A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about capital

Beginning in Beijing

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Beijing

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After six months without travel, it was finally time for our two week 2018 holiday to East Asia. Beginning with the Chinese capital of Beijing.

The trip had been planned for over a year, in order to not only make Cherry Blossom season, but also to take advantage of the Easter Bank Holiday. It had been difficult to get all the dates to fit, and this first stopover was worked to take advantage of the 72 hour visa policy.

Annoyingly after booking, flights were cancelled and earlier flights were required in order to fit the visa policy. Only to find a few weeks later that the 72 hour visa was extended to 144 hours, making a lot of the stress unnecessary. Nevertheless, after a 10 hour overnight flight, with morning views of desolate Siberia and Mongolia, we finally arrived in a surprisingly modern looking Beijing.

Anticipating lots of smog, we were pleasantly surprised at the midday sky, being beautiful and blue. Getting to our courtyard hotel, we checked in and headed back out to make the most of the nice weather, heading first to Tiananmen Square, where the scale of the security checks throughout the city would become evident. It took us ten minutes to get into the square itself, by which time the Forbidden City had already been closed.

Tiananmen Gate

Tiananmen Gate

We enjoyed views of the Tiananmen Gate, before walking south into the huge square itself. A local guy asked to take a photo with us for his own photo collection, before we headed past Mao's mausoleum and exited the square heading into the souvenir shop we found.

Afterwards, and now by early evening, we headed north to the Olympic Park site, to see the Bird's Nest Stadium before ending our first day with food and bed.

Bird's Nest Stadium

Bird's Nest Stadium

With limited jetlag having travelled eastwards, the following morning we awoke early in plenty of time for our excursion to the Great Wall of China. Meeting our guide who wondered if we were brothers or friends (we went for friends), we jumped in the car for our private excursion, an hour or so north of the city. Although more expensive than a group tour, it meant our day would be much shorter, and thus more time to explore the rest of the city in our limited stay. We also got to arrive nice and early, beating the crowd.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Taking the cable car up, we quickly arrived at a relatively quiet section of the open wall, more extreme in steepness than expected. Our guide 'Jenny' was quite good, not too chatty, and also allowing us to explore it by ourselves, as well as giving us tips for the rest of our stay in the city. After lots of photos and walks (or climbs) across a short section we headed back down via toboggan, and back to Beijing.

Arriving back at lunchtime we headed out to the Temple of Heaven, one of the city's imperial temples which was used by Ming and Qing Emperors to pray a good Harvest.

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

With time left today, our last sight was the Summer Palace, located out in the north of the city. By this stage we were quite tired and achy, so we only took a look around the palace buildings to the north of the huge complex, before heading back to the hotel for a well earned sleep.

Inside the Summer Palace

Inside the Summer Palace

Our final day was to spend time at the Forbidden City. Originally we had planned to visit the mausoleum and National People's Congress first. However getting to Tiananmen at 8am, it was already packed and took an hour to get through the security. This was before the queues for these sights too, and thus we decided to give these a miss, and headed straight for the Forbidden City, where we toured the complex for few hours before exiting to the north and heading towards the Jingshan Hill for views over the complex.

Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City

Before climbing up the hill, we popped in the toilets. Chris went inside a cubical, before quickly running back out, I wondered what was going on as the attendant directed him to the one at the far end. Having noticed Chris's panicked face, he clearly knew that this panicked westerner would prefer a sit down toilet instead of a squat one and directed him accordingly!

Squat Toilets

Squat Toilets

Up on Jingshan Hill

Up on Jingshan Hill

After walking up the hill for limited views through the smog, we walked through some hutongs to the nearest metro station and headed to our last sight in the city, Beijing Zoo. After having seen panda merchandise all over the city (even though pandas don't even live in this part of China) we decided to pay a visit to the few in Beijing.

Pandas

Pandas

After three busy days it was time to rest up for our early start the following morning, heading to the South Korean capital of Seoul.

Beijing was much more modern and less smoggy than expected. However it was shabby in a lot of places and the locals were not ones to be very courteous of tourists nor each other. Nevertheless an interesting place to visit!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:43 Archived in China Tagged architecture culture temple history palace zoo city hill capital eastasia Comments (0)

The Canadian Capital

Canada - Ottawa

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When planning this trip I felt it would be interesting not only to visit Toronto and Niagara Falls, but the capital - Ottawa, and the French speaking area of Quebec, and therefore make a whole trip out of the holiday.

