Beijing & Hong Kong, 2002

Photos © Ruud Leeuw Photos © Ruud Leeuw


Hectic circumstances were encountered during the preparations. At work, my request for leave was initially overlooked and the original destination was cancelled. Instead, we opted for this two city tour. And then I almost overlooked I had to arrange visa, in spite of two previous trips to China (1989 & 1992) as well as inoculations. With KLM we flew to Beijing and before we knew it we walked on the Tian'anmen Square in a 36 C heat..
Tian'anmen Square, China's Gate of Heavenly Peace, except for that historic date in 1989, which cannot be overlooked if you even want to start understanding China and the Chinese.
The square has a few very large buildings on it, which brings down the scale of the entire square and I found it considerably less larger than I had expected. In the evening you see a lot of people flying their kites here.

In spite of the soaring heat we went to visit the Forbidden City and the palace Museum. The large squares make it impossible to avoid the heat, there is not enough shade to go around for all the visitors. Hence the umbrellas.

At the heart of Beijing's historical centre lies the Forbidden City, the enormous palace compound that was the home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties; the Forbidden City also hosts the Palace Museum, which contains imperial collections of Chinese art. Surrounding the Forbidden City are several former imperial gardens, parks and scenic areas, notably the Beihai, Houhai, Shichahai, Zhongnanhai, Jingshan and Zhongshan.
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost five centuries, it served as the home of the Emperor and his household, as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government.
Built from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 square metres (7,800,000 square feet). [Wikipedia]


It It feels like you walk in a small town, negotiating the streets of the Forbidden City. The Chinese prefer to refer to it as the Palace Museum. Left and right you see everything nicely decorated. The layout of this city was determined in the period between 1406 and 1420 by Emporer Yongle; a million craftsmen and laborers worked here at that time.

It is great fun to watch the people around you.
These kids wear football shirts of their favourite teams, like they do back home.


To the Great Wall
We decided to go on a tour to visit the Great Wall. We opted for the Sima Tai trip, a little further away (and a full day tour) as it would avoid the tourist crowds. The Simatai section of the Great Wall is located in Gubeikou Town of Miyun County, 120 kms from Beijing. There was supposed to be an option to travel up by seatlift, but that was unservicable and we did the hot hike up the mountain...

The Great Wall stretches over approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles) from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, but stretches to over 6,700 km (4,160 miles) in total; a more recent archaeological survey using advanced technologies points out that the entire Great Wall, with all of its branches, stretches for 8,851.8 km (5,500.3 mi).
At its peak, the Ming Wall was guarded by more than one million men. It has been estimated that somewhere in the range of 2 to 3 million Chinese died as part of the centuries-long project of building the wall.
The Chinese were already familiar with the techniques of wall-building by the time of the Spring and Autumn Period, which began around the 8th century BC. During the Warring States Period from the 5th century BC to 221 BC, the states of Qi, Yan and Zhao all constructed extensive fortifications to defend their own borders. Built to withstand the attack of small arms such as swords and spears, these walls were made mostly by stamping earth and gravel between board frames. Qin Shi Huang conquered all opposing states and unified China in 221 BC, establishing the Qin Dynasty. Intending to impose centralized rule and prevent the resurgence of feudal lords, he ordered the destruction of the wall sections that divided his empire along the former state borders. To protect the empire against intrusions by the Xiongnu people from the north, he ordered the building of a new wall to connect the remaining fortifications along the empire's new northern frontier. [Wikipedia, more..]
The Great Wall

China's Great Wall
Only when we were seated in the van and drove to this section of the Great Wall, I noticed the warning in my Lonely Planet guidebook: not recommended for people with a fear of heights! I became to understand entirely that warning... It is not so much the height at times, but the lack of restorations and poor repair in places, you have to be careful not to trip and fall over!
China's Great Wall
Our ticket for this Sima Tai section of the Great Wall proudly claimed: "The Most Dangerous Part of the Great Wall"... We walked 8 of the 12 accessable towers here (there are 135 towers in the entire section).
The view was magnificent, but I was wheezing and coughing because of the strenuous effort, going up and down, quite a vigorous exertion for me. Alexander had no such problem and neither had the kind young woman, on poor shoes, who walked with me and showed concern about my poor condition (she was there to have me buy souvenirs from her at the end of the walk, of course).


Beijing air museum
We had an interesting visit to the air museum at Datang-Shan, at the town of Changping, north of Beijing.



beijing's Hutongs
Besides visits to modern shops (for items such as music CD's and VCD's, we also went to the Hutongs of Beijing.

Hutongs are narrow streets or alleys, most commonly associated with Beijing.
In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.
Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history. [Wikipedia]
Sports in the Hutong
Future champions do their practice..
life in the Hutongs
Taking it easy in the Hutongs
Hutong street
Qianliang Hutong

Alexander wasn't too comfortable walking these small streets; photographing people in less desirable conditions nagged his conscience. I would later read about 'poverty porn', but my intentions were to seek out 'historic China', not relish in someone's misfortune.
Houses, streets, gardens were built according to Feng Shui principles, not randomly built as it would seem at times.

People living here often have to do without running water, heating except a woodstove, electricity, bathroom. It sure is a far cry from Beijings growing number of skyscrapers, shopping centers and fastfood restaurants.

