Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐! 恭喜发财! 万事如意! 狗年吉祥! I hope the Year of the Dog brings you happiness and prosperity.
I have been very off my resolutions as a result of those health issues I had been dealing with earlier this month, so the Lunar New Year is another shot at a fresh slate to get my life back on track. Valentine’s Day was also Lent, but I don’t know what bad habit I really need to completely abstain from this year. I may try to add something instead of eliminating something, maybe meditation, but we shall see! I’ll be mostly focusing on my resolutions from earlier in the year. For example, I still haven’t purchased stamps for all that snail mail I said I would start sending. BUT I have started collecting mailing addresses and sending eCards in the meantime?
Anyhow, this is very delayed but here’s a 1SecondEveryday compilation from when I celebrated the new year most recently in Hong Kong 🇭🇰
I had so much fun in Hong Kong and it feels so familiar even though I only visited once before, 15 years ago. It’s a city like no other and one of my favorites, despite the frustrations of seeing Chinese and English everywhere but being unable to communicate with Cantonese-speaking-only folks. The city is super vibrant and has an incredible energy that I absolutely love. The food scene is so good that I only remembered to get an eating video right before we left, as the rest of the time I was too busy cramming the food in my mouth.
I hope you are having a great 2018 so far, for those observing, I hope Lent is going well, and I hope the Year of the Dog brings nothing but good things to you!
Let me just say that this was one of the most terrified I have ever been on a hike. The path down is called the Sky Ladder and is composed of narrow, slippery, wooden steps that were just so steeeeeeeep. My legs were wobbling so hard as I gripped the banister to avoid falling. My knees were literally knocking against each other and I was sweating really hard despite how cold it was outside.
So be careful! From the Sky Ladder, you can get a great view of the One Line Sky, where two ridges come veeeery close and you see just a sliver (or a line) of sky between them.
I took kind of a long time to recover but it was a really cool view. (Looking down was precarious though!)
From there, we could look up and see the glass bridge we had just visited before seeing a very nice little waterfall!
At this point, I started to feel really daunted by the prospect of walking down the rest of the way down the mountain, and luckily I didn’t have to! There is a stone slide that you can slide down (for an additional charge). You sit your butt on a little pad so you don’t get butt burn, since it’s not polished to a smooth shine. This is a good thing, because honestly, you don’t want to be slipping down that slide that fast, especially with the risk of flying off the slide and tumbling down a cliff. You also have to wear gloves to protect your hands on the sides of the slide so that you don’t burn your hands, again, on the unpolished stone. In fact, gripping the sides is a good way for you to slow down or stop if it’s too fast, too furious for you.
I also got a chance to take a little zipline down, but this is more for fun than to save any time or climbing down, as it’s not a very steep zipline and it is not too long. But if you like ziplining, it should be worth the fee!
The tour of the Grand Canyon concluded with a boat ride through the river, where we saw this amazing blue water. I kept thinking blue lagoon as we quietly motored through this peaceful, serene river scene.
Also, this is going to be very random, but all along the path were these little messages that… really made me worry about the mental state of the person who wrote them? They started out innocently enough…
But then we got to these signs and… well… is this person okay? Is the mountain okay??
Started talking about physical activity, ended with these giggles.
What are your favorite scenic mountain hikes? I’ve done just a smallhandful now, but I am finding myself enjoying them more because I do love nature walks so much. (If only hikes didn’t burn so much…)
I’m just about wrapped up my China recaps and I have a lot of fun stuff to share with you all soon, including my recent trip to San Francisco!
It seems a lot of my favorite sights in Beijing were seen in a jiffy and one of those was Dashilanr. (The local Beijing accent puts an “r” sound at the end of a lot of words, so thats’ where this strange Romanization comes from!) Named for the “big fence” aka 大栅栏 that was erected around it by merchants to protect the Ming dynasty capital, the only evidence left of this big fence is actually an iron gate that was put up in the year 2000.
Dashilanr is best known as a historical street whose merchants clothed the imperial family and, later, the founding members of the Communist Party. A few of these businesses are still there today, selling their wares that have long been associated with status and wealth because they were literally the products that the emperor would wear. Some that my aunt pointed out to me while we were walking (full of KFC):
马聚元Majuyuan – cover your head like a king, hats on hats on hats
内联升Neiliansheng – traditional-style Chinese shoes in traditional and modern styles, Chairman Mao and the emperors had their shoes made here
瑞蚨祥Ruifuxiang – silk shop for when you want to get custom pieces and qipaos made
These are known as laozihao 老字號, which are ooooold, well-established Chinese businesses that came about when China moved the capital to Beijing during the Ming dynasty. These are household names that have been serving food and wares to China since way before the birth of America, constantly reminding me that the United States is very young compared to the over 400-year-old Peking duck shop and pickle shop. (Seriously! Look up 六必居.)
The thing about China is that it is one of the 4 ancient civilizations but also one of the largest powers in the modern world. So after you walk past Neiliansheng and get yourself fitted for a traditional pair of shoes not unlike those worn a hundred years ago (maybe customized with some Mickey Mouse designs), you can walk across the way to Madame Tussaud’s to say hi to Jackie Chan. I’ve never been particularly interested in wax museums, but I do think it’d be interesting to see what public figures are immortalized in wax at this location!
If you walk a little further down, you can also shop at H&M and Zara. (I learned via Beijing prices that Zara actually is fast fashion, it’s just sold at a markup in the United States? I never quite understood why people compared it to H&M all the time… So basically, you can stock up here.) There’s also side alleys that focus on traditional Beijing foods, and folks in costume will beckon to you with flags and giant fans to entice you to taste their food.
