Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bedazzled in Beijing

A crazy spur-of-the-moment November trip to China resulted in a visual and sensual feast! My China preconceptions were quickly dispatched once I became immersed in this frenetic and dynamic powerhouse of amazing contrasts! Almost 20 million people, amazing traffic jams, pollution, and a guide that felt a need to drive in the middle of the lane marker was something I was not prepared for, but I am so glad I went.

This is the off season! I can’t imagine the summer months at Beijing’s iconic Forbidden City. The heavy crowds pushed Marla to the front, but it was a better view.

A man in a classic Mao suit tours one of the incredible 980 buildings of The Forbidden City.

Exploring the city is a visual adventure!

There are nine gold plated bowls surrounding the building. This bowl has had almost all its gold rubbed off. Nine is an important number in Chinese culture because it sounds the same as the word for “longlasting.” Nine is also associated with the Chinese dragon, a symbol of the Emperor. I found many bat motifs on doors and other structures in the Forbidden City. The word for bat and “happiness” are pronounced the same.

The Emperor was carried up this marble path of carved dragons.

The building boom in Beijing has created many unusual and exciting structures. The CCTV building has impossible angles that almost defy logic! It was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus & Ole Sheeren.

The manic construction pace and the quest to modernize have sadly destroyed classic Hutong neighborhoods. Beijing Hutongs are narrow alleys with traditional courtyard homes. The government is trying to protect a number of them, but many are gone.

Rickshaw drivers take a break.

The entrance to this Hutong is rich and vibrant; a woman knits, people play badminton, children play. Exploring the un-touristy Hutongs was our favorite part of the trip.

A man on a bike races home with a load of leeks on Liulichang Street.

A cold wind blew away the clouds as we explored the Great Wall at the Badaling section.

Where is everyone? We were almost alone on the incredible “Sacred path to the Ming Tombs.”

A visit to the Summer Palace is a must!

The light in late afternoon on Kunming Lake was mysterious.

A behatted visitor glances at the filtered sun over the water.

The Lama, or Yonghe Tibetan Buddhist Temple, is one of the largest in the world.

Love this statue in the Hutong.

No one loves duck more than my wife! Her favorite used to be the numbered duck at Tour D’Argent in Paris. The new number one is the Peking duck at Da Dong, arguably the best Chinese restaurant in Beijing.

Next stop is Shanghai.


  1. Awesome photos! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dick & Marla, the photos are gorgeous. That first photo of the tassels is incredible - it would be such an incredible piece of art blown up and printed onto canvas!