Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Beguiling Beijing - A Winter Wonderland

The two 'ninjas', Awwa (left) and Ann, all bundled up to ward off the cold. By the time we finished walking across the Imperial Palace two hours later, Awa's toes were frozen stiff and she could hardly walk, no thanks to those dainty summer shoes..


Snow covered benches in the grounds of Forbidden City; a welcome respite for many a weary traveller at other times of the year.

Kami 'mao' bergambar berlatarkan potret Mao Tze Tung... !

Stone carving of a dragon, symbol of imperial China (specifically Chinese emperors), captured here gracing one of the corridors leading to the Great Hall. The royal symbol for empresses, dowagers and queens is the phoenix.

Awaiting lunch after a three-hour walkabout.

Food glorious food! That's chicken hotplate on the right and mutton cooked with cashews and nuts on the left.

Worker shoveling snow in the grounds of Forbidden City.

The white expanse behind us is the moat, now frozen solid, encircling the Forbidden City.

Beijing's Nan Dou Ya Mosque, built during the Ming Dynasty some 300 years ago. We had our Zuhur prayers here.


The two girls doing their solat after lunch.

The mosque's beautiful ceiling, with its intricate goemetric designs.


Rooftops covered with snow at the foot of the Great Wall.


The First Tower is in the background. Everyone made it to the tower, except yours truly. I decided to sit in the snow instead. It was deliciously COLD.


Fir trees alongside the Wall.

A monument to something or someone, I am not sure. All I am sure about is that the second tier of the stone monument made good seat for my weary rear..



Day One
All we had asked for before leaving for Beijing on the morning of January first was for a bit of snow, given Beijing's below-freezing temperature and also just to make Nawwar's day, for she had not experienced snow before.

She had spent one summer in London many years ago. The temperature then, hovering in the 40s C, was even hotter than Kuala Lumpur. Where Malaysia is hot and humid, London summers tend to sear.

It was a tolerable -5C when we set foot on Beijing soil just past 3pm, after a six-hour flight. We were met at the airport by soft-spoken Lu Qiang, a strapping six-footer in his early 30s, who was to be our guide for the rest of our Beijing stay.

I was impressed by his good, measured English that I keypohly asked what he did for a living. Whaddaya know, he taught English at a language academy! Guiding was his part-time job, when he didn't have classes to conduct. Recently married, Lu's wife was also an English teacher at the same academy.

The 20-minute ride to the hotel was smooth, it being a public holiday. After a two-hour respite at the hotel, we were taken to an acrobatic show. China has always been big on gymnastics and acrobatics, so it was no surprise that the show was very entertaining, especially the death-defying finale.

I had seen similar stunts before, but never five superbikes with riders without protective helmets, criss-crossing the inside of a small steel cage. One misstep and they could all tumble into a horrifying heap. Their timing and precision was simply awesome.

Dinner, at a nearby Chinese Muslim restaurant, was wholesome and delicious. There were rice, chicken and beef dishes, sauteed vegetables, omelette, consomme soup and fresh fruits. Somehow, the piping hot Chinese tea in Beijing tasted better than the standard fare at home. Must be the cold!

Day Two
We were up early the following morning since subuh was at 5.59am and our first visit of the day - to Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City - started at 8am. A thin layer of snow, probably four inches, covered the roads and the pavements. It had snowed while we snored! Our affable guide Mr Lu said it was Beijing's first snowfall this winter.

We realised how unprepared we were, and how much we had underestimated Beijing winter, when we took in Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City, after a hearty breakfast of bread, noodles and rice.

While our bodies were amply clad, our feet were poorly shod. "But these are summer shoes!" exclaimed Mr Lu, casting an incredulous look at my leather court shoes, Awwa's Crocs, Ann's sneakers and Pak Abu's moccasins. And we thought thick socks would help keep the cold away....

Snow had begun to fall steadily as we trampled the vast grounds of the Imperial Palace complex, taking a peep at the pampered isolation of the Chinese emperors and their myriad of concubines and royal children.

