Sunday, November 1, 2009

Urumqi - Nanshan Pasture

When we arrived at the pasture we could see villages of yurts which had been set up for the summer months.  One had been set up for tourists and we were invited to try the local tea with sheep's butter and milk.  An acquired taste I think.  The yurt is about 25' in diameter with no central pole and the floor is covered with an elaborately decorated felt mat.  There was lots of other fabric and woven decoration inside.

On the way back to Urumqi we passed a local Uighur market.  There were lots of fruits, vegetables, meat and dry goods.  The lady in the centre photo is making shoes.

Back in Urumqi, the mosque and the market were closed.  Throughout the city, and in fact throughout the rest of the Western Province we saw military on every major street corner.  This was a result of the riots in July and there was a sense that nothing bad was going to happen to disrupt the 60th anniversary celebrations.    Schools were also closed during this time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

September 9, 2009 - Urumqi

We had an early morning flight from Beijing to Urumqi in the west of China.  It was a 4 our flight, with a slightly northern flight path.  All we could see below were mountains and brown terrain, no fields of any sort until we got closer to Urumqi.  The city itself is incredibly smoggy - this photo was taken just at the right moment!  It is a big, bustling city where the Han Chinese now outnumber the ethnic Uighur population.  

We went to the National Museum in the afternoon which had a wonderful collection of textiles and clothing from the vari
ous ethnic groups in the Western province.  There were many
 forms of appliqué with lots of intricate design and brilliant colour.  And I couldn't take photos!   The highlight of the museum were the mummies.  They showed 4 that are from 2000BC  in an incredible state of preservation.  They were found around the Taklamakan desert.  The museum tour ended in a shop that included everything from books to silk scarves to carpets.  And lots of sales staff to follow you around.....

Dinner was at Jum - a Muslim Uighur restaurant.  Superb meal - lamb "tortière", stir fry with noodles.  There were noodles at every meal in the Xianxan province - all fresh and locally made and delicious.  We watched them being made at breakfast one morning. The chef took a tube of pasta dough about 2 inches thick, held both ends and flipped it up and down a few times.  Caught it in the middle and repeated the process until he had a quantity of long noodles.  Not easy  - I tried!

The next day we took a 1 1/2 hour bus ride over a bumpy 2 lane paved road into the mountains to the Nanshan pasture.  The scenery was very brown and dry (it's the end of summer there too!) but quite dramatic.  We passed  fields of sunflowers and sorghum with lots of cosmos lining the road sides.  As we got closer to the pasture, and the
road continued at the top of a  gorge we saw many army type tents set up (complete with TV satellite dish powered by a solar cell) perched on the edge and around each were bee hives.  This area has a winter not unlike Montreal with -20C and lots of snow so these are itinerant apiaries that spring up and get dismantled with the cold.  

Along the way we encountered flocks of sheep or goats being
 herded by local cowboys on horseback.  

More Beijing Sept 8/9, 2009 Temple of the Sun and the Great Wall

Our afternoon was spent wandering through the park at the Temple of the Sun.  It was a lovely day and we found that the retired folk find lots to do here.  In the early morning they do tai chi but during the day different groups select their own activities.  Some play cards, others sing, and some play a version of hackey sack with a home made shuttlecock.  It's social, occupies their time and they seem very happy with it.

The Temple of Heaven (or Temple of the Sun)and it's park  were
 built by the same Emperor that built the Forbidden City.  He and 
his successors would lead processions to the temple to pray for a
 good harvest.  

Our day finished with dinner at Dadong, where duck is the specialty and it came in an amazing variety of ways, including Peking duck.   

The next day we went to the Great 
Wall at Mutianyu.
 A cable car ride took us to an area where we could get onto the wall.  It has been well fixed up and you may walk for a long way in either direction.  However we were given an hour, and it was 30C and sunny and since it follows the spine of the hills it is very up and down.  Going from one tower to the next was enough!  It is so amazing to think that the beginning of the wall (not this section but further west) started over 2000  years ago by the Qin emperor who was also responsible for the  Terracotta Warriors and a system of unification and governance that lasted until 1949.  

