Lots more trips

In March 09 I completed a two week trip to China and Mongolia wtih my wife and youngest son. There was lots of travel and very little rest in an attempt to cover as much sights as possible. In China we visited Beijing, Chengde, Taian/Mount Taishan and Qufu. In Mongolia Ulaanbaatar and Harhorin (Erdene Zuu Khiid) were on the agenda. Temperatures ranged from -30 C to +25 C.

The Great Wall at Simatai like a serpent  (click to enlarge)First stop was Beijing. In three days we covered the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Lama Temple, the White Cloud Temple and the Summer Palace as well as an evening of Chinese opera. Obviously we started with a visit to the Great wall. We did not go to the nearby well trodden Badaling section. Instead we opted for the more distant, more difficult but more quiet and rewarding Simatai section. It is located about 130km north east of Beijing city center on the road to Chengde. At least a two and half hour drive. It is a steep section of the wall. More than 5km long with more abut 35 towers. We had enough time to cover … 4.

The roofs of palaces and temples all look magnificent and alike  (click to enlarge)No trip to Beijing is complete without a visit to the Forbidden City. It was immortalized in the movie “The Last Emperor”. Yet when one visits it one does not experience the same serenity as conveyed in the movie. After all you are visiting the place that day together with a million other Chinese …Nevertheless it is a most impressive location and too big for the couple of hours you get to go through it with a tour guide. Ideally one would spent a day in it wandering around and discovering all hidden corners off the beaten track.

Great cast, great costumes, great entertainment (click to enlarge)A pleasant surprise was the entertainment one night at the Chinese Opera. Even Lucas enjoyed the play. In particular the story of Lord Buddha and his assistants trying to tame the Monkey God. No words were required to understand the play. it was most entertaining with the multitude of actors and costumes.

Tibetan look in Chengde  (click to enlarge)We also spent a day visiting Chengde the former Summer Capital of the Emperors. The Summer Palace and its grounds are huge. The city also has many temples, all filled with a rich history.

The highlight of the China part of the trip was the visit and the climb of Mount Taishan and its 6293 steps. It took us 8 hours to complete the 11km climb, including stops at all the temples on the way. The entire climb was very steep with the last part the most grueling. In all we covered about 1300m height difference in about 11km. We stayed over for the night at a hotel the top of the mountain to witness the sunrise early morning the next day. We were lucky with the weather. It was cold but clear. It is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. To quote from Wikipedia: The tallest peak is Jade Emperor Peak, which is commonly reported as 1545 meters tall, but is described by the Chinese government as 1532.7 meters. Mount Tai is one of the “Five Sacred Mountains”. It is associated with sunrise, birth, and renewal, and is often regarded the foremost of the five. The temples on its slopes have been a destination for pilgrims for 3,000 years. Religious worship of Mount Tai has a tradition of 3,000 years, it has been practiced from the time of the Shang to that of the Qing Dynasty. Over time, this worship evolved into an official imperial rite and Mount Tai became one of the principal places where the emperor would pay homage to Heaven (on the summit) and Earth (at the foot of the mountain) in the Fengshan Sacrifices. In 219 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, held a ceremony on the summit and proclaimed the unity of his empire in a famous inscription.You can view the details of the climb on Wikiloc.

The gate entrance to the Kong Family residence  (click to enlarge)The final leg of the China part of the trip was the visit of Qufu, Confucius birth place, where he lived and where he is buried. Qufu was also the seat of the Kong family, Confucius’ descendants. We visited Confucius’ Temple, the mansion of the Kong Family where they used to live and from where they would rule the city and surrounding province and we also covered the Kong Family graveyard where Confucius and his descendants are buried.

The trip also included a stopover of several days in Mongolia where we visited all important sights in the capital Ulaanbaatar, including old palaces and temples. It was early March and not yet Spring with temperatures dropping to double digits below zero. It also provided the opportunity to meet up with friends of Jeannie’s from Singapore and which she hadn’t seen for almost 12 years.

Monks on the way home  (click to enlarge)We also took two days out to travel to Harhorin, about 360km South West of Ulaanbaatar to visit the Erdene Zuu Khiid Monastery built in the location where Genghis Khan had his capital, Karakorum. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit and the opportunity to see the vast open and beautiful country side of Mongolia.You can view the details of the route on Wikiloc.

Baghrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery  (click to enlarge)End-February I visited Georgia and traveled to Kutaisi and Batumi, respectively in the West of the country and at the Black Sea Coast. When in Kutaisi Hans managed to slip in a quick visit to the Baghrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery which is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The Monastery of the Virgin – Gelati near Kutaisi (Imereti region of Western Georgia) was founded by the King of Georgia David the Builder (1089-1125) in 1106. He is also buried there.

Gonio Fortess  (click to enlarge)About 15km south of Batumi, in Georgia, lies the Gonio Fortress. To quote from Wikipedia: a Roman fortification in Adjara, on the Black sea. The village sits 4km north of the Turkish border. The oldest citing of the fortress belongs to Plinius Secundus (1st century AD). In the 2nd century AD it was a well-fortified Roman city in Colchis. The grave of Saint Matthias, one of the twelve apostles is speculated to be in Gonio fortress.

Zharkent's Chinese style mosque turned museum entrance gate (click to enlarge)End-April I visited Zharkent, a small quiet and sleepy town in Kazakhstan about 40km from the Chinese border. It’s claim to fame is to have a mosque built just over 120 years ago by a local trader who brought in a Chinese architect. The entire construction of the mosques is in wood without any nails. It resembles more a Chinese pagoda than a traditional mosque.

Last Updated: 17-05-2009

Copyright © 2012 Hans Dewaele – All rights reserved

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