There was even a special bridal chamber, in the corner of which was a four-poster wooden bed (much like the Baba and Nyonya bridal bed) with intricate carvings and lavishly decorated with gorgeous silken spreads and drapes.

As I stood there gaping at the bed and its blazing red accoutrement, I couldn't help thinking of the thousands of young ladies who had sat nervously by the bedside as recent as a hundred years ago, waiting with a knot in their stomach for the arrival of their ultimate Master...

There were lots of stairways to tackle in Forbidden City. Our inadequate shoes made walking and climbing rather uncomfortable, especially as the ground had by now become slippery due to snow and ice.

We resolved to head for a shopping mall after the two-hour tour to get proper boots. The girls bought matching calf-length boots with woolen lining while Pak Abu and I settled for laced walking shoes with ribbed soles. It felt secure to be clad in such sturdy shoes.

After lunch at a Chinese Muslim restaurant not far from the shopping mall, we headed towards Nan Dou Ya Mosque for prayers. Built during the Ming Dynasty, Nan Dou Ya is one of a hundred or so mosques that can be found in and around Beijing.

Then it was off to a herbal centre to have our feet massaged and palms analysed for any health problems. We had our feet soaked in warm water in which were placed sachets of a mixture of 20 herbs gathered from the Tibetan highlands, and scented with sandalwood. It was heavenly!

A pearl centre came next. It was a government-run complex that turned freshwater pearls into intricate jewellery for sale. The arrays of pearl accessories (and their decent prices) boggled the mind. Out of the blue, Pak Abu offered to buy me a pearl ring.... say whaaa....? and who was I to refuse?

It got progressively colder towards the evening and snow started to fall again, albeit slightly. Our guide Mr Lu informed that heavy fall was expected the following day. How heavy? "Oh, much heavier than today according to reports," responded Mr Lu.

Be that as it may, none of us had anticipated a freezing front with some 16 inches of snow, one that choked traffic all the way to the Great Wall and beyond, that nearly wreak havoc with our Beijing adventure...

To be continued..

31 comments:

mamasita said...

Yey! You're back..Hai Nawwar..

I love your photo berkepit dengan Pak Abu dalam snow.
I am very deeply touched to see Ann and Awwa praying berdua bradik dalam mosque walaupun sejuk mengkokol..by the way ambik wudhuk ada air panas or dengan air batu?

The photos are breathtakingly beautiful..expert photography!

Zendra said...

Hi kama, beautiful macam winter wonderland. Adoii pakai summer shoes pulak, nasib tak kena frost-bite. So did you all get boots for the next day? We saw on TV how people got snowed in, flights cancelled etc and I wondered how you all were coping. But can see you all had a lot of fun!

Desert Rose said...

Kak puteri...

wow....snowy Beijing ?? Even tak snow pun I cannot tahan seh..but i second Datin, love ur pic with Pak Abu...WINTER SONATA la pulokk

kay_leeda said...

Kak Puteri,

Love the snow, beautiful!! Yes, gambar romantik with Pak Abu itu sangat lah cantik. The snow is giving it such a remarkable effect!!

Isshhh...teruja lak nak pi berguling-guling dalam snow like you all did nih :D

D said...

It's snowing in England now but reading your post makes me want to experience winter in China one day. :)

Sherry said...

Aunty Kama - the photos are gorgeous! Makes me wanna go on a trip to China soon!

Typhoon Sue said...

like everybody else here, i too love that lovely pic of you 2 in the snow, all huggy huggy lovey dovey... :-)

i was in beijing in autumn 2005 (or was it 2006? can't remember..). Wish I was there during winter. cantik siut!! I can't recall ever seeing pix of the great wall covered in snow before. the winter images in the disney movie Mulan doesn't count.

Very few ppl there in winter i see, unlike during summer or autumn where tourists are everywhere and u can't get a decent picture without somebody blocking something in the background. Leceh.. Reading ur post makes me wanna go there again... in winter this time.

Kama said...

