Archive for January, 2011

[Photo] Beijing Bicycle in Andingmen

Today’s photo is from Andingmen安定门. Andingmen, or the gate of stability, used to be a gate for the former city wall. I really enjoy walking around this area scouting for unknown restaurants and shops. This photo was taken in front of one of my favorite dumpling joints in the city. They even have fruit and tea flavored dumplings which sounds non-Chinese but surprisingly the apple dumplings are quite good. Spring festival & Chinese New Years is just right around the corner.

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[Photos] Jinshanling Great Wall

There’s a famous saying不到长城非好汉 – “He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man”. I don’t like writing about some of the touristy aspects of China, since Beijing has way more to offer than just the main tourist destinations and other writers can rant about that, but not many people know that there are various sections of the Great Wall that is open to tourists. The most touristy part of the wall is the easiest to get to and, in my opinion, the most un-authentic part of the wall: Badaling Great Wall. During peak season at Badaling, you will have to physically wait in line to climb the great wall. There are many other sections of the wall but here are some photos from Jinshanling Great wall from November 2010. It’s a bit harder to get to since it’s 100 kilometers away from central Beijing but if you want to experience the Great Wall where there’s not to many people and hike through the beaten paths, Jinshanling Great Wall is the best choice for you.


[Photo] Construction around Jintaixizhao Station

Beijing is definitely a city that never sleeps. Even from my bedroom I could hear migrant workers constructing buildings all night long. The backbone of China’s rapid development is thanks to their dedication and effort to creating infrastructure in China. This photo was taken at about 8pm on a weekday and the construction site can be seen in the background with night lights flashing out through the entrance of the construction site.


[Photos] Getting Lost in Gulou

One of my favorite locations in Beijing is Gulou in Dongcheng District. I enjoy walking along the hutong’s observing the interaction of local people and the close community that they live in. I really don’t mind getting lost at all but this past weekend, I was heading for the Drum Tower and got lost in the hutong’s around Gulou. You’d think that it’s a straight road leading to this tower from the photo below but I ran into constant dead ends and had to rely on local people to tell me which way to go.

I should have looked at the street signs that clearly says "Dead-end ahead"

Most Dogs in Beijing are usually unleashed.


[Photo] Drum Tower with Moon Light

As the title suggests, I spent some time walking around Gulou this weekend and was able to come away with this one photo. I think this is one of my favorite photos so far in the year 2011. This was taken right at dusk with the Beijing winter sky and moon light shining the Drum Tower.


[Photos] Beijing Opera at Beijing Laoshe Tea House

I had the opportunity to watch a tea ceremony, Beijing Opera, magic show, hand shadow show, and Chinese acrobatics in one location: Beijing Laoshe Teahouse. It was great for any foreigner who can’t fully understand Chinese and to enjoy bits of Chinese culture in one evening. Located near Qianmen Subway Station on Line 2, I would recommend it to anyone who is in Beijing for a short trip but would like to experience everything listed above. The setting is extremely casual too. They serve you different kinds of tea based on the season of the program and enjoy the show munching on traditional Beijing tea snacks. Here are some photos I managed to take of the Beijing Opera part of the night.


[Photos] Port of Aburatsu (Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan)

What I enjoy most about going back to Japan is definitely the food but also the scenery along the pacific coast. I drove down to one of the famous ports in the south side of Japan in Miyazaki Prefecture: Aburatsu Port. Since these photos were taken on new years day you can see the ritual trees calling for a good year and colorful flags representing each of the boat’s name.


[Photos] Ageing Countryside in Japan

When most people think of Japan, they might think of the high-tech flashing lights all over the Tokyo metropolis. But my favorite scenery within Japan would have to be 800 kilometers west from Tokyo in the Chugoku region at the tip of the main island in Japan. What most people would consider the country side has recently become a victim of youths moving out to the larger cities like Osaka and Tokyo for better job opportunities and schooling while the elders keep aging. It is said that Tokyo now makes up one-tenth of Japan’s total population of 120 million. Where agriculture is strong on the country side, it is evident from words such from Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara that “Only 1.5% of Japan’s gross domestic product comes from agriculture and the nation should pay heed to the other 98.5%”. Hence, the country side of Japan has lost its spark, as population continues to decline everywhere but Tokyo and the larger cities. This city of Satosho currently has 30,000 residents and is continuing to decrease year after year.

A typical neighborhood in Okayama prefecture. Mirrors are used instead of traffic lights.

Roads winding down hill through the rice fields.

Rice fields neatly lined up getting ready for harvest season

Scenic view of Satosho and the rice fields at dawn

JR Sanyo Line train passes by. There are usually 3-4 trains an hour connecting Okayama and Hiroshima.

Even during the what should be a rush hour period not too many people are to be seen.


[Photo] Omikuji

I’ve been really behind on posting photos from when I was in Japan so I’m gonna be going back and forth between Japan and China photos this week. This one was taken on new years day in Japan or ‘Shogatsu'(正月) when I visited a local shrine for ‘Hatsumode’(初詣). Hatsumode is the first shrine visit of the new years in Japan where people make wishes for the year to come. Some shrines in Tokyo would have 3million visitors on new years and you could see people throwing coins at the shrine since it takes way too much time to get to the shrine itself. But the one I went to was a small local shrine in Miyazaki prefecture so the wait wasn’t that long. For hatsumode it is also common for people to buy a ‘omikuji'(御神籤), which has random fortunes written on strips of paper that gives you fortunes based on your love life, health, income stability, child-birth, and disputes resolution. For more information on omikuji click here. But if the omikuji that you happen to pick out of the many has a bad fortune, its tradition that you fold it up and leave it at the shrine. Also its said that its even better if you can tie onto a branch or a string one-handed.


[Photos] Qianmen at Night

This Sunday I went to Qianmen at night-time to try to capture the environment around Qianmen and was able to get a pretty good  photo of this tree. At night, the Qianmen area in Beijing is all lit up with lights and makes for a great photo opportunity. Since 1419 during the Ming Dynasty, this gate guarded direct entry into the imperial city. During the day time there’s way too many people in Qianmen but at night there’s hardly anybody in this area. Here are some photos of the Archery Tower as well.