After having a final breakfast with Halina, we said our goodbyes, and boarded a five hour bus crossing southern Ontario towards Ottawa, eventually arriving in the city by mid afternoon. After checking in to our huge room, we then headed out for a short walk to the heart of the city.

What had struck us most in Canada was just how shabby much of it is, and Ottawa was no exception. Even though we were just a five minute walk from Parliament, the whole area was very shabby, with signs falling off, paintwork needing maintenance, and broken pacing slabs everywhere. And yet, as we walked past the city hall and entered the very heart of the city it was very well maintained.

Parliament

Parliament

The city centre was rather pretty, and Parliament Hill's Gothic architecture was a welcome sight against the bland and typical North American architecture of the suburbs. Walking past a protest against FPTP, we headed towards the back of the complex for views over the Ottawa river that separates French speaking Quebec from English speaking Ontario.

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

It is for this reason that Ottawa was made capital - being neither Toronto, nor Montreal, yet between the two and therefore a good compromise for a united country. Although with the Parliament buildings overlooking Quebec, it's a good job their independence never happened!

Château Laurier

Château Laurier

After walking past some beautiful buildings and the Rideau Canal, we made our way to the Alexandra Bridge to cross into Quebec. What would we find on the other side? Would people be speaking in French? Well... yes... in fact everyone we heard was a French speaker, and as we headed back from what appeared to be the same city, we followed some French speaking ladies and were intrigued to find out if they would revert to English by the time they reached Ontario.

French before English was one of the few differences

French before English was one of the few differences

Unfortunately our illusions were shattered as they continued their conversation in French as we dispersed back towards our hotel for the night.

Posted by kmmk17 11:14 Archived in Canada Tagged city canada capital parliament Comments (0)

The Concrete Capital

In Search of the Penguins - Brasilia

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Well over 18 months ago I booked myself the trip of a lifetime to the Antarctic. However in order to get there I would need to get to the bottom of South America - the other continent I had yet to visit. And so after much planning I decided it would be a massive shame to literally fly in, past some cities I really wanted to visit, and thus I planned to go via Brazil en route.

After taking an overnight flight from London, and transferring in São Paulo, I arrived in my first destination on a warm Thursday morning, excited to explore the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.

Brasilia was built from nothing in the final four years of the 50's to replace Rio as the Brazilian capital. And as with many new cities of the same era, it was heavily planned, with sectors and grand avenues. The city is shaped like an aeroplane with all the governmental buildings located around the fuselage.

Arriving at my hotel in the Hotel Sector, right off the main boulevard I quickly grabbed my bits and headed off for a walk before the imminent rainfall expected this afternoon drenched me.

As Brasilia was built for the car it's scale is huge and there is a distinct lack of pedestrian access - crossing Eixo Monumental meant literally running across the 7 lane highway in a gap through the traffic.

Entering the Cathedral

Entering the Cathedral

Beginning by heading past the Central Terminal I made my way past the National Library and Museum to the Cathedral - a concrete and stained glass building that is entered from below, whilst a pool of water surrounds the building at ground level. Whilst interesting from the outside, it is inside that the building is truly beautiful, with angel sculptures floating above the pews.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral


National Congress

National Congress

Continuing down Eixo Monumental, I made my way to the Esplanada dos Ministérios for views over the National Congress, with it's iconic bowl, and built into the ground.

Three Powers Plaza

Three Powers Plaza

Behind the Congress is the Plaza of Three Powers, where the highest branches of government - the Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential Palace are located. Unfortunately like most of the city, the concrete is in a state of disrepair and makes the whole area look shabby, despite the best intentions and interesting architectural designs.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court


Palace of Justice

Palace of Justice

Having already walked two miles from the hotel to this end, it was now time to walk back, past the Palace of Justice and National Theatre, to the TV Tower, where free views looking over the whole city can be found.

Brasilia

Brasilia

At this height, the scale of the city's planned layout can be seen, as well as the JK Bridge over the Paranoá Lake in the distance.

JK Bridge

JK Bridge

After a lot of walking and having luckily dodged the heavy rain, I grabbed dinner and settled in for the night, before my onward flight to Rio the following day.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged lake cathedral capital parliament penguinhunt Comments (0)

Road Trip

Bristol, et al.

