Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Impressions of China

At the end of May I was lucky enough to go to China with a group from work.
As you may imagine I took loads of photographs, though the light was not good and I only took my small camera.
A small selection here to tell the story - the rest are on my Flickr pages here.
We landed in Shanghai with some time to explore while we stayed awake to conquer jet-lag.
Shanghai is the commercial and banking centre and full of contrasts. The first image here is the Pudong skyline. Which is on the other side of the river to the main city. Facing this skyline are the old banking buildings from early last century.

The purpose of my visit
was to meet science teachers in Nanjing and discuss the possibility of our department providing CPD for Science teachers in China. We visited No1 Middle School, where the students all (3000) filed out for exercise mid-morning. They had a planetarium on the roof, and an observatory on another roof. Yet most science is taught didactically in classrooms not laboratories.

We had time at the end of the visit to travel to Beijing and be tourists. And yes we went to the Great Wall and yes I bought the T-shirt.

We came across hawkers from Day 1. But mostly they accepted a firm 'no thank you' only few were really persistent.

We went to Mutianyu, which was allegedly less touristy, but my companion, J, said it was no better than the Badeling section she went to last year.

And yes we did walk the wall. We went up to the wall by cable-car and then walked along as far as the bottom of the steep section in the background in this photo. As soon as we were a few hundred metres from the cable car station the numbers dwindled rapidly.

Just as when I went to the Taj Mahal all those years ago, the Great Wall did not fail to meet my expectations.

It does look like you see in the photos. It really is a spectacular feat of building, even if you cannot really see it from the Moon. How could you? It may be long but is nowhere near wide enough.
However it is visible on Google Maps Satellite view once you know where to look. We did walk down the hill back to the hawkers and stalls. And there was our taxi driver ready to take us back to the hotel.
One of the issues with travelling almost anywhere beyond home shores is the food. I had managed to get in a little chopstick practice before leaving, thank goodness.
But you never know what might turn up.
We didn't indulge in any of the delicacies from this street stall in Beijing, but we were treated to two true banquets.
As well as the Lazy Susan in the centre of the table, there were many individual dishes brought to each diner. It is no essential to eat everything before you, but it is polite to try things. The most exotic food offered was, Hippo Campus soup (seahorse). The stock was fine, the meaty bits were fine, but I drew the line at crunching a whole tiny seahorse.
Back in Beijing we visited Tienanmen
Square, the largest public space in the world. It houses the Mao Mausoleum (right) as well as the monument to the people's heroes.
It was interesting to see Chinese families visiting the square having their photos taken in front of iconic buildings.
Beyond Tienanmen Square is the Forbidden City.
A huge complex of palaces, courtyards and gates.

Many of the buildings are mostly made of wood, which makes them very vulnerable to fire. And given the Chinese love of fireworks .......

There were fine examples of the detailed painted decorations which we saw elsewhere on more modern buildings.
It was interesting to note that throughout
our tourist activities we saw far more groups of Chinese tourists than westerners.

Now I am home I can't
quite believe I was ever there.
Maybe there will be an opportunity to go back one day.