Sunday, October 27, 2013

Piano, Cello and the Great Wall

I have posted a lot of pictures of the Great Wall over the last few years but I thought this was pretty neat. There are 2 links. The first is of a group called The Piano Guys performing on the Great Wall. The photography is great as is the music.

The Piano Guys in the Great Wall

The second is a video of how they set it up.

Getting a piano onto the Great Wall

Here is a link to their web site.  The Piano Guys

Here are most recent blog posts from the Great Wall.
Tom and Misheil vist the Great Wall
Tom and Misheil visit the Great Wall 2

Military Museum

A few weeks ago I visited the Military Museum in Beijing. It is about 9 or 10 subway stops down line 1.

One of my Spanish colleagues mentioned it a couple of years ago and I hadn't gotten around to visiting it. Turns out I should have gone a couple of years ago - the main building is closed for renovations. Notice the scaffolding and green netting in the upper left of this picture.

They have pretty big collection of large items in outside pavilions. I'm not sure if this stuff was moved outside because of the renovation or if it is normally displayed there.

All sorts of stuff from all branches of the military.
M26 Pershing Medium Tank at the Beijing Military Musuem

There is a surprising amount of U.S. military equipment on display. I imagine most of this is either stuff the the U.S. gave the Nationalists during the civil war with the Communists or it is stuff from WW2 when all three parties were fighting against the Japanese.

This is some sort of self propelled gun.
Italian CV33 Light Scout Tank and Canadian Flame Tank at the China Military Museum

This is the smallest tracked military vehicle I have ever seen. It is an Italian scout tank. The larger one on the left is a Canadian flame tank.

Some sort of anti-aircraft cannon.

A torpedo boat.
MiG-15 at the Beijing Military Museum

This is a Russian MiG 15.

More info here ---> MiG-15

I'm not sure if this one is Russian or Chinese made.

Several statues depicting the People's Liberation Army helping the citizens. There is a lot of truth to this. The PLA seemed to generate good feelings during the revolution, especially when compared to the KMT army.

Here a soldier helps a farmer.

Don't get me wrong - the PLA could be quite ruthless. The Siege of Changchun has been compared (unfavorably) to Nagasaki in terms of civilian deaths.

Siege of Changchun

This is some sort of shore defense cannon, I believe.

Friday, October 11, 2013

We went the the ballet - and I liked it!

I'm not sure which is less likely - that I instigated attendance at a ballet performance or that I enjoyed it! Margot was certainly surprised by my suggestion.

A Chinese colleague had mentioned to me that a Russian ballet was coming to Tianjin over the National Day holiday. Margot and I have not had much luck attending cultural events in Beijing so when he said he and his wife were attending I said why not.
Tianjin grand Theater

Before we go too far let me apologize for the picture quality. These were taken on my cell phone.

This is the new theater in Tianjin. It is very nice.

Our seats were in the first of three balconies. Pretty good actually.

When we first learned that it was the Mariinsky Ballet Company and not the Bolshoi were a little disappointed. Turns out that Mariinsky was established in 1740 and was originally the Imperial Russian Ballet. After the revolution it was known as the Soviet Ballet and later the Kirov Ballet. The fact that I was unfamiliar with the company seems to say more about my cultural sophistication than it does about the company.
Final curtain call at Swan Lake by Mariinsky Ballet

Pictures are not allowed during the performance but I did take a few at the end of each act. (As did everyone else.) This is during the curtain calls after the performance.

I have to say it was a stunningly beautiful performance. Near the beginning of the second act in particular- all 24 of the white swans transform into dancers and process onto the stage in single file looping back and forth in perfect unison. The visual of all 24 later standing perfectly still in the pose you see here while others perform is really stunning. Skip to about 34:30 in this YouTube clip. Swan Lake

This is at the end of the 3rd act.

I should mention that the music was beautiful, also. They, of course, travel with their own orchestra of about 20 or so.
Ulyana Lopatkina

I pilfered this picture from the internet.

This is Ulyana Lopatkina. She was the Principal Ballerina at the performance we attended. The gracefulness of her motions is impressive. It is one thing to strike a graceful pose but to do it continuously in a fluid motion in a dance is another.

By the way, the woman is 39 years old.

Here is another internet picture.

Its a big production. There must be about 40 or 45 dancers. I think they travel with 2 companies and alternate performances.

This link will tell you all about Swan Lake.

Swan Lake

Click here to learn more about Mariinsky.

All these women seem to have unusually long arms. Maybe it is the costumes. Or maybe that is a requirement to be a dancer in a world class ballet company. Or maybe it is my imagination.

Here we are on the plaza outside the theater after the performance.

It was a very enjoyable evening.

