Monthly Archives: December 2011

31Dec2011

2011: A Year In Random Numbers

Sunrise-over-Uluru11

Wonders of the World: 4 Uluru The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City Sydney Opera House The known world is rather bigger than it was when the original seven wonders were first listed — but these four often make folk’s lists today. The stand-out? Definitely the Great Wall. Should-Be Wonders of the World: 4 […]

30Dec2011

The Friday Photo: Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China winds away over the mountains -- Badaling.

Even after the Terracotta Warriors and Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Great Wall of China really does take your breath away. First built more than two millennia ago, it winds away over the top of the mountains, whipped by desert winds, as far as the eye can see. And it’s easy to imagine, standing in the […]

24Dec2011

"Home" for Christmas

Gingerbread House

After almost two years travelling Asia, we’re back in the UK for Christmas. On a lot of levels, I’ve been anxious about this for a while. It’s partly the adjustment to the dark, drizzly English winter — in England in December you can expect under 8 hours of daylight per day. And that is normally […]

23Dec2011

The Friday Photo: Temple of Heaven

Roof tile

Of all the great architecture in Beijing, the capital of Chinese emperors from Kublai Khan onwards, the Temple of Heaven is probably the most accessible. Set in a pretty park a mile or so south of Tian’anmen, it’s where the emperors went to make their ritual harvest sacrifices, guaranteeing the prosperity of the nation. And, […]

20Dec2011

How to Take the Train in China

Trains in China

1: Don’t Try And Buy Tickets On The Day For anything but commuter routes, buy train tickets a couple of days ahead of when you need to travel — you’re unlikely to find any tickets at all on the day. If you’re headed to Lhasa or using the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian, tickets can get booked […]

16Dec2011

The Friday Photo: Christmas Lights, Hong Kong Style

Hong Kong Xmas 2

Come Christmas time, the skyscrapers that line Hong Kong’s harbourfront compete for the best lightshows — perhaps the biggest Christmas lights on earth. But the junks that pass by form a reminder that this economic powerhouse was only a humble port a generation or two ago. For more China photos, click here. Visiting during the […]

11Dec2011

The Beauty of Tibet on Horseback

Mountains in Songpan, northern China

The mountains outside Songpan, where northern China gives way to old Tibet, are some of the most beautiful we’ve visited. Alpine meadows give onto vistas of snow and ice. When the soft snow began to fall, the glade where we camped with the horses transformed into a twilight wonderland. We rode to Ice Mountain through […]

10Dec2011

China Scam Count: Grifters 3, Us 4

China red light

Please don’t get me wrong. I love China. But, over the last couple of weeks, it’s really felt as though China’s not loving me back. It’s about the scams, really. For which China is, it appears, particularly in Beijing, Shanghai and the tourist centres, considerably worse than Thailand and at LEAST as bad as Vietnam. […]