Mamasita - Awwa sends her love. Ambik wudhuk at this particular masque pakai cerek with extra-long muncung. you fill the cerek with hot and cold water from pipes at the wudhuk area. kalau bukan wintertime, can take wudhuk direct from paip aja.

Zendra - before leaving kl I was already agonising over kasut because I realised our kasut tak adequate for sub-zero temperature. anyway, we did buy proper boots/walking shoes in beijing. the price? a fraction of what we would have to pay kalau di malaysia.

DR - ambik peluang dakap2, kononnya sejuk la..lol..

Kay - nawwar asyik kena balun dengan snowballs aja.. i only sat on the snow, tak berani guling2 takut terus kejang ..hehehe

D - yes, you should try chinese winter for a change. i was told it's even colder in the provinces north of beijing.. one day nak pi jugak..

Sherry - go sherry go! you won't regret it, I assure you..

Sue - you are right sue, less ppl in winter - which i liked very much - and the snow made it all worthwhile. at the great wall, some parts snow punya height up to the waist after an all-day fall..

mama irma said...

Kak Putri,
I'm glad you enjoyed the trip! :)

NanaDJ said...

Puteri,
Glad to see that you enjoyed yourself despite the snow and the cold. We both were worried that you may be 'snowed in' and not able to move around.
Anyway, beautiful photos, of course the best is the lovey dovey one of you and Pak Abu (quick, Mamasita, book a trip to somewhere cold!!!)
Salam

Kak Ezza@makcik Blogger said...

Kak

orang macam kita ni memang lah nak sejuk saja tapi this of sejuk ..you tahan ker... Saya tengok pun dah rasa semacam sejukkkk...huhuhu...

Aka tak panjat great wall tu ker... saya suka tengok gambar yang ke 12 dan 13...

rasa nya malam tadi saya baca sampai day 2 tu jer..sikit jer

alih alih tghari ni dah panjang dah..hahahaha

Pi Bani said...

Baru tengok gambar je I dah rasa nak terkencing dah... sejuuuk!! ;)

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Hi Puteri,

Lu ala baik tak? ehhh I meant how good was the guide lah…hahaha. Say what u like but I’d always prefer the cold than the hot, u get to dressed up in trendy gears.

I’d always remembered those lovely old angmoh ladies that toured China asking, ‘Tommy, r u sure thissss issss really mutton and chicken?....hahaha. Poor ladies had heard wild stories of unscrupulous Chinese serving exotic meats passed off as those,hehehe I can’t blame them lah as I too had my own reservations :)

I'm glad u guys enjoyed your trip & btw did u constantly get Lu to direct u to the nearest loo since it’s sooo cold…hahaha, sorry that’s not veli nice.

Chai Chieng for now,
Tommy

pakmat said...

..from the blistering, no punches pulled of 'tambah bini' to the cool, almost exotic snow of the Forbidden City..hmm..I have seen your wrath and dare not get within brick-throwing distance..but this is charming..and I don't mind being pelted with snow-balls..tho some balls were mentioned in your earlier-mentioned post..cheers..have fun, take care..

Oldstock said...

Wow... Kak Kama in Beijing in winter! I can feel the cold shivers just looking at your pics.

Tak kan dapat pearl ring je... how about necklace ataupun at least a matching pair of subang :-)

You and Pak Abu keep warm now. The news say the snowfall will become heavier.

tireless mom said...

Kak Puteri

Lomantis nya lorrrr gambar Pak Abu and Kak Puteri tu. I boleh rasa sejuk nya sampai ke tulang hitam!

Kak Teh said...

Puteri, from what you told me, I gather there must've been a 'be polite to tourists' drive. My sisters had some horror stories to tell.

Glad you had a good time. Am going back to inches of snow, and am so not looking forward to the cold.

Nice pix you have here.

Thank you for everything, Puteri, pak abu and awwa. You've all been so kind.