By the way, I got smart and ordered train tickets the day before so we had nice comfortable seats on the way back to Beijing.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Trip to Tianjin

Beijing South rail station during National Day holiday

Margot and I took a trip to Tianjin over the October 1 National Day holiday. You may have heard about the traffic jams and overcrowding at all the tourist attractions during the holiday. I guess it should be expected when a nation of 1.3 billion goes on holiday all at once.

We got a little taste of it on the train trip to Tianjin.

This is the Beijing South train station. As you can see it was very busy. Despite 4 or 5 trains leaving for Tianjin every hour we had to wait 2 1/2 hours to get a STANDING room only ticket. Fortunately the train ride is only 33 minutes (at 180 mph).

Check out these links for other pictures of the congestion at scenic sites.
National Day Crowds 1
National Day Crowds 2 (Check out the traffic jam at the bottom of this one.)

More on the real reason for our trip to Tianjin in the next post, but the following day we hit a couple of the main tourist area.

This guy is making some sort of snack. No idea what it is. He steams the rice (I think that's what it is) in the holders on the right then adds various toppings.

This young woman was taking a picture of herself with her serving so I took one too.

This guy is making candy figures from molten sugar. That is a slab of marble he is working on.

He melts the sugar in the pan and the pours it out into the desired  figure.

Here is is making some pieces that will be put together to make the final piece.

Here are two of  the final products.

Click to enlarge.

There were a couple of these sort of carnival games.

This is a functioning Catholic church. We observed a nun walking around the grounds. It is sort of jammed in there with the new construction.

Tianjin was one of the treaty ports that China was forced to open to western countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after the 2nd Opium War. There were 8 or so foreign concessions in Tianjin so there is a lot of western architecture there. I don't know the history of this church. Actually, it looks like it was built after this period.
Tianjin Ancient Culture Street entrance

This is one of the entrances to what is known as Ancient Culture Street. There is a a temple along the street but it is mostly a shopping area for tourists.
Crowds at Tianjin Ancient Culture Street during National Day holiday

The crowds were quite heavy here, also.

This guy was trying to auction or otherwise sell these paintings. He didn't seem to be having much luck.

This is a jelly fish for sale as a pet. Same concept as a goldfish in bowl.

Speaking of pets, I have no idea how these snails end up this color. I don't think it can be natural. Does anybody know?
Neon colored snails for sale in Tianjin

Here is a close-up.

I didn't quite understand the tank. I guess it was some sort of war memorial but it didn't really seem like it was in an official park. It is sort of stuck in there between the church and the Ancient Culture Street. Anyway, it was a popular place for the kids to play.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Beijing Skyline

The pollution in Beijing has been pretty bad this September and early October - much worse than last year. However, there were a couple of fantastic days a week and a half ago. Margot took the opportunity to capture some beautiful sunset pictures from the apartment.

These first 2 are looking about west south-west.

This is the same view a little later.

For those of you who have already visited us the green building in the foreground is the Silk Market. For those of you who have not yet visited, I can guarantee a unique experience there. Well, at least it is unique in that you have not experienced it in the U.S.
China World Office Tower 2

This is the view to the east. You have seen this view before (Beijing Skyline) but here you can see the sunset reflecting off the building.

This is the same view a little later. These pictures were taken a couple of days after the Mid-autumn Festival. The moon is a little past full here but seeing it at all is reason enough to take a picture.

China World Office Tower and CCTV building at sunset

This is looking north-east. You can really see the sunset reflecting in this one.

The same view a couple of hours later after the moon has risen.

This really tall building is the China World Summit building. It is the tallest building in Beijing. Notice the purple lights up near the top. There is a bar and lounge up there.

Over the National Day holiday Margot and I and a Dutch colleague and his wife went up for drinks on a very nice evening. See the following pictures.

By the way, the building is 330 m or almost 1100 ft tall. This link describes an interesting concept --->  Vertical Running. I won't be participating!  Check out the video.
View of Central Place apartments and Beijing from China World Summit building

This is the view to the north from the 80th floor. Beijing is a REALLY big city.
View to the north from Atmosphere Lounge in China World Summit building

This is the view to the south. That is the top of our apartment building in the bottom right. The SABIC offices are in the building just left of center in the middle.

I wasn't the only person that thought it was a nice day to take pictures.

The hotel staff seem to be pretty accommodating. This room was actually closed off but the let us go in to take pictures.

This is looking northwest after the sun has dropped below the mountains.

Click to enlarge.

This is looking due west. The tallest mountains are about 25 or 30 miles away. The city stretches out about 20 miles from this location to the foothills.
View of Chang An Avenue from Atmosphere Lounge in China World Summit

Here is the same view about 25 minutes later.

The large well lit horizontal building just left of the main road is the Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square.

Click to enlarge.

I put this together to help you get your bearings.

Last spring we went for a hike near Huang Caoliang. It is located in the mountains sort of behind the Forbidden City arrow.