As I'm off getting married today I thought I'd share with you a glimpse of my single life before my move to Toronto and meeting this wonderful man who by the time your reading this I will officially be allowed to call my husband... We will be taking some time off over the next couple of weeks but normal service will resume shortly. In the mean time I hope you enjoy the pictures.
September 2009 brought with it a chance for me to take in the sights and sounds of the stunning country that is China. The tour my friend and I decided on covered the main cities of Shanghai Xian and Beijing. Stopping off at small towns such as Hangzhou and Suzhou.
We flew from Dublin to London for our 11 hour flight to Beijing where the tour was to begin. The first day was a city tour of Beijing. The contrast of new and old in Beijing is extraordinary. Ancient temples and palaces stand beside the 20th century buildings created by Chairman Mao and his people. The city is bursting with street markets, and crowded with locals and tourists alike.
|The Temple of Heaven|
The first day in Beijing we visited the beautiful Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square- The largest public square in the world. Reports suggest over a million people demonstrated there in the pro-democracy protests in 1989.
|Gate of Heavenly Peace from Tiananmen Square|
Tiananmen Square is bordered by the Qianmen Gate, the Great Hall of the People and the Gate of Heavenly Peace -The entrance to the incredible Forbidden City which is the home of the Imperial Palace where China was ruled by the imperial dynasties for hundreds of years. You can't help but imagine how this place would have been in it's day. Amazing!
|The Imperial Palace|
|Inside The Forbidden City|
Our next visit was to the Great Wall. The excitement on the coach was palpable as we came around the mountains and all you could see was the vast expanse of wall. Not to be confused with the Game of Thrones "Wall" :-)
At number 3 on the list of Seven Wonders of the Medieval World the wall is 3,800 miles long and at least 2,600 years old. It winds through the hills of northern China and passes within 40 miles of Beijing at Badaling. It was built as a defense system to keep the invading Mongol tribes out of China.
We had lots of time to explore the wall and walked as far as we could in both directions before it was time to move on to the Avenue of Statues. Also known as The Sacred Way or The Divine Road it was considered to be the road leading to heaven. Chinese emperors were known as the Son of Heaven and during their reign they often passed through the sacred road to the sacrificial altar in order to converse with heaven. After their death, the funeral procession also took the path through the Sacred Road as a symbol of the passed emperor 's journey to heaven in the afterlife.
The path which is slightly curved to fool evil spirits, is lined on either side with willows and carved stone statues including twelve pairs of animals such as lions, horses, elephants, camels and six pairs of human beings such as generals, and public officials.
The day ended with a visit to the Olympic Village. Purpose built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The campus is made up of the Bird’s Nest stadium which hosted the athletics and football events and the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube, hotels and a shopping center. These days there is a lot less activity and is used mainly for soccer events.
|The Birds Nest|
|The Water Cube|
We flew to Xian, the Silk Road’s eastern end where we visited the site of the Terracotta Warriors. We where not allowed to take photographs while we where inside the pit site. But here is one from the web so you can get an idea.
Discovered in 1974 when farmers where drilling a well. Archaeologists found chambers with about 8000 warriors, each standing around six feet tall and kitted out with weapons. It is believed they where made to accompany the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in the afterlife. There is also a huge array of horses and chariots, even musicians and acrobats to keep them entertained.
|The Large Goose Pagoda|
We also visited the Han Tombs while we where in Xia. Made mainly of brick and stone, they were placed deep in the earth so that they would not rot or be destroyed. Found in the tombs where well persevered items of jade clothing sewn with gold thread, a gold inlaid furnace and vast amounts of iron, silver and lacquer pieces. It was amazing to see the preservation of these items which have been buried since around 104BC.
|The Lingering Garden|
Over the tour we visited some magnificent gardens. The Humble Administrator’s Garden, The Yu Yuan Gardens and the Lingering Garden above, which was my favorite. It's so calm and peaceful but in the middle of a bustling city. Strolling inside the garden walls you'd be forgiven for thinking you where in a country estate. Between my travels to China and India I've really come to appreciate the thought and effort that people put into the gardens and how wasteful we can be with these spaces. It has given me great ideas for how I'd like to do my own garden some day, when everything else is in place. For now I'm happy with my balcony space :-)
The Summer Palace in Beijing is almost 3 kilometers of lakes, gardens and palaces. The lake is entirely man-made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill. Construction was complete in 1764 at a cost of over 4.8 million silver taels which in todays rates would be a cool 6.6 billion dollars. The design of the Summer Palace was based on a legend in Chinese mythology about three divine mountains in the East Sea. The three islands in Kunming Lake -Nanhu, Tuancheng and Zaojiantang Islands were built to represent the three mountains, while the lake itself was based on a blueprint of the West Lake in Hangzhou. Architectural features in the palace were built to resemble various attractions around China with the shopping streets designed to imitate those in Suzhou and Yangzhou.
The main feature of the Summer Palace is the Great Temple of Gratitude and Longevity. As the palace was not equipped for long-term stays the Qianlong Emperor rarely stayed there and only for the day whenever he did visit it. It's hard to believe after so much work and money went into it the lack of enthusiasm there was for the place after construction. It fell into disrepair and some features where demolished. It was also destroyed by fire and subsequently restored on a number of occasions over the years.
|The Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum|
|View of the Shanghai World Financial Tower from old Shanghai|
|View from the Jin Mao Tower|
Once the tallest tower in China the Jin Mao Tower has now been eclipsed by the Shanghai Tower which was only under construction when we visited. The Jin Mao Tower is 88 floors of Hotel, offices and shopping centre. We took the express elevator to the observation deck, as you can see it wasn't the clearest of days but I managed to get a brief picture through the clouds.
Stop by my facebook page and check out lots more photos, we had such a great time in China, I've really enjoyed the walk down memory lane writing this post I hope you enjoyed it too.
For a sneak peak at some wedding photos follow us on Instagram and Twitter. There is bound to be some snaps throughout the day from our tech savvy guests!
Have a great weekend.