Friday, May 18, 2007

Taiping National Forest

Last Saturday I went with a big group of my students to climb up a mountain alongside a stream with a bunch of waterfalls. The bus broke down twice one the way there,


but we eventually made it. There were pretty many people and only one path to walk, but it was nice to get away from the city for the day.

camino de dinero

The path followed the stream the whole way up giving you great views of rapids and waterfalls.



At the top, there was a muddy pathway



up to an impressively high waterfall blowing in the wind.

vertiente + viento = mojado

qué grande!

On the way down, we stopped to rest on some of the rocks.



Some people got a little wetter than planned,

tilla mojada

but fortunately no one fell through the bridge.


All in all it was quite a nice day.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

the rest of Beijing

On Sunday in Beijing, there's a big antiques market, crowded with people selling things from every epoch of Chinese history. From the time of Mao, we have propaganda posters.


And other random used items from the modern era, overpriced, of course, especially for foreigners and even Chinese tourists.


There's also, as expected, a huge collection of statues, both small

estatuas a la venta

and large.

estatuas gigantes

They also had teapots,

+ teteras

and if I could read Chinese, a huge collection of cheap used books, new

libros usados

and old.

libros antiguos

After I got bored of looking at antiques of dubious authenticity, I headed to the Temple of Heaven Park. On the way, I had an excellent, cheap meal in one of Beijing's many hutongs, long snaking alleyways crowded with houses and small stores selling everything imaginable. They really are the best part of the city, but unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of them, mostly because I was too caught up in the surroundings to want to take pictures, and they didn't really put me in the mood to be touristy. Unfortunately, many of these great areas are being destroyed in preparation for the Olympics. I witnessed plenty of it myself.


They're being replaced by apartment buildings and modern avenues like this one with its scientific bridge.

puente matemático

Anyway, after my great lunch, I went to see the Temple of Heaven.

otra vez

The temple is pretty similar to all the other ones I've seen in China, and it's mobbed with tourists, some of whom pass the time just as I would like to on a tour.

juego de naipes 3

I really liked the park around the temple, though, because there weren't that many people considering how big it is, and it was mostly quiet and peaceful, something I'm not used to finding in China, especially near tourist attractions. There were old men flying kites

señor con volantín

and lots of flowers and trees.

árboles alineados

barba de flores lilas

Strangely, most of the trees were arranged in perfectly straight rows, even the really old ones. I guess that order it part of the Chinese sense of beauty.

Later that night, I passed through Tiananmen Square on the way back the hotel. It was just as impressive at night as during the day.

plaza de Tiananmen

The next day I visited the Lama Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing that narrowly escaped destruction during the Cultural Revolution. In any case, it was very ornate and beautiful, but you weren't allowed to take pictures inside the temples.


I snuck one anyway since I don't use the flash.


Outside, they had a lot of prayer wheels, shiny from all the tourists.

rueda de oración

Another day, I visited the Summer Palace where the royal family used to go to avoid the heat in the center of the city. It's a big park with a huge lake and some temples.

templo del palacio

puente altísimo

There's also a boat decorated entirely with jade.

barco de jade

The temple is beautiful architectually,

torre del templo

templo desde arriba

and from the top, you can see the whole park

and even Beijing.

lago + ciudad

The temple is built on pretty steeply into the hill.

muralla alta

techos de templo

There are a number of other small temples and old buildings scattered about the hill

and more dangerous brass animals guarding them.

dragón encarcelado

In general, Beijing is a much more interesting city than Xi'an. While I was there, I saw a wonderful art performance by a group of artists from Catalunia, the southeastern part of Spain. It was called The Fury of the Bulls, and was held in an abandoned warehouse. At first, the people gathered in a circle, even though no one ever suggested it nor helped it take shape.

La Furia de los Torros

There were people filming the whole thing, so the audience was invited to take pictures too. The performance was really crazy with lots of action in and among the audience, turning us into a herd of cattle just trying to get out of the way.

furia 3

There was also a music festival, the biggest in China, Midi Fest.

Midi fest

Though I wasn't too impressed with the music, it was a great environment - lots of people outside, dancing, enjoying themselves.

escenario de hip-hop

When I wasn't out being a tourist, I got to practice my Spanish with a Spaniard and a Mexican who were staying in the same hostel I was. There was a ping pong table out front which we usually had to share with the neighborhood kids, allowing me to speak Spanish and Chinese both.

ping pong

And in case we needed anything, there was a Walmart within walking distance (though I personally refused to spend any money there).

Walmart chino

Navigation in the city wasn't overly complicated, but I definitely got lost a time or two. The subway was easy - but getting from the station to the destination often posed problems, which fortunately I was mostly able to resolve with my rudimentary Chinese.

And what trip to Beijing would be complete without Peking duck

pato Beijing

and the Great Wall.

cola de muralla

Completely restored in parts,


crumbling elsewhere,

muralla + tiempo

the wall is without a doubt an impressive sight.


I hiked ten kilometers (about six miles) from Jinshanling to Simatai.


It wasn't that difficult of a hike, but the sun was beating down pretty strongly. A met a Canadian who had an interesting solution to the solar problem:

Dave y su parasól

Dave was a pretty nice guy and after hiking most of the way with him, we shared a taxi back to the city, saving me a slow bus ride home.


It's amazing that the Chinese would go to such trouble to build this wall up in the mountains. The land on both sides looks pretty much the same - why put the border there?

At Simatai, there's a nice river that crosses the wall with a suspension bridge to cross over it.


torre de muralla

I liked Beijing a lot because of the history that you can still see there living today - I just hope they don't let it die.

muralla antigua