Kama said...

mama irma - tq sayang. long time no hear from you.. all's well or in the well? hehehe

nanadj - i agree with you nana; there's nothing like freezing tempewrature to rekindle the old romance.. so mamasita, the ball's in your court!

ezza - kita kan banyak lemak, dah tentu kurang terasa sejuk. it's true i kept revising the entry, especially bila teringat some points..

pi - an alternative heading for this vacation i think would be 'the beijing wee-wee tour'; asyik pi toilet memanjang! thank heavens the washrooms we had been to were relatively clean..

tommy - we have been very blessed, tommy; we had a good guide, the people we met were courteous, the food was halal and good, the hotel was comfortable..and we haggled like no tomorrow when it came to shopping..hehehe

pakmat - throwing snowballs is much better than throwing brickbats kan? tq for dropping by; you know i await your comment always. kadang2 pedas but most times entertaining..

oldstock - kalau dapat unexpected hadiah tu kira best jugak. we had a good time, alhamdulillah..

tm - actually takwer winds ok. it's the winds that make it so cold.

kak teh - we were lucky not to hv horror stories aBOUT beijing people. those we met semua berhemah, except the drivers.. tak makan saman macam orang kita di malaysia la jugak!

Cik Puan Kamil said...

I was with Nawwar that summer in London... We spent like a week at Tati's place is Chiswick. Salam sayang for Nawwar and Ann from me..

Naz said...

Beautiful pictures and wonderful recollections.
but...
Geee, am I glad I'm here in sunny Malaysia :D

edelweiss said...

kak puteri...

best nya....eh i paling suka gambar u & pak abu kat great wall tuh....sweetttttt!

SOHO Mama said...

Kak Puteri..hi!! This entry just makes me want to GO there..! I somewhat miss snow..I love the deco inside the mosque..I want to "imagine" how the Forbidden City was like before..I want to have my feet massaged and soaked after a walkabout!
Tunggu anak2 besar..pastu boleh jalan2 dengan hubby jer hehee..

Raden Galoh said...

salam rindu akak...

am so speechless looking at your beautifully shot photos... my, my, my, snow in beijing, ain't that mesmerizing?

love your lovey dovey photo with pak abu...

you really make me want to go to beijing kak! I miss snow...huhuhuhu...

DrSam said...

Salam Kak Kama. Nice trip, nice photos and it seemed that everybody had a really wonderful time, sub-zeroing in Beijing.

Kama said...

Myra - those were the days'' Tati is today mother of 3 and Karina mom of 4! Doakan it's Awwa's turn soon.. :)

Naz - am glad you and family are enjoying Malaysian sunshine to the fullest. we'll meet again before you leave, Insyaallah..

Edelweiss & SM & Raden - You'll be surprised to know how much a Beijing holiday cost.. it won't burn a hole in your pocket for sure.. nantilah i'll furnish all details in later postings.

DrSam - try it one day sam, especially during winter. best giler! hehehe..

Kenali Seni Lukis Kelantan said...

Salam Kak Puteri...what a nice trip to China. Teringin nak ke China suatu hari nanti..ehhe

Deen, Pasir Mas, Kel

Gillion said...

Have you tried dumplings and roast ducks? They are the famous and traditional Beijing dieshes. And also bird's nest soup? Its a delicacy in China.

Enjoy your days~~~

Gillion
www.geocities.jp/hongkong_bird_nest/index_e.htm

Anonymous said...

Hi. My name is Lutfeyah Samsodien and I am a South African Muslim who will be travelling to Beijing on 31 Dec 2011 with my sisters and our families (10 all together). I am happy to see you frequented quite a number of Halaal restaurants and mosques. would you please explain to us the location of the mosques and restaurants and also give us details of your guide. Plse email at lutfeyahs@telkomsa.net

Kama At-Tarawis said...

salam lutfeyah, i shall e-mail you soon.

Anonymous said...

Salam Pn Kama,

I came across your entry about winter in Beijing while googling. Do you mind sharing with me your itinerary/package for your trip? Which tour agent did you go with and how much is the package per pax.I'm planning to bring my parents to Beijing next year to experience winter. Really appreciate your help. I can be contacted at duriankembar@yahoo.com. TQ.

Regards,
Maria

Kama At-Tarawis said...

dear maria: will e-mail u soonest..