Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn Colours in North-East China

This is the time of year when it seems the whole of Beijing goes to the Fragrant Hills to see the maple leaves turn red. My friend Franky was lucky enough to escape the city crowds (and pollution) and travel to the Tianhuashan mountains in the North-East. A long trip but well worth the effort. He wrote the following:

"Tianhuashan, 200 km from the border (with North Korea) city of Dandong in the north-east of China, is said is to have the most beautiful maple leaves in China . It has an average elevation of about 1100m.

Besides beautiful maple leaves, Tianhuashan is also a good mountain to climb, with falls, brooks, forest, valleys and long gorges. One of the mountains even looks like Chairman Mao and has been named Maogong Mountain .

The best time to view the maple leaves is mid-October. This season is also the best time to eat crab in Dandong . Dandong has many people from North Korea , and some Korean restaurants have even opened there."

Let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fireworks Galore!

We are in the 'golden' period' for Beijing, where the weather is dry and sunny by day. Following the Oct 1st 60th birthday celebrations, the festive spirit has continued with the China Open 2009 (tennis), the Beijing International Marathon, the 12th Beijing Music Festival, Ditan Book Fair and Fragrant Hills Autumn Leaves Festival. No wonder the airport these days is unusually busy as more tourists come and go.

There have been a couple of wonderful fireworks displays this month: the October 1st celebrations and the 11th National Games which opened recently in Jinan. They reminded  me of the much grander 2008 Olympics, when I was lucky enough to go to the closing ceremony. (But I didn't get in to the opening ceremony where the fireworks alone cost over 1 million USD).

Fireworks are an old Chinese invention. However, the technology continues to develop, with compressed air launching and computerised ignition. They have even become green with minimal smoke emission. The displays get more and more sophisticated, coming in multiple colours and in 3D. We can even see more complicated designs such as smileys and dragons.

Here are some pictures for you to enjoy. The next chance for you to see fireworks may not be until Chinese New Year next February. Got any plans for Valentine's Day yet?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy 60th Birthday!

If any reader has their birthday today, Happy Birthday! But I'm sorry to say this blog is not really meant for you.......rather it's for the 1.3 billion or so Chinese who are celebrating 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China.
As I write, I can see the tanks rumbling along Chang An Avenue towards Tian An Men Square. This time though is quite different from 20 years ago. Like most of the other 1.3 billion citizens, I'm watching the parade on TV. The flags are out, smiling crowds line the street (an invitation-only audience), and Beijing, indeed whole country, is full of confidence.
There is a huge military parade - all those handsome soldiers in uniform marching by - stretching for 3km along the Avenue. In addition, there are 60 floats involving 100,000 participants, (which makes for a long and tiring parade when the 100th anniversary comes along). Students are in the Square, as volunteers today, to act out various coloured displays. Only China can present such mega-shows.
The build-up has been almost as frenzied as for last year's Olympics. The centre of the city has been closed off on several weekend days for rehearsals, some lasting well into the night. Every night on every TV channel, whether it's economics, news, lifestyle, sports, music, even Beijing opera, the programmers have managed to include a 60th anniversary angle. Various parts of the city have been spruced up and new construction projects finished off, including a new subway line.
Millions of potted plants have been laid out all over the city, making a blaze of colour under the otherwise dull skies of recent days. Miraculously, the skies have cleared today, though that is no doubt due more to artificial weather manipulation than to any divine intervention. We look forward to a spectacular fireworks display tonight with hi-tech innovations.
It is indeed a time to reflect on the huge changes that have taken place since 1949, when Chairman Mao stood on the rostrum to announce a new communist China. 60 years of uninterrupted government has very quickly transformed the 'sick man of Asia' into the one of the world's largest economies, with distinct capitalist overtones. The hi-tech displayed during the 2 hour parade is a far cry from the first one in 1950 with cavalry on horses. There is a great sense of national pride and love of the Motherland. The New China is certainly going places fast, but still has far to go.
I am sure Beijing will be a magnet for foreign tourists for many years to come. This month is the golden season for tourism in Beijing, so it's a particularly good time to visit. Hope to see some of you soon before, on, or after, your 60th birthdays!