December 19, 2008
2008 in Pictures: Part 11
Date Taken: April 19th, 2008
Two more shots from Hangzhou. The first is of people playing on top of Baoshi Shan (Gemstone Hill) which is on the northern edge of West Lake. I like the way that the tree frames the picture naturally. And the second is of the lake itself as the sunsets. I can't even fit the whole lake into one shot! I should've taken panoramic ones and stitched them together.
Date Taken: April 20th, 2008
This was taken at Lingyin Temple, about a half an hour's walk (or hour-long traffic-choked bus ride) west of West Lake. It's a old Buddhist sanctuary surrounded by beautiful mountains. The mountain surrounding the area is called Feilai Feng -- "The Peak that Flew from Afar." Legend has it that it was magically transported from India. Another key attraction is the hundreds of rock carvings detailing Buddhist imagery, such as this image of Maitreya, the laughing Buddha. He certainly looks happy :-)
Date Taken: April 26th, 2008
Wow, look at my hair! Yes I went through a small short-hair phase in April. It's over now, trust me ;-) Anyway this picture was taken at a baseball game between the Beijing Tigers and the Shanghai Eagles. I went with Tim and Laurel, who kept score on a sheet of paper (that I kept). The game was fun -- the weather was perfect and the crowd (such as it was) was pretty receptive. Shanghai lost 1-0, but I still had a good time. It sort of made up for the fact that I never went to Tokyo to see a baseball game -- I say sort of, because baseball in China isn't even half the attraction it is in Japan, although the Dodgers and Padres did play two exhibition games at Wukesong Field in Beijing earlier this year.
The NBA is far and away the most popular American sport here, largely due to the presence of Yao Ming and other Chinese players. I don't think the NFL is far behind -- lately I've been seeing game highlights on the flatscreen TVs in the subway station. I bet they're trying to do it without any Chinese players though, unless the NFL has signed some I'm not aware of? Conversely, the MLB has a few players from Taiwan, none of whom are very good. To achieve the level of success the NBA has had, some team will need to develop a superstar from the mainland. Hey, if the Pirates can sign two Indian guys who aren't even professional pitchers, anything can happen, right?
Date Taken: May 1st, 2008
If you want to see 5 minutes of Chinese history, visit Shanghai. If you want to see 500 years of Chinese history, visit Beijing. (And if you want to see 5,000 years of Chinese history, visit Xi'an -- but that's another story.) My trip to Beijing was fantastic for so many reasons. Out of all the places I visited, it's the one place I'd go back to if I had time.
The first shot above is from Tiananmen Square at night. The obelisk in the background on the left is the Monument to the People's Heroes, located just to the north of Mao Zedong's mausoleun. The building in the background on the right is the Great Hall of the People, featured on the back of the 100 RMB note. It's where the Chinese government conducts legislative and ceremonial activities - sort of like a White House front lawn + Capitol Building. Just in this area you have so much history and culture about China.
The second shot is of the south gate of the Forbidden City, so named because only the emperor and his followers were allowed free access to the place. Today it's a 60 RMB tourist attraction! It contains the old Imperial Palace as well as a shitload of small museums (and even more shitloads of wide-open, empty space).
Date Taken: May 3rd, 2008
THE FREAKING GREAT WALL OF CHINA. 'Nuff said. If you go, you are given the choice of several "sections" -- Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Simatai, etc. Badaling is the touristy section that has been fully restored and is mobbed every day. There's even a Badaling Expressway to take you there. Simatai, the section you see above, is one of the more remote sections -- a full three hours' drive from the city. It's unrestored, remote, steep, and located high up in the mountains. All are reasons why I was excited to go there instead of Badaling :-)
I could spend another day or two just walking around up there. You realize you are standing on history as you gaze off into the distant mountains. It's marvelous. Easily the coolest/most exciting thing I've done in China.