July 18, 2010

Beijing revisited – Part 1

My first visit to Beijing was 10 years ago, as part of my company annual trip. Since then, despite travelling a fair bit for work, I've never had the opportunity to return to Beijing until recently when I was there for several days to attend a conference. Since I had limited time for leisure, I visited places which I hadn’t been to ten years back, so no Great Wall as that would easily take up half a day or more.

The only exception was the Forbidden City, as the last visit was a rushed one where we were practically herded through the central route from one entrance of the Forbidden City to the other. This time, I took my time walking around, and rented an audio guide to fully understand and appreciate what I was seeing. Even then, with the short 2-3 hours that I had, I didn't manage to set foot to the Eastern Palaces and only managed to visit part of the Western Palaces. So looks I'll be heading to the Forbidden City again should I have the chance to visit Beijing again.

The main hall of the palace

The largest stone carving in the palace

A pavillion in the Imperial Garden

Two cypress trees with interlocking branches, symbolizing loyal love. It was said that Emperor Puyi and Empress Wanrong, the last emperor and empress, had their photograph taken in front of these trees after their wedding ceremony.

The other few hours of free time I had was spent walking around the Back Lakes area, which comprises of three idyllic lakes – 前海 (Front Lake), 后海 (Back Lake), and 西海(West Lake) and the tree-shaded neighborhoods that surround them. These lakes were once part of a system used to transport grain by barge to the Forbidden City. It is now a happening area with plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants. I also stumbled upon numerous 胡同 (hutong), where many families have lived for generations.

Tourist trishaw for hire

Local residents enjoying a dip in the lake

This is the most lavish courtyard residence in the area, Prince Gong's Mansion

Former residence of Soong Ching Ling

The gardens at the former residence of Soong Ching Ling, and a marble bust of the feminist hero.

I ended my walk at the Drum Tower and Bell Tower, opposite each other. Drumming performances are held several times daily inside the Drum Tower, and I managed to catch the last performance for the day.

The Bell Tower (L) and Drum Tower (R)

Drum performance in progress


zmm said...

Very nice photos.

And so lucky.. still get such trips.

But I guess your company, lots of trips one right?

A Mom's Diary said...

ZMM - thanks, and yes, I count my lucky stars for the travelling opportunities. But now the trips are also getting less frequent, due to all the budget tightening.