Our lunch was in the Houtong, the old residential section of Beijing.  This part is being fixed up for tourists, but it was still interesting to explore and talk to the lady that provided an excellent lunch.   We had a pedicab tour from there to  Mme Sun Yat Sen's house where we learned about her and her two sisters and the roles they and their husbands played during the cultural revolution.  Her house was previously a prince's palace and the gardens were lovely.

Another excellent supper in a restaurant overlooking the lake in the Houtong.  

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back in Beijing September 8, 2009

Back in Beijing we had an errand to do in one of the city's largest bookstore on Wangfujing Dajie (street) - we needed to buy a specific Mandarin dictionary for our daughter .  Thank goodness our tour guide was still with us! It was a huge, modern store, and we were soon out of there with the ancient to modern mandarin under our arm.  WD is a very modern shopping street - very high end European stores.  The main streets of Beijing are filled with modern sky scrapers, each an architect's dream.  Wide avenues have been cut through the city - the main ring roads are where the old city walls used to be.  There was one turret left standing.  We found the night market which was filled with food vendors, some of whom were offering scorpions on skewers.  More on that later!

The food that we have been eating has been delicious.  Nothing weird, but lots of fresh vegetables and different tasting dishes.  The whole trip was a gustatory feast.

The Forbidden City:  The country was gearing up for the 60th Anniversary celebration of the Republic, with the major activities taking place on and around Tian'an men square.  Hence the water fountain display at the entrance.

The walls all around and the entry ways are very high and meant to be very imposing - and they are.  It has been restored and great attention paid to all the detail work.

Everything is built with significance.  There are three tiers on all these buildings representing heaven, son of heaven (the emperor) and the people.  The decorations on the roof corners have phoenixes (the empress) and dragons (the emperor) and other birds and animals.  Some even have a mandarin facing backwards - the story tells of  a dishonest mandarin who was punished by being put on the roof corner to warn all that approached of his fate.  The back
 buildings in the complex were smaller and a myriad of rooms, all of which had a certain pecking order for wives, concubines etc.  

After lunch at Ken de Rouge restaurant in the Houtong we took a quick tour of the main Olympic sites:  the Bird's nest and the Cube.  After seeing them on TV so much it was interesting to see them up close.  


Sept 5 - 7

Just a quick overnight in Beijing - overlooking the back of the Forbidden City.  This is so exciting.

The next morning we started off for Chende, a town
 about 3 hours north east of Beijing where the
 Summer Palace was built.  Unfortunately it was 
rainy and foggy for the visit as the drive through
 the mountains looked quite lovely. 
 We saw our first glimpse of the Great Wall, a section that was run down and not available to visit.

In the area around Chende are a number of Buddhist temples that have been extensively restored and one of which is still in use as by Buddhists.   The Potala temple is a replica of the temple in Tibet that would be used by the Dalai Lama.  
Some of the outer buildings are just shells, just there for effect.  

Only the emperor could have 9 ornaments on the corners of each roof.  What is also interesting in this photo are the scratches made on the tiles.  These were made by the soldiers during the cultural revolution trying to take off the gold.  


VANCOUVER Sept 1, 2009

Our trip to China started with a visit to Vancouver for a few days to catch up with my brother and his wife.  We also drove up to Horseshoe Bay to meet cousin Bert and Linda for lunch overlooking the Bay.  Lovely drive back along Marine Drive.  Supper at Monks in False Creek where we were able to see some of the development of lodgings for the Olympics.  There are so many places to bike, blade and walk in the downtown area.  

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday at the Macdonell/Williamson house

I was invited to do an activity at this old house that is being slowly and painstakingly brought back to it's former glory.  So I suggested leaf stamping with fabric paints onto fabric.  I emptied out my cupboards, cut up some plain white fabric as well as dyed and trotted off to a little town called Chute à Blondeau which is on the Ottawa river just north west of the island of Montreal.  The house itself is just on the Ontario side.  It was built in 1817 by John Macdonell, a fur trader in the North West company for his Métis wife and their 12 children.  It must have been magnificent in its heyday - it even boasts a ballroom.  It was expropriated in 1961 due to the building of the Carillon Dam and unfortunately fell prey to vandals.  Consequently the need for all the work that is currently going into it.  Here is my photo, but you can also access info on their site:

Since I had very few samples of leaf stamping, I thought that I had better make some.  Here are the results:  

a cushion for the cottage                                                 postcards

and a wall hanging that has yet to be quilted.