Bicycles in beijing

Proud parents in beijing
Parents are proud of their children and have no problem posing them for the western tourist photographer.
Bird owner
In the western world we have pets like cats & dogs, but here people keep songbirds. It is not uncommon to see men, cages in hand, stroll through the streets, heading for a park, where they gingerly line up their cages, covered in cloth so their pets don't wake too early. The men then retreat to benches and wait for the day to warm up and for their hua mei to sing...
Proud performer in the Hutong
This ol'timer performed for us spontaneously, working his musical instruments.


beijing Summerpalace
We booked another excursion which would take us to the Panda Garden (rain and the panda's out of sight), the Summer Palace and the Lama Temple. Here we have photos taken, in spite of the rainy conditions, at the Summer Palace.

Summer Palace.. in the rain

Our guide Wu Li Ping (Li Ping = Beautiful Rainbow) explained the palace in great detail, but it is spread out over such a large area that we could not take it in.

The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill (60 meters high) and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water.
The Summer Palace started out life as the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1750 (Reign Year 15 of Emperor Qianlong). Artisans reproduced the garden architecture styles of various palaces in China. Kunming Lake was created by extending an existing body of water to imitate the West Lake in Hangzhou. The palace complex suffered two major attacks--during the Anglo-French allied invasion of 1860 (with the Old Summer Palace also ransacked at the same time), and during the Boxer Rebellion, in an attack by the eight allied powers in 1900. The garden survived and was rebuilt in 1886 and 1902. [Wikipedia, more..]

family pictures, China-style

Money in China
Things had certainly changed in China; I remember my first visit to China when tourists had to pay in Yuan currency but the actual bargains were in people's money, the Renminbi. Now I could use 'plastic' to make cash withdrawals...

Lama Temple

Lama Temple Beijing (Yonghegong), or Palace of Peace and Harmony Lama Temple or Yonghegong Lamasery, a renowned lama temple of the Yellow Hat Sect of Lamaism, is situated in the northeast part of Beijing city.
Lama Temple features five large halls and five courtyards with beautifully decorative archways, upturned eaves and carved details. It houses a treasury of Buddhist art, including sculptured images of gods, demons and Buddhas, as well as Tibetan-style murals.

traffic in beijing
Traffic is congested in this city, and the untold numbers of cabs is a part of the problem.


Bicycle repairs in beijing
No, we did not ga as far as renting a bicycle.
At night it gets dangerous on the roads as these bikes don't have any lights..

junkfood in beijing
Dining in the western-style fastfood restaurants is definitely a fashionable thing to do for the Chinese.

Public service: aerobics in beijing
As a public service one can find these contraptions in places, so people can do their exercise for free.


Milliosn of bicycles in beijing...
Streets are crowded here, bicycles are still around in large numbers but more people can now afford a car. Traffic congestion has become a huge problem for this city.


Back in the hutongs
We also went to the Liuhaihutong, near the Forbidden City.This is north of Beihai Park.
China is a remarkable country, consider this news item:
Seventy-Year-Old Ms. Du Shuqing Arrested - Personnel from the Changqiao Police Station arrested Ms. Du Shuqing, who lives on Liuhaihutong Lane, the Xicheng District, Beijing, on the morning of June 12, 2008. They took her into a brainwashing center. Her husband requested her release, but the police told him that she would only be released after the Olympic Games. Ms. Du has been arrested many times.
Roadisde shops in beijing
A roadside shop in Liuhai Hutong

Amused by video
People were very amused about Ada shooting some video footage of this kid; things even got funnier when the footage was shown to them on the camera screen

To get back to the hotel we crossed the Beihai Park, where we enjoyed another exquisite meal in one of the restaurants of our hotel (Novotel Xinqiao, arranged by our travel agent Monkey King Travels)

We flew Air China from Beijing to Hong Kong. The situation at check-in was chaotic and confusing.
Hong Kong
The skyline of Hong Kong is forever changing and growing; the ferry rides over Hong Kong harbour offers excellent views. We arrived here in temperatures lower than in Beijing (30 C), but the humidity made it oppressive. That gave us another reason to go on the water, for that is always cooler than the citystreets.

Hiong Kong

Two photos take at Hong Kong Island: on the Left the traditional English doubledecker bus and on the Right very modern architecture rising high up, proud & ambitious.


We took the train to the Peak, something we did decades ago too. In 1989 there were hardly any buildings on top of this mountain, now there was an entire village it seemed.. Alas, Kai Tak airport was now gone.

Plane spoting at HKG
We also took to Chek Lap Kok airport for some plane spotting. No sign of rain on this photo.. But a tropical downpour later that afternoon rendered our umbrellas useless and we got very wet indeed !

Bird market
We decided to follow up on a suggestion made in the Lonely Planet guidebook, took a taxi to Bird Market. But the language skills of the cabbies aren't very good and we ended up at a different bird place.. Oh well.
Bird market in Hong Kong
We enjoyed another fierce rainshower here, but found the sun out soon after. The light was very crisp. I had to wait a little longer after the rain had cleared, because with the sun out, the humidity was enormous and our video camera and my first, new digital photocamera, a Minolta S404, refused to operate under these conditions. So did Ada, for that matter.

Science Museum in Hong Kong
I had to seek out this DC-3 in the Science Museum, record it for my propliner files.. This Douglas C-47 got Cathay Pacific Airways started in 1946, but it was sold in 1953 and reregistered VH-MAL in New Guinea; it ended up in 1973 with Bush Pilot Airways (later Air Queensland), who sold it in 1983 to Cathay for preservation.





the End