’an an ancient capital of China and the eastern end of the silk road and one of my preferred cities in China so after pizza and a few beers I was convinced to take a tour guide out to see the warriors something I don’t normally do but I didn’t have long in Xi’an for all i wanted to do, next morning i get picked up along with a few Frenchies from the hostel to start our tour with our charming Chinese trained tour guide, i.e. she has a script but is very nice. After the hostel we picked up one other person from a hotel whom was quite shocked that the tour would cost more if he booked it at a hotel instead of a hostel, well it wasn’t his only surprise for the day. First stop as always is one of the craft shops where they make models of the warriors and this turned out to very interesting seeing how they made the warriors as well has getting a close up look at them and all the other amazing pottery on display. There was a little pressure to buy something it wasn’t any where near what it was in Thailand, but none the less our hotel guest obliged. Before too long we were headed out to the site, what turned to be a fair distance from the Xi’an. Upon arrival we walked quite a few closed shops and joined the other tourists heading for the entrance, once in we jumped into golf cars and went to the halls. Upon entering the halls I was blown away by the scale of it a massive hall with raised walk ways around excavated pits. While we where not very close to them it was close enough to get a sense of the grandeur and history of the whole thing, with some warriors standing, some fallen, some shattered, it was truly a sight to behold and there where two more halls to go! None stood out more then the others but there was the “old farmer” who discovered the land singing books and looking rather grumpy which punctuated the history with humor.

Once we exited and went though lots more open shops where our hotel guest was shocked to see that a very similar little statue was on sale for half the price… After a quick lunch I hoped on a bus back to town, as there was more to the tour i wasn’t interested in and enjoyed a nice bus ride though the Chinese country side. Back in Xi’an I immediately found my way to the towns oldest mosque and the oldest mosque in china, dating from at least 1000 years ago i was eager to see it, though held back my excitement because of what i have seen of other Chinese monuments, i.e. not a single original brick left. But i shouldn’t of been the mosques was amazing ! the stones where only replaced when absolutely needed and you could almost feel the tread of 10′s of thousands of worshipers treading to mass, what was also amazing was the fusion of Chinese and Islamic art something i thought impossible with out one dominating, but here both seemed to live in harmony truly a sight to behold, so after hours of that i wonder slowly back to my hostel to pick up my bags and jump on the night train to Beijing.

Beijing

Chinese lantern in snow above ploft hostel, beijing

Chinese lantern in snow above ploft hostel, beijing

Beijing once more, i am beginning to know this place quite well… there i go to what has become my regular hostel in Beijing Ploft a rather funky old workers factory. From Ploft I went to explore the summer palace on the way out i discovered a tragedy, i had lost my memory cards for my camera, on that was all the Xi’an photos !! o well a reason to go back, like I needed another. but not daunted it was the summer palace today and choosing the north most entrance i start and i was pleasantly surprised firstly by the fact most people didn’t seem to take this entrance and they by the frozen water way complete with royal boats frozen and waiting for the summer and royalty and i after a little while i was joyfully exploring this extensive complex full with massive read walls, integrate pagodas and all the opulence one would associate to China’s many centuries of empirical rule, upon getting to the top of the hill it was there i saw why they call this a palace, before me was a massive frozen lake surrounded by so many roofs that i had no idea if it was one complex or more buildings then i could count, well after descending the hill it was clear that the later was true the entire side of the was a complex of buildings interconnected with covered walk ways and littered with tourist, after walking though the complex i completely ignore the don’t walk on the ice sing and follow some groups of Chinese on there slippery trek to a small island complex that had some nice trees and a cool feeling being surrounded by ice, after that i found a different exit and walked in search of a subway, well may kms and Beijing suburbs later i find my a small electronics shop to get some more memory cards and finally find a subway station and it was back to the hostel for a night before catching a train to harbin.

Harbin

Other photographers at the Ice city taking photos of the Kremlin; Harbin

Other photographers at the Ice city taking photos of the Kremlin; Harbin

Once in Harbin i get hopelessly lost trying to find a hostel, guess i should of keeped the flier, but eventually i figure it, thankfully before sunset as i already had five layers on. The hostel as many in china was quite cool with its own style, this one was a converted synagogue with stunning stained glass windows and tall ceilings, but the city awaited and afterdoping my bags i was off explore the area round the hostel, that turned out to have a large pedestrian shopping area as well as an underground malls, but not too much of the street food i had gotten used to around Xi’an so it was back to the hostel for a snack before heading out to find the famous city of ice and snow that was just across the river so with out a map i yet again set off and as soon as i found the river i knew a map wasn’t needed, for not only could i see the reflected lights, there was a frozen river that lead right there ! Walking down the river bank i soon saw where the locals would enter the river and after a few careful steps the ice seemed to be not only solid but easy to walk on but i still followed the paths that where established and zig zaged my way towards the glow, just before sunset i found my way to the other side a little before the park but there was a way into some sort of un developed housing complex that was eery to walk through and reminded me of Seattle on the few times it snowed, though all too soon i was out the other side and the ice city was there, so in i go and wonder around and was amazed, the scale and the colours became so beautiful and enticing where I wondered around for hours on end keeping my camera under my arm pits to prolong the battery life i lost myself in the lights hours, though i did come across a very sad thing and that was a big cat circus right in the centre of the event, where large cats where keeped starving to perform for punters, but what was even worse was the Nestle branding, truly discussing and a sever damper to the night, after which i soon exited and was once again on that lovely river this time at night where i wondered alone lit by the reflection of the city i even found some ice fishing holes !

The next day it was back to Beijing for a few days short days of seeing friends and checking out the forbidden city and yet again i am amazed at the Chinese ability to fit a large thing behind a small wall after entering what on national day i thought to be the entrance i find out that its just the entrance to the front court yard that its self had two massive court yards off the side all of them large enough to have a full on parade with room for more, and then passing another gate i was finally into the forbidden city proper and right away and there yet again i was presented with a massive court yard so i went left right left and wondered all over it was fabulous! but i did get rather lost as in the maze of red walls and all to soon it was time to find my way out something that proved to be quiet a problem as the walkways both twist and turn so you can’t go in a direct line and i really didn’t want to leave but far to quickly i found the entrance i came in and before i knew it i was back at ploft for to pick up my stuff then back to Beijing central station for the overnight train to Guangzhou where i just had enough time to eat 6 plates of dumplings before catching an air asia flight to kl and thus left china, for the time being…

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