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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The Forbidden City

I have seen this familiar building in movies and tv shows, so it was quite intriguing for me to visit the place in person.

The Forbidden City is also called Imperial Palaces or Gugong (故宫) which in chinese means “former palace” and now has become a palace museum. The palatial architectures were massive and impressive and I hope to watch a detailed documentary about Gugong fascinating history one day.

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The distance of the palace from one end to the other (entrance to the exit) is approximately 9.5 km.

Across from the street at the exit of the Forbidden City is the beautiful Jingshan Park; Jingshan 景山公园 in chinese literally means “scenic hill park”.
Because we had been on long walking tour at the palace for the whole morning, we decided to skip Jinshan.

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When a friend heard that I didn’t visit this scenic garden, she made sure to take me there as she said this gorgeous place is not to be missed. A couple of days later, she happily gave me a scooter tour of various highlights in the capital city, with a stop at Jingshan Park!

This famous park is especially pretty during the spring season as many auspicious flowers such as peonies are in full bloom; I could only imagine the beauteous.

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Autumn, however has its alluring attraction — The roadsides were decorated in glistening gold by the ginkgo trees. The blowing wind made the little cute fan-shaped leaves fall like gentle snow and the pavement is adorned with yellow leaves — like street of gold.

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Some people picked up the ginkgo fruits that dropped from the trees to use as herbal remedy.

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As we ascended up to the garden hill, my friend couldn’t wait to show me the aerial view of the magnificent ancient Imperial Palaces, as well as the modern city surrounding it – a mixture of the old and the new; I could even spot the area of where our hotel was situated!

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I am so glad I went up to the scenic hill ‘cos the panoramic view was indeed breathtaking from the top! As I looked at the tourists from across the street down below, I could see myself being one of those exciting crowd there just a few days ago, what a thrilling feeling!

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That evening, six of us took three scooters for a ride to enjoy the vibrant night scene of Beijing and we ended our night surrounding a Korean hotpot to keep ourselves warm from the biting cold autumn weather.

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Flag Raising Ceremony

Since we stayed not too far from the Tienanmen Square, someone mentioned that we could go and witness the daily flag raising ceremony held there.

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We had tried to reach there twice in a row but both times we missed the ceremony by just a few minutes. We then learned that the schedule of the flag ceremony at the Square varies each day as it is synchronized with the rising of the sun; People suggested to check the timetable online before heading out.

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On our third attempt, we finally made it there before the sunrise. When we arrived there was already many tour buses letting people off at the Square. People who came a few seconds later kept pushing and shuffling and trying to squeeze and push past me to get as close as possible to the front. I was sandwiched between the eager crowd and felt like being tossed among the ocean of people.

Although many of us couldn’t get to the front, we were thankful to those who brought their selfies!! Many raised their selfie sticks with live video so those who were blocked by others could witness the actual ceremony from the selfie screen.

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A live band played the national anthem as the flag was being raised and it was quite an emotional experience hearing the live music and seeing the thousands plus noisy crowd become quiet. After the flag was raised, everyone let out a loud cheer and dispersed to different corners of the Square in no time to take pictures.

Aside from tourists and school students, I noticed there were many elderly people at the square to witness the flag raising. I was told that it is every elderly wish to be at the flag raising especially at Tienanmen Square; it is like a patriotic pride to be able to witness the flag raising at the capital city. Thus many adult children who are able, help their parents who live in inner or across China make the long trip here so they can fulfill their wish.

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Even though it is only a 3-min ceremony, I’ve gained interesting knowledge related to the Flag Raising Ceremony culture here. The daily flag raising ceremony also reminds me of our students lives where every week we had to gather in front of the flag pole and sang the national anthem.

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The time we were in Beijing happened to be the same time US President Trump was there, and the City was colorfully decorated with many Chinese and American flags.


That evening we were treated to a very traditional local cuisine which has become rare in the fast-paced culinary world in Beijing.

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When travelling in Asia, I always delight in eating the food from the street vendors such as fresh coconut drink, sugar cane juice, roasted chestnuts, deep fried banana, bingtanhulu on skewers 冰糖葫蘆 –sour hawthorn coated in crystallized sugar.


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Eating food prepared by street vendors is like ordering food from a food truck. Almost every mouthful tastes delicious and finger-linking-good.

And my old time favourite —

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sweet potatoes broiled over hot charcoal — was not to be missed, especially on this chilling cold day.

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Once I paid for my share, I couldn’t wait to have a quick bite of this tender and temperature hot treat…

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that I ended up with a blister in my mouth instantly — ouch!

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Visiting Ancestor Home

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A group of us decided to go on an adventure to explore our ancestral home, the village where our late great-grandfather, grandfather and father used to live.

We didn’t have any relative there but we knew only the name of the village; so we had to depend on kind-hearted souls to graciously and happily lead us to the right house.

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We were so thankful to be able to witness where our ancestor used to live.

The neighboring villagers were really excited to see us — the news about visitors from another country spread by word of mouth, and the friendly neighbors came by one by one to greet us and share fascinating life stories.

Now if you want to know about your ancestors, it is sometimes best to check with their neighbours, as they may know more than your own family.

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While there, we were told many stories about our ancestors. In one, we learned that my great-grand father was born in a hut behind the papaya tree more than 100 years ago, to be exact, he was born in 1879!

