Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Fallen Ones

The red camellias, once vibrant and flourishing, has passed its prime, its petals fell to the ground.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Mysterious Buds

The mysterious buds, covered with fuzz all season long revealed themselves as magnolias. Centennial or spider I'm not sure? The white flowering bushes are more popular but I came across two light pink ones on my walk. The blooms do not last long, about a week or so, though I am grateful I had the pleasure to enjoy their peaceful charm.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Black and White Around Town

Last weekend's activities: ate out for lunch at a small Szechuan joint, browsed through the art store, shopped for fabric, strolled through the woodworking store and dinner at our favorite restaurant in Burnaby. I brought the camera along and here's my roundup.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pale Hellebores

Pale Hellebores, the color of leaves, I just about missed them on my walk. These linger in the shade all day long, I think they look best in black and white.
On a different note, we came across a great photo blog that is truly inspirational. The Big Picture is a fine collection of photography taken by world-class professionals. I am heading over there now to get my news update... Have a great weekend! :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Beijing Journal Day 4 Around the Hotel Part 1

Hello Thursday! Our China midweek series escapes to... the neighborhood around our hotel. I had ingested a pesky bacteria and could not leave the hotel for 24 hours. We came prepared with medicine from Canada which made me feel better, David chose to wander around the hotel area alone while I rested. There is quite a few things I would like to share about our china trip, I am splitting our last day in Beijing into 2 posts.

The streets below are right outside our hotel. We stayed at Beijing HWA Apartment Hotel in the Xidan area. We came across positive reviews on Trip Advisor before booking through Travel China Guide. It was a good thing we took the public transit to get around as it made us feel we belong. Our hotel room came equipped with a full kitchen and this felt like home. The staff were polite and genuinely helpful but spoke very little English, I got by with what little Mandarin I knew. The hotel was a terrific find.
Our hotel package included complimentary Western and Chinese breakfast buffet style. We helped ourselves to the huge variety of dishes: cereals, toast, fried rice, noodles, pot stickers, wonton, steamed white buns with different fillings like red bean paste, soup, congee (porridge made of rice) with all the trimmings, cooked green vegetables, ham, eggs, sausages, fresh fruit, red and yellow tomatoes, cucumber, milk, juice, etc. Breakfast was so filling we sometimes skipped lunch. Dinner however was very disappointing, we should have known as no customer was in sight compared to the full house at breakfast time.

So we decided to venture out... to the Asian style fast food chain next door. Set meals of rice with teriyaki meats, veggies, soup or drink cost around 30 RMB ($4.50 Canadian.) Portions were fair but the taste was just average. In general we found Beijing food to be quite bland. We also found similar meals for 20 RMB elsewhere. As this was our first stop in China, we were overly cautious with our food and ate at places that had a Western appeal. In fact the prices we paid were relatively high for China as we gained more experience eating out on our journey.
A few steps from the hotel, some workers repaving the sidewalk, it seemed construction projects of all kinds were common everywhere we went, keeping people employed. We noticed a lot of the work is still done by hand.
Having stayed in Beijing for a few days, we found most locals friendly and easy going. They have a thick accent, a lot of 'R' sounds which took some getting used to. Sometimes it was best to write down the Chinese characters for clearer communication.
When riding the public transit, we found there is no such thing as a lineup. The government had built metal railings to encourage the locals to queue, instead everyone stood on the street in front of it so they could be first!

Crossing the street was interesting too, there were crosswalks but people and cars shared it simultaneously as no one bothered to stop. We were intimidated at first but witnessed no accidents so we got brave and followed the locals as they travelled across. Check out the video to observe the proper method.
Some workers hooking up new electrical wiring in residential areas locally known as Hutong.
An elderly buying fruit from a stand. Small businesses such as these were scattered throughout the Hutongs.
A local saw David exploring the neighborhood. The man in the brown jacket below motioned with his hands the clicking of a camera and signaled to follow him to a game of chess. The locals were crazy over this game, sometimes there would be a bigger crowd and boy did it ever get intense!
I am leaving you with a short video that shows Xidan area in motion, a taste of modern China with a largely Western influence, click on the picture to play. There is a 39 RMB jean shop blaring Shania Twain's I'm Gonna Getcha Good, not exactly what we expect to hear on our first few days in China.
Beijing Journal Day 4 to be continued next week...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


