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A bit more texture in my recent trip to China

This is the last sequence of photos I will be sharing to hopefully give a bit more texture about China. My family traveled to Guilin and Beijing for a bit over two weeks. We really enjoyed ourselves and were impressed with the pace of changes, especially in Beijing. I took the photo below while on the Li River heading towards Yangshuo. I was really wishing for a sunny day, but the outline of the surrounding mountains through the mist made that trip surreal.

On the Li River towards Yangshuo

The photo below was taken in Yangshuo in one of the main pedestrian walkways. Crafts, restaurants, and other stores dot this area. The girl heading home with a bag of vegetables struck me. I feel in poorer parts of China, kids doing some family chores are still common. Perhaps as societies become more affluent, kids are focused more on playing and learning. Yangshuo itself has a lot of foreign visitors. Many live there actually. I have heard some of them even smoke pot there publicly.

A girl in Yangshuo heading home with vegetables

Photo below is Tiananmen. It faces the Tiananmen Square, where Mao proclaimed the founding of the Peoples Republic of China. Mao’s portrait still hangs there. In the West, Mao is usually portrayed very negatively. For the Chinese, I would say, they generally revere him. People also recognize the disastrous policies of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. (There has been many discussions about Mao on this blog. Here is JXie’s recent comment about him.)

Tiananmen where Mao proclaimed the founding of modern China

In the eatery area of Wangfujing in Beijing, I was reminded how competitive businesses need to be in order to survive. The photo below is a waiter in a restaurant in that area busy trying to get customers to dine at his restaurant. Travelers first visiting the area may get the impression that the Chinese vendors there are really aggressive. In the 90’s when I first visited, that was how I felt. Subsequent visits to that area have always reminded me that the whole of China is becoming more like that.

Waiter at Wangfujing restaurant pulling customers

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Western media was in concert criticizing Beijing’s air quality. Some athlete made headlines getting off the airplane with face mask on. Everyone having lived in Beijing knows that the capital city is not very far away from the Gobi desert. When there is strong wind, Beijing will be hit by sand storms. I saw this first hand while in Beijing. The photo below was taken at Wangfujing during a clear day. However, look at the horizon where the sky is brown. That was a brewing sandstorm. We were near the Temple of Heaven one day and the sky was completely clear with white clouds. Within 30 minutes, a sandstorm hit and visibility was no more than 100 or 200 meters.

Blue skies and dust storms in Beijing

Below is a wide angle shot of the Temple of Heaven. China was once an extremely rich civilization. It is hard to imagine unless one visits these various immense structures in China.

Temple of Heaven

The whole structure is made out of wood. No nail used.

Temple of Heaven

Below is a Chinese girl posing for her mother in front of the Temple of Heaven. I tried my very best to get her to pose for me. No luck, despite her mother helping.

A Chinese girl posing in front of the Temple of Heaven

I came across a Chinese park goer with a peculiar game of tossing and catching neck rings. He was really popular with foreign tourists. This was also at the Temple of Heaven.

A tourist playing ring catch with a Chinese park goer

One of the best meals we had in China was on Guijie (Ghost Street). The area is full of restaurants and everywhere lit with red lanterns. We visited the area after watching the “Flying Acrobatics” show in the Chaoyang Theatre. A travel agent recommended we hit that area as Guijie was only about 10 minutes away from the theater. In this particular restaurant, a really good Chinese singer was there performing with his guitar. He had a menu of songs he could perform. We picked “甜蜜蜜” (tian mi mi). I had a slideshow of Chinese children with that song here.

Restaurant on Guijie (Ghost Street)

Bicycles and mopeds are very popular in China. Below was taken near the Forbidden City.

Commuters on bicycles and mopeds in Beijing

Forbidden City

Not that I have anything against Starbucks. The chain is very popular in China. The first time I visited the Forbidden City, I thought it odd that Starbucks managed to open a store in such a prestigious place. Few years ago, Starbucks was vacated. At this exact location, there is still a coffee shop though.

Forbidden City where a Starbucks once was

I have said this previously – one thing I have noticed is that Chinese travelers are on the rise. They are everywhere. In my prior trips to China, it felt proportionally, there are many more foreigners. Even though foreign visitors are on the rise, the proportion of Chinese travelers are rising much faster.

Chinese visitors to Forbidden City

  1. April 22nd, 2011 at 12:34 | #1

    I am thankful for your beautiful post and compelling photos.

  2. April 22nd, 2011 at 16:17 | #2

    I’m booking my next trip with you and buying whatever camera you are using…!

  3. April 22nd, 2011 at 17:50 | #3

    Let’s go next year. 🙂

  4. April 23rd, 2011 at 06:53 | #4

    Great pictures.Thanks for bringing back a lot of memories.

  5. Wukailong
    April 23rd, 2011 at 08:26 | #5

    yinyang, that picture of Wangfujing is really cool. What time of day is it? I can’t make it out.

    One note about Ghost Street: Originally it was spelled 簋街, but the first character is so odd these days that it has been changed into 鬼街. 簋 apparently means some sort of food vessel but most people don’t remember that meaning. Interestingly enough, one restaurant opposite to where I live uses that character. If you ask people to write it, I’m sure 90% won’t know how.

  6. Wukailong
    April 23rd, 2011 at 08:31 | #6

    Here’s something more bizarre along the same lines, a speciality around Xi’an:


    There are some restaurants for this kind of noodle in Beijing but they’re hard to find.

  7. April 23rd, 2011 at 14:36 | #7


    Interesting background on 鬼街. The street itself is still a little bit cluttered with cars. I imagine a few more face lifts in the next decade will make the area even more appealing.

    Btw, your Chinese is quite good. Most expats can only dream of the level of proficiency you have. Thus you can recognize “簋.” I have some ways to go in matching your Chinese reading comprehension.

    Regarding the Wangfujing shot, it was taken in the mid afternoon on the day we met up for dinner. For that particular photo, I touched it up a bit. Lowered the exposure on the sky, added contrast and made the whole thing a bit more vibrant. Some pros will use a gradient filter to achieve the same shot with fewer touching up steps.

    If you spend the time to pay attention to the lighting on Wangfujing, that area can light up and looks gorgeous. Beijing is dry so not that much cloud. At that moment, there was a decent amount. I lucked out.

  8. April 25th, 2011 at 12:59 | #8

    Couple more shots from “Impression Liusanjie”

    The show’s use of colorful lights is very striking.

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