Posted by Paul Groves on February 24, 2017

The Forbidden City, Beijing

Day 50 of 111. Beijing, China

We toured The Forbidden City in Beijing. We entered the South Gate and exited the North Gate and walked about a kilometer in between. The scale of the complex was impressive, but thinking back to the grandeur it must have had when being used really made us think. The colors, the patterns and the shapes gave us things to look at in each direction. Add to this the history and stories told by the guide and you can imagine what a great experience this was.

There was still snow on the ground, the air was cold and the moats were frozen, but at the same time, the snow worked to clear the air of pollution. Notice how beautifully blue the skies were during our visit. The other effect of the cold weather is that I wore my knit cap all the time except for the twelve seconds it took to have my picture taken, so I have “hat hair” in my photos!

Memorable tidbits of information include the three entrances in the gates, the center entrance was for the emperor, the right for his officials and the left for the military. The golden throne for the emperor showed how magnificent he was, but even so, he sat behind a screen so no one saw him. We enjoyed the bronze animals decorating the palace, especially the dragon with his funny expression.

Posted by Paul Groves on February 23, 2017

Visiting the Great Wall in China

Day 49 of 111. Xingang Port and Beijing, China

The plan was to eat breakfast very early (5:00 a.m.), pack, and be ready for our overnight excursion to Beijing at 6:00 a.m. The weather was very cold but the roads were unsafe due to the fog and ice. So, we ended up waiting for nicer conditions and took pictures of the snow on the upper outside deck of the ship. Many of the crew members are from Indonesia, so some of them were out making a snowman. We actually got on the road a little after 9:00 a.m.

Partway into the trip to Beijing, the roads were again closed. Crews were out re-deicing the roads by hand and we were again underway after 75 minutes. We saw huge towers used for creating heat for all of the high rise buildings where the people live. The towers looked like nuclear power plants to me, but the guide did not say. Many of the trees were wrapped to protect them from the cold weather. Our guide said that this snow was pretty unusual, but that the snow would be pretty on the Great Wall.

When we arrived at the Great Wall, we were not disappointed. It was cold, but not as bitterly cold as I had feared. Apparently there are five different parking lots and five different parts of the wall to visit and climb. I expected steps and level parts of the wall to walk on, but there were only steep slopes and steps in our section. Ron and I both climbed up several segments of the Wall and I tried the next higher segment, but the steps were icy and my legs started to cramp on the way up, so I decided that wisdom should take over from daring and we came down to ground level. Noelle is a crew member who accompanied the tour. Her red hair was a sensation with the Chinese and she ended up taking photos with about a dozen people before she could get away to climb.

Ron took a picture of me on the upper portion of the Great Wall and I took a picture looking down toward ground level. Climbing both up and down was made more challenging because the steps were rather tall and the snow had turned to ice.

Posted by Paul Groves on February 21, 2017

Slow Boat to China

Day 48 of 111. Yellow Sea nearing Xingang, China

We will dock at the port city of Xingang this evening. I think that this is the port closest to Beijing. It was very cold in Korea and the weather forecast is for equally cold or colder weather for the next few days. The temperature is 32 F and there is ice outside on the deck. We had some swells and high winds during our trip from Korea, but it has been smooth as glass today as we glide into port. After leaving Japan, we had a kimono night. I did not buy a kimono, but I did find a coat that was made out of a kimono. The sleeves were useful for storing our chopsticks from dinner. In watercolor class, we have been painting cherry blossoms (the characters are supposed to be Peace and Courage) and I made a colorful picture of bamboo.

Tomorrow, we meet at 6:30 a.m. to leave on an overnight trip where we will visit the Great Wall (snow flurries are predicted), the Forbidden City, and Tian’amnen Square. We will also visit the Temple of Heaven, the Ming Tombs and have an overnight stay in a hotel where we will be treated to a feast of Peking duck! Coming from Southern California, we really did not pack for very cold weather. Luckily, when we were docked in San Diego, we found down jackets on sale and bought two. They came in very handy in South Korea and should keep us from freezing in Beijing.

We had to skip one port (Jeju City) because the conditions were not safe, so we saved time on our traveling time. Because of this, we really have had a gentle and leisurely trip to Xingang… thus the slow boat to China reference.

Posted by Paul Groves on February 19, 2017

Insa-dong Street

Day 46 of 111. Seoul, South Korea

We visited a traditional marketplace in Seoul (Insa-dong Street) where I was interested in the shops that sold brushes. Some of them were tiny and some were huge. We also bought warm hats for our next stop, China.

Posted by Paul Groves on February 19, 2017

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Day 46 of 111. Seoul, South Korea

The Gyeongbokgung Palace was beautiful to visit. Our guide helped us understand the organization of the buildings. I really enjoyed the colors and patterns and details everywhere. The feng shui of the palace has mountains in the background from which comes strength. The water in the moat helps retain the strength and the fantasy creatures overlooking the moat keeps away evil spirit. The guards were practicing their changing of the guard when we arrived. The spectacle was colorful and impressive. One interesting fact was a jug that was used to collect and urine to be used as fertilizer.