A challenging flower to photograph for me, I am glad I noticed these sparsely branched forsythia. Grown in heavy shade provided by the surrounding trees, they draped over the cedar fence. Their simple beauty caught my eye.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Solitary Blooms

Flowers with an unknown name, curious as I was but there was no one to ask. Blossoms of a fruit tree perhaps? It was the only flowering tree at the end of a long and quiet street. The blooms held me at my spot for a good moment, until it was time to walk on and head home.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dancing Shadows

The bright sun was setting fast through the blinds. It threw shapes onto the walls. For a few short minutes, they made me feel like I'm in some kind of techno dream world.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Fine Spring Day

At the bird park, the volunteers gathered in the morning for a bird survey. A list of feathered friends were written on the board, the weather has been fine but the list was not as long as the warmer months. We moseyed down the trails through the forest of barren trees. We smelled the sea air along the shoreline of last years seeds. By the duck pond, the pink pretties were the only bright colors we saw. A fine and peaceful Spring day indeed. I wish you all a lovely first day of Spring.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pink Snow

The cherry blossoms have bloomed a couple of weeks ago, its petals now adorn the ground, a Vancouver phenomenon known as pink snow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beijing Diary Day 3 Great Wall of China

Our midweek China series continues on to... The Great Wall of China, view all posts here. I have heard many stories and seen numerous pictures of The Great Wall but I never dreamt I would someday set foot on it, this is definitely a dream come true.

There are several sections of the wall that were renovated though Badaling is the most popular of them all. I wanted to see the less visited Mutianyu or Jinshanling or Simatai, where the views are prettier but the hotel staff were more familiar with Badaling. There was a couple of transfers to get to Badaling bus 919, which turned out to be a rather illusive one.

At the last transfer, there was a whole row of bus stops that say 919 but none goes to the wall, so we kept asking. Finally a man told us that Badaling bus 919 stopped running at 10 am and he could take us in his taxi for 300 RMB. He offered the same deal to a couple from London and 2 local girls were quoted 160 RMB. He said the 6 of us could rent the whole car at a reduced rate.

We all doubted him as the travel book and the internet says the buses ran all day and the tickets are 12 RMB per person, so 300 RMB for two seemed unreal. The scam went on for half an hour until 2 young men came up to us and said this happened to them yesterday, the bus we're looking for is just around the corner. So off we went and found our bus. What a relief!! That would be quite an adventure if we had gone with the taxi! As we queued up, the swindlers continued to harass others, it was a good thing we did our research and trusted our instincts when things looked fishy.

The view out the window, some fascinating buildings on the Badaling Expressway.
Farmhouses and cultivated lands by the highway.
The bus stopped a couple of times to pick up more visitors. Some interesting faces from a neighboring bus, the ladies with the head scarves, where are they from?
We arrived at the Badaling destination about an hour later. The bus dropped us off just outside the parking lot, we were told where they would pick us up. Visitors were strongly reminded to keep a good watch on the time as there will be no bus service after 5 pm.

The parking lot were lined with tourists shops, we noticed these visitors browsing, their facial features and clothes captivated us.
Just past the ticket office is a tea shop, some tourists were given white caps to distinguish them from other tour groups.
Off in the distance, the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics slogan One World One Dream, this part of the wall was full of tourists.
We chose a much quieter part.
The wall was built to fend off Northern attacks. The view from one of the watch towers, as far as the eye can see.
The steps were very steep, some were a couple of feet high, I had to stop to catch my breath on the way up. Going down was a bit harder, hand rails and small talk took the edge away.
Back in town, the bell tower where the Badaling 919 buses were parked.
The row of bus 919 stations where the cheats hung around.
On our way back to the hotel, a shot inside the Beijing Subway car. As it moves, the tunnel walls flashed LED advertisements which we viewed through the windows. Back at the hotel, we felt pleased to cross this venue off our list. A simple dinner at a nearby eatery, hot shower and off to bed.