The reason this 82 year-old uncle knew about our family history was because he said his grandpa and my great-grand pa were best friends! He even point to the spot where the hut was located; I think the so said birth place is definitely picture-worthy.

Even the pig were nosey and curious to know who these foreigners are that caused such commotion!

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As the house that my great-grandfather lived in was vacant for a long time , one of the neighbours decided to let a family who raised pigs stay there and watch over the house.

Before we headed back to the city, the villagers insisted that we take some fresh produce such as papayas and lemons back with us as an organic gift from our ancestors’ land.

To celebrate the success of our adventure and remembering our ancestors, we had a sumptuous meal of delicious papaya soup with clams and lemons for sauce dipping. It was the best, most hearty meal we had in our ancestral land!

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I studied about the history of the magnificent Great Wall of China during my elementary school year, but never dreamed that one day I would step onto this ancient path. What a surreal experience for me to finally walk on this wonder of the world!

The most visited Wall is the popular Badaling Great Wall. It is an hour away from the city, so it easily attracts lots of locals and tourists.

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Badaling Wall is divided into two sections from the entrance: the northern side and the eastern side. The northern side is always congested with people due to access of cable cars and trolleys from the bottom of the hill to the steepest top. We opted for the eastern side which is the road less traveled.

People told us that the gorgeous time to visit is around mid-Oct where the vast surrounding ridges is decorated in vibrant red.

The time we went, most of the leaves were withered and the landscape were left with naked and bare bushes; nonetheless, it has its own charm of beauty.

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The day was filled with delightfully warm sunlight with gentle crisp wind under a clear blue sky, which is rare in this cold autumn season.

The pavement is easy to walk on with gentle winding slopes here and there, and we hiked to the very end where the trail is blocked off even though the wall continues to stretch for miles and miles.

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As I strolled along the wall, I couldn’t help but appreciate the hard labor the workers of long ago put into building this architectural masterpiece originally designed for military defense.

Along the way, we encountered more than a hundred energetic and fun-loving elementary students chasing each other and having their first experience on the wall as well.

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They appeared to be on a field trip with an assignment to ask passers-by about their experience on the Great Wall. The sights and sounds of the giggling children made this leisure walk an enjoyable one.

After we arrived back at the entrance, we decided to explore the northern side; Indeed, there were a lot of people, young and old, buzzing with excitement.

After much searching, we finally spot the monument that everyone longs to take a picture with to prove that they indeed have reached the Great Wall!

The monument is a stone engraved with this famous Chinese writing: “If you have never been to the Great Wall, you are no hero”.

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The idiom basically means that courageous people can overcome adversity… the background of this saying is that a long time ago, it was impossible to access to the Great Wall, so whoever tackled this difficult task and arrived was a true hero/heroine.

After we had accomplished our mission to climb the Great Wall and proved to be “heroes”, we are ready for a feast!

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For our late afternoon snack, we enjoyed mouth-watering food on skewers.


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A Peking duck delicacy, which one should not miss when coming to Beijing, was our evening meal.

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For a midnight snack, we went to explore this famous street that never sleeps, called Gui Jie. There we tried spicy Szechuan seafood which included crayfish (aka mini-lobsters), escargot, crab and frog dishes to our heart’s content. The food was numblingly spicy and deliciously satisfactory.



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The Wailing Wall

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Usually when I pray alone, I like to write my prayer thoughts on paper rather than praying out loud; I find that this method of praying is freeing and helps me express my inner emotions more easily.

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When I visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem years ago, I could hear the gigantic cream colored wall crying out loud: I noticed that many people were leaning against the wall praying in solitude, while others reciting scriptures and meditating on the Words of God.

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It was moving to see individuals creating a sacred space for themselves and pouring their hearts out to God in the midst of the huge crowd.

Paper and pens were available for people to write down their wishes to God and place them into the wall.

Since it is a popular practice to place prayer notes between the crevices of the wall, I joined the company and did just that.

As the years went by, I often wondered if the prayer that I put on the ancient wall was still there…

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This year I had the chance to revisit the religious site and I learned that the note I placed years ago was long gone. It had been collected and buried among the millions of prayer wishes at the nearby Mount of Olives.

Apparently the notes are being cleared at least twice a year: once in the Spring (before the Passover) and again in the Autumn (before the Jewish new year of Rosh Hassanah).

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One of the reasons for this is that thousands of pilgrims come during these Jewish High Holiday seasons to pray, so the Rabbi in charge of the site and his cleaning crews clear the wall to make space for new prayers and wishes, including mine!

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I know that whether or not I leave my prayer wishes in the cracks of the Wailing Wall, or wherever I may be, my prayers are heard by God from on high, and I await His comfort and guidance.

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You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Psalm 30:11,12 (NIV)

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Where She Goes, I Go…

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Hello, my name is “Uke Blue”.

I was amazed to get Janiecross into ukulele playing. She had never learned how to play a musical instrument before, but it was love at first strung!

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She would bring me to the beach– to practice her melodic pieces.

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I think I must have brought her so much excitement that she even took me on vacation half way across the globe.

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We serenaded to each other by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

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We jammed with King David on his harp in Israel.

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We worshiped God early in the morning as the radiant sunrise smoldered across the golden city.

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I am not sure if she is lucky to find me or was I lucky to have found her…

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these days, where she goes, I go… on outdoor adventures from the mountains high to the valleys low, and through crystal clear waters;

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Regardless of the different adventures, we are always enjoying, seeing, and experiencing God’s big beautiful world!

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