Panda drawing


In October-November 2013 I did a three week trip to China with Peregrine Adventures. The trip was titled A Passage through China, which commenced in Beijing and went through central and southern China, before finishing in Hong Kong. The trip was extremely varied and provided great scenery, and the best of ancient and modern China. A selection of photographs from this trip is contained below. Click on the thumbnails to see larger images:


This map shows our route through eastern and central China, from Beijing to Hong Kong. There was a mixture of overnight train trips, internal flights and road journeys along the way.


We spent the first day visiting the main tourist sights in Beijing. Large crowds were queued up to glimpse Chairman Mao in his mausoleum in Tiananmen Square.


The Great Hall of the People near Tiananmen Square, where party and national congresses are held.


A large vase sculpture is created every year in Tiananmen Square to celebrate the National Holiday in October.


The Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) containing the large painting of Chairman Mao is the symbolic and political epicentre of China. It is the southernmost gate of the Forbidden City, overlooking Tiananmen Square.


We spent a few hours exploring the Forbidden City, home to former Ming and Qing emperors commencing from around 1420 AD. The site is huge, containing about 800 buildings, and many days could be spent exploring all of it.


The Forbidden City is a vast museum, with many of its buildings showcasing the imperial collections and relics.


Jingshan Park provides a good view over the rooftops of the Forbidden City to the south. The hill in the centre of this park was constructed from earth excavated to construct the moat surrounding the Forbidden City.


The Temple of Heaven is a series of temples and altars located in a huge park in Beijing, which was the site of imperial sacrifices at the winter solstice to keep order and harmony on earth. The 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests' is the major temple, and a symbol of Beijing.


We visited the Birdsnest Stadium at the Olympic Park in the north of Beijing. This was the site of the 2008 Olympic Games.


Close-up of the Watercube Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Park. This is one of many amazing pieces of architecture in Beijing.


We visited the Mutiunyu section of the Great Wall, 80 kilometres north of Beijing. The surrounding hills were full of autumn colours while we were there in mid October.


View from inside a watchtower on the Great Wall. The surrounding hills are very rugged and covered by thick vegetation.


I walked west along the wall up to the end of the restored section at Watchtower No. 23. Beyond this the wall was more derelict and covered by bushy vegetation.


We travelled by overnight sleeper train from Beijing to Xian, the ancient capital of China. In Xian there is a bustling Muslim Quarter containing narrow streets and alleyways full of food markets and tourist and handicraft stalls.


A food stall in a street in the Muslim Quarter.


The Great Mosque in Xian is a blend of traditional Chinese and Islamic architecture. Its construction started in 742 AD.


The city wall that surrounded the old city of Xian was built around 600 years ago, is 14 kilometres in length, and is the most intact among the ancient Chinese city walls that still exist today. We walked for a few kilometres along the wall.


We watched a drum show for the tourists at the Xian City Wall.


The Bell Tower in Xian, lit up at night. The bell on this tower was used to signal the dawn when the city gates opened, while the drums of the nearby Drum Tower were used to signal the closing of the city gates at dusk.


We visited the Terracotta Warriors on the outskirts of Xian. The warriors were created over 2000 years ago to protect the tomb of Emperor Qin, and were rediscovered in 1974. The enormous Pit 1 houses around 6000 terracotta warriors, although only about 2000 figures have been restored and put back in their original positions.


Close-up of the Terracotta Warriors.


Most of the terracotta warriors were found in a damaged state and many of the warriors are being restored prior to being put back in their original positions in the Pits.


Half size solid bronze horses and chariot were discovered close to the tomb of Emperor Qin. The tomb is yet to be opened.


Pit 3 is much smaller and is believed to represent the garrison headquarters of the Qin terracotta army.


After two days in Xian, we flew west to Lanzhou in Gansu Province. From here we began our week long road journey south through Gansu and Sichuan provinces to Chengdu.


From Lanzhou we drove south for three hours to a reservoir on the Yellow River, then had a short boat ride past dramatic scenery to the Bingling Temple.


We walked along a path past numerous buddha statues carved into the rockfaces. These date from around 700 AD.


The Big Buddha statue at Bingling is 27m high and was constructed in 731 AD. It had recently been restored following earthquake damage.


Sunset on the peaks overlooking the Yellow River near Bingling Temple,


We spent the following day in the town of Xiahe, situated at 2800m altitude on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. Here we visited the Labrang Monastery, home to 2000 monks, and the largest Tibetan style monastery outside of Tibet.


Labrang monastery is an important place of pilgrimage, and there were many monks and Tibetan pilgrims in the town and at the monastery.


2500 two metre high prayer wheels surround the perimeter of the Labrang monastery.


View from the Labrang Monastery.


Overlooking the town of Xiahe and the Labrang Monastery. The town sits in a high valley surrounded by barren hills.


From Xiahe we headed south to the town of Langmusi, situated at 3500m altitude on the Gansu-Sichuan border.


We visited the Langmu Monastery on the hill overlooking Langmusi. The gold on the recently restored monastery roofs glistened in the sun.


Langmu Monastery


The mountains surrounding Langmusi were covered by a dusting of snow.


From Langmusi we continued south across the Grassland plateau, a large area of grassy plains and hills, yak herders and nomads, and where may of China's rivers have their source.


We passed through the Grasslands National Park and climbed up to 3840 m altitude before descending from the plateau into the mountain valleys of northern Sichuan.