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Having spent the last few years jetting off abroad for weekends away to new cities and countries, it made me realise there were still patches missing that I had never visited in my own country.

Despite having seen mouse statues in Lithuanian sea side towns, and art villages in rural Germany, I had still never seen Stonehenge, Cardiff or Bath. Therefore whilst I was in the midst of visa approvals I had decided that I would take a visit to the West country on a nice weekend during the summer, similar to my trip to North Wales a few years back, stopping in a few places for a few hours before heading to the next. Keeping in mind the school holidays as well as the weather forecast the weekend chosen was the last in July, and together with Chris we set off early on Saturday morning towards Stonehenge.

Hearing it was best to prebook our tickets in advance we looked to be arriving on time. However despite the satnav telling us that we were only two minutes away, with a dual carriageway merging into single lanes, and everyone wanting to slow down for a photoshoot of the rocks themselves it ended up taking us 45 minutes to finally arrive!

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Once parked up at the new visitor centre we then took a short bus ride to the rocks themselves for some photos, surrounded by half of China. After taking in the sophisticated neolithic structure and grabbing a bite to eat we then continued our journey on to Wookey Hole.

Wookey Hole

Wookey Hole

The caves at Wookey Hole included a guided tour, and after raving it up with our glow sticks we entered to observe the stalagmites and -tites as well as the erosive features.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Our next and final destination of the day was Cheddar Gorge, where we walked up the side of the gorge to gain views over it as well as of the Bristol Channel and South Wales, before heading back down and stopping for a coffee inside the Gorge.

Inside Cheddar Gorge

Inside Cheddar Gorge

After resting up we then drove up the Gorge itself for some stunning views before heading to our hotel in Portishead for the evening.

Portishead

Portishead

Arriving at the hotel we checked in, had dinner and then took a quick drive to the coast before heading back and chilling with a bottle of wine after a long day.

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay

After some rural attractions, the following morning we headed towards Cardiff, stopping at Cardiff Bay and viewing the waterside regeneration before driving through the city centre and then into the valleys, stopping by the house of my great grandmother.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle


Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Heading back to England we then took a brief visit to the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol before our final destination on this busy weekend - Bath.

Us at the Roman Baths

Us at the Roman Baths

After taking a look around the Roman Baths we then headed for a walk around the city looking at the architecture before our final drive back home.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

A long and tiresome weekend but a great one - helped by the weather, but also by being able to drive around to enjoy the sights without getting bored!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged landscapes bridges history cave roman capital ancient Comments (0)

A casual 15 mile walk...

The Indian Experience - Delhi

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In the run up to my Indian holiday I had discovered that contrary to my knowledge, Beijing was not the most polluted city in the world - it was in fact Delhi. Great! However, after two freezing cold nights I was still looking forward to getting out of Nepal and in to Delhi where at least there would be power!

Waking up in Kathmandu and making it to the airport, unfortunately the smog in both capitals meant that my plane was delayed by several hours, and after security checks at every stage, I eventually made it on to the plane headed for India. Avoiding the under-cooked meat on the plane, I soon arrived in Delhi and was picked up to take me to the hotel.

A western toilet!

A western toilet!

When travelling I usually don't go for a particularly luxurious hotel, however as Indian prices were not the most expensive, as well as preparing myself for a bad case of diarrhoea, and thus wanting a western styled toilet, as well as a safe refuge from the dirty outside world I chose a rather nice hotel a few minutes walk from the central station, where I would need to leave early from on Friday. What I found quite early on is that nice hotels have their own door staff sitting there all day in the winter cold (again, India much like Nepal never got very warm the entire time I was there) just opening the doors for guests!

After checking in, and having already missed four hours of my planned day of sightseeing I cracked on quickly deciding to visit Old Delhi, leaving the rest of the city for the following day. Making my way across to the metro station I was instantly hit by the full force of Indian grime. Not only did I have to avoid the tuktuk drivers' insistence that they take me wherever I needed to go, but also having to avoid the constant spitting that every Indian seems compelled to do. Mix that together with the dirt, beggars and constant smell of urine and excrement you can imagine the pleasure of a gentle stroll around the Indian capital.