This is definitely a must-visit if you’re interested in seeing the juxtaposition of Beijing’s culture and historical brands with the ones introduced by globalization. I’d love to come back when it’s warmer and during the day.
Fun fact: A little train can transport you from the entrance to the back of the district, as it can be a very long walk, especially if you are traveling with elders or small children. I’m not 100% clear on the schedule, we only saw it go past once during the whole time we were there.
There are a lot of pedestrian-only shopping streets in China, and I love that this one is so rich with Beijing’s history. You can learn a lot about what the upper class has looked like over the past 600 years walking down this street, as you shop where the emperor did and then pop into a Zara and get Coco bubble tea.
What are your favorite places where old intersects with new? I love seeing this in China, although sometimes it happens at such a rapid pace that I get very concerned because this modernization does leave a lot of people behind. I remember my Europe trip had a lot of these visual intersections, with all-glass building fronts besides medieval stone structures, like in Tallinn and in London.
Part of the reason that my mom is now telling everyone how much I love museums is that I did get to visit 2 great museums while I was in Beijing: The National Museum of China and the Capital Museum. While the National Museum is dedicated to the entire history of China and its people, the Capital Museum focuses on Beijing, the capital city, and art.
And as I mentioned before, this is another free museum, so bring your passport and take advantage of the immense amount of art and culture that is available if you have a few hours.
Capital Museum (首都博物馆)
Again, I didn’t take many photos and had a limited amount of time in this museum, but I really enjoyed learning about specific cultural aspects of Beijing and, in turn, China while exploring the Capital Museum.
There was an exhibit on Peking opera that I found really fascinating, a super cool exhibit about Old Beijing and the hutong life that used to thrive in the capital, an exhibit on imperial culture from China’s seat of power, and so many galleries of sculpture, calligraphy, painting, jade, porcelain. Did you know that the Chinese had a system of producing furniture so as to not use a single nail to keep the pieces together?
There was also a temporary exhibit I saw about Tibetan yaks and how important they were to the people of Tibet. My aunts were really excited to see this, as I think the exhibit left shortly after I did, and it’s not something that many people are able to see up close but folks know a bit about it. The size of the skulls and horns that were on display were unreal when you thought about just the sheer size of these beasts and how much a people’s livelihood depended on them.
This museum had fewer English placards than the other one, and fewer Chinese ones than I would have expected, but there was a lot of history and art and culture jam-packed into the Capital Museum, and I do recommend a visit if you’d like to learn a bit more about the history and culture and art of Beijing when you visit!
Admission: FREE – citizens need their ID and non-nationals need to bring a passport
What are some aspects of Beijing-specific culture that you’re familiar with? I know a little bit about Peking opera and visited a hutong the last time I was in Beijing but it was cool to learn just a little bit more! I was on the lookout for a big food exhibit but alas, no such luck during my visit!
What other museums in Beijing do you think are worth visiting?
Somehow, my mom started telling folks in China that I came to Beijing wanting to just seem the museums!!! Even though I didn’t know about any museums that weren’t the Forbidden City, really. However, as a person who reads every word on every placard in any museum, gallery, aquarium, zoo, what have you, I did really enjoy visiting 2 amazing and free (!!!) museums in Beijing with my aunts. Because I was maybe the only person interested in the exhibits, we didn’t spend an awful lot of time in either museum, so I’ll have to go back someday soon and see the rest! The first one I want to talk about is:
National Museum of China (中国国家博物馆)
The National Museum (国家博物馆) is an easy stop if you will be visiting Tiananmen Square, as it’s directly across the street, and is a great stop to get an expansive look at China’s history.
You can start with prehistoric times by looking at the oldest human fossils found in China and go all the way through to the Qing dynasty, the last dynasty before the Communist Revolution.
While I was able to visit the Forbidden City and its accompanying museum, many imperial artifacts are actually kept here in the National Museum, such as the furniture and accoutrements of the various rooms that would otherwise be left exposed to tourists and the elements.
The museum is huge. We only had a few hours and did not get to see all the exhibits, including a waxwork exhibit of key figures in Chinese history. I’m glad we were able to stop by a section that was devoted to statues of important historical people. If you don’t know any important people from China’s history, go up to the top floor of the National Museum and learn about the people who are depicted in statue up there.
During my visit, there was a collaboration exhibit with the museum and Qatar museums on pearls. They had a lot of stunning pearl work, from intricate pearl beading found in imperial costumes to items from Elizabeth Taylor’s personal collection. They also had really cool items like an oyster shell that trapped a fish beneath layers of mother-of-pearl.
I didn’t take many photos, contrary to how many you see here, because I was furiously reading signs and trying to take in as much information as I could. To think that there were entire wings of the museum that I didn’t get to see, while I was speedwalking through the ones I did get to browse, blows my mind.
I can’t wait to come back and explore the rest of the museum and their new exhibits!
Admission: FREE – citizens need their ID and non-nationals need to bring a passport Security: Do not bring large bags, as they will not be permitted. A thorough security check is required before entering the museum, so be prepared to have your bag scanned and to be patted down. Lighters are prohibited, as evidenced by the giant basket of ’em at the security checkpoint. Photos are permitted, as you can see, but not in all exhibits.
What is your favorite history museum? I don’t think I can choose a favorite history museum, since those are my favorites. And really, aren’t all museums history museums? I definitely love when they are free, though! Free access to history is something I really take for granted, as someone who is a hop, skip, and jump away from so many Smithsonian institutions.
How much would you say you know about Chinese history? I know… some. My dad bought me a documentary set that covered literally every era of Chinese history, from prehistoric times through all the dynasties and wars through to the Communist Revolution. A lot of information has since leaked out of my brain, but I try to refresh bits and pieces of it every now and then and this museum visit helped a lot!