We stayed overnight in the town of Songpan. The ancient gates from Songpan's days as a walled city are still intact. The town was quite touristy and a lot of construction work was occurring within the old walls.


A covered wooden bridge spanning the Min River in Songpan.


Street view in Songpan.


Meats being dried at a shop in Songpan.


From Songpan we visited the nearby Jiuzhaigou National Park, a World Heritage site and one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The park contains three main valleys full of crystal clear turquoise coloured lakes, rivers and numerous waterfalls and snow capped peaks. The forests were ablaze with autumn colours while we were there.


Reflections and colours in the Five Flower lake.


Logs covered in algae are visible in the clear waters of the lakes.


Pearl Shoal Falls is a spectacular waterfall in the lower reaches of the Rize Valley. There is a great network of well maintained boardwalks and walking trails in each valley that passes all of the lakes and waterfalls.


Autumn colours in Jiuzhaigou National Park.


The Nuorilang Falls are another spectacular waterfall, situated at the junction of the three valleys close to the Tourist Centre.


Long Lake is situated at the head of the Zechawa Valley, surrounded by snow-capped peaks.


The water of the Five Coloured Pool has amazing shades of blue and turquoise colours.


Near the Shuzheng Lakes in the lower reaches of the National Park.


The following day we had an eight hour bus ride to Chengdu. Overnight snow falls covered the forests and hills near Jiuzhaigou National Park.


As we approached Chengdu we passed through an area devastated by earthquakes and floods in recent years. We saw collapsed mountainsides and destroyed road bridges. We also passed through an impressive series of enormous tunnels and bridges in this area.


In Chengdu we visited the 'Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding' which focuses on getting giant pandas to breed. We saw numerous giant pandas on display in various enclosures.


Baby pandas were on display in a nursery.


The Panda Breeding Centre also contains a few red pandas.


The entrance gate to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu.


The Wensu Temple is a Tang-dynasty monastery located near the centre of Chengdu, and its temples and parkland are an oasis of calm away from the surrounding city.


Bird cages hanging in the grounds of the Wensu Temple. Old men were talking and playing board games in the park whilst their caged songbirds had other birds for company.


At the People's Park in Chengdu, mostly older people were congregating to sing, dance, practice taichi, play board games and people watch. The park was very noisy with competition from numerous loudspeakers.


Performers in the People's Park in Chengdu.


Tianfu Square is in the heart of Chengdu and is close to the main shopping district and Metro network. The modern buildings surrounding the Square are lit up every night by a neon light show.


A large statue of Chairman Mao overlooks Tianfu Square.


We caught the Metro to the Global Centre, which is a gigantic building on the southern outskirts of Chengdu that opened in September 2013, containing hotels, shopping centres, ice rink, waterpark and indoor beach etc. It is meant to be the largest building in the world by floorspace.


One night we went to a Chinese opera show in Chengdu, which contained performances that included music, comedy skits, hand and shadow puppetry and mask face-changing.


From Chengdu we did a day trip south to Leshan to see the Giant Buddha. Along the way we stopped at a roadside reststop in a tea growing area, that contained this interesting sculpture.


The Giant Buddha at Leshan is carved out of a mountainside and is 75 metres high, took 90 years to build, and was contructed 1300 years ago. This was one of the most impressive things I saw in China.


Near the top of the Giant Buddha.


We did a boat trip along the river that allowed us to see the whole of the Giant Buddha from below.


We then flew from Chengdu to Guilin and spent a day in nearby Yangshuo, where we did a morning bike ride through the surrounding karst mountain landscape.


Scenery along the Yalong River near Yangshuo.


Moon Hill is a famous landmark near Yangshuo.


We went on a bamboo raft ride along the Li River past picturesque scenery to the village of Fuli. There were hundreds of bamboo rafts transporting tourists along this stretch of the river.


A view of Yangshuo nestled amongst the limestone peaks.


Yangshuo scene. McDonalds and KFC were to be found everywhere we went in China.


The Li River at Yangshuo.


Cormorant fisherman in Yangshuo with his birds ready for tourists to photograph.


From Yangshuo we drove back to Guilin then north for a further two hours into the mountains up to Ping An village, where we spent the next day. This area provides good hiking opportunities between the local villages. Ping An reminded me of a village in the Nepalese foothills, but without the snow-capped peaks.


We did a walk from Ping An through the famous Longji rice terraces to another nearby village. The rice terraces had already been harvested, and are more spectacular at other times of the year when full with water or yellow coloured crops.


The local minority Yao women never cut their hair, which can grow down to their feet.


The Longji rice terraces near Ping An village.


We returned to Guilin then caught an overnight sleeper train to Shenzhen, where we crossed the border into Hong Kong. Our trip concluded in Hong Kong, where I had a spare day to sightsee before heading home.


The Peak Tram climbs steeply from the streets of Hong Kong up to Victoria Peak.


View of Hong Kong and the harbour from Victoria Peak. The weather was hazy and the views were not the best.


The former Governor's residence in Hong Kong.


Double-decker trams are a feature of Hong Kong island.


The Star Ferry provides a quick and inexpensive way to cross the harbour.


View towards Kowloon from the Star Ferry on Hong Kong harbour.


View towards Hong Kong island from the Kowloon waterfront.


The Avenue of the Stars on the waterfront at Kowloon.


The buildings of Hong Kong are lit up every night for the Sound and Light Show, which I saw on my final night before heading home.

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Page last modified on Friday 19 March 2021