Red Fort

Red Fort

Eventually finding the entrance to the metro, I made my way to Chandri Chowk, and the Red Fort. However not wanting to look even more like a tourist than I did already, I first ended up going the wrong way, and thus had to end up walking back on myself in a race against time to reach the Red Fort before nightfall.

Eventually arriving, the full scale of the smoggy haze affecting the city was soon clear, as the fort could barely be seen just 100 metres away. Deciding not to explore further, as I would visit the very similarly designed fort in Agra in just two days time, I continued down the road towards the Jama Masjid, finding that the easiest and fastest way to walk is actually on the road, behind the tuktuks.

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid

By this stage, it had already got dark that my western face was now no longer so evident, and I found to my surprise I was no longer hassled as I looked no different to a local! I then walked back through Old Delhi towards the McDonalds just up from my hotel and after a casual 5 mile walk I was done for the day. Time to get some sleep for a long busy day exploring the rest of the city tomorrow.

Connaught Place

Connaught Place

After taking breakfast in the hotel in the following morning, I then made my way out towards Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi. Walking past the colonial buildings and a "Burger Singh", I saw the huge Indian Flag in the middle of the square, before making my way to the first attraction, the Jantar Mantar - an eighteenth century observatory.

Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar

Like most attractions in India (and Nepal), locals are charged a pittance (₹5, £0.05) compared to foreign tourists (₹100, £1). Although as this was still cheap compared to rates in Europe it was nothing to complain about. Especially as it became a haven from the rush and hassle of the city. After taking a detour via one of the government owned fixed-price shops to buy a Ganesh souvenir, I headed down to the Safdarjung Tomb - a Mughal tomb that being much less frequently visited, was a real respite from the city and allowed me to explore the architecture thoroughly.

Safdarjung's Tomb

Safdarjung's Tomb


Gandhi Smriti

Gandhi Smriti

Heading north through the suburbs of New Delhi, I arrived at the Gandhi Smriti, where Gandhi himself spent the last few days of his life before being assassinated in the garden. The house includes many artefacts from his life, including his famous glasses, and it was a really peaceful experience.

Gandhi's Glasses

Gandhi's Glasses


High Pressure Pipeline

High Pressure Pipeline

Continuing towards Rajpath, and the governmental buildings, it struck me just how nice these parts were. Luxurious houses (with their permanent security presence), and wide, plant filled pavements. Although the constant signs of "High Pressure Gas Pipelines" next to dodgy excavations did make me a little uneasy given the nature of my job back at home! Arriving at Rajpath I took a little walk around the government buildings before attempting to view the India Gate, which with the smog meant it was completely unseen.

Smog covering Rajpath

Smog covering Rajpath

With the India Day celebrations taking place in around a week's time, setting up the seating areas was already in full swing, and thus Rajpath itself was close, so a small diversion was made to actually get to the India Gate.

India Gate

India Gate


Humayun's Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

After arriving at another closed site, I decided to take the metro a little bit of the way to the next site - the Humayun Tomb. However getting to where the Metro was supposed to be, I was unable to find it, and so instead ended up walking the whole way.

Architecture inside the tombs

Architecture inside the tombs

Getting to the tomb, I found this was much more popular than the Safdarjung one earlier in the day, although it was still a nice place to explore. I then made my way south towards the Lotus Temple. This temple is shaped like a lotus, and after removing your shoes you are allowed in to make a prayer or just sit in silent thought.

Lotus Temple

Lotus Temple


Akshardham

Akshardham

My final destination for the day was to view the Akshardham tomb, although as actually visiting involved a lot of rigmarole regarding allowed items I figured I would just view it from the nearby metro station. Again this involved a race against time to view it before sunset, which was successful, just about through the thick smog. And I then made my way back towards McDonalds for tonight's dinner - not wanting to risk getting ill on local stuff, and having my handwash in tow.

Beautiful India

Beautiful India

Knowing there was one in Connaught Place, but being unable to find it, I ended up walking back from the central square via the station, going the completely wrong way! After eating and coming back to my hotel my legs were truly aching by now. I felt as though it must have been about a 10km walk today. I later found to my horror it was nearer 24 (15 miles!)

At least tomorrow's visit to the Taj Mahal was guided and would involve a lot less walking!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in India Tagged temple fort tomb capital parliament shrine gate pollution indianexperience Comments (0)

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