China


Click here to read the original article on MG Edwards. Visit MG Edwards for more great travelogues, photos, and videos from around the world.

How does one describe a country like China? Facts and figures do not adequately measure the immensity of the world’s most populous nation, its third largest by size, and one of its most ancient. Grandiose statistics do not do China justice. China is perhaps best described as “China.” The name itself conjures images of the Great Wall, megapolises, Zodiac calendars and complicated characters, sumptuous cuisine, exotic scenery, manufacturing might, exquisite artisanship, and many more. From the Middle Kingdom to a People’s Republic, China is a dragon both awe-inspiring and fire-breathing that has reawakened from its slumber and is now stretching its wings to reassert itself in the world. Like the 21,196-kilometer (13,171 mile) Great Wall stretching from the Yellow Sea in the east to the far western interior, the breadth of this land is difficult for anyone to fathom. An ever-growing number of foreign tourists flock to popular destinations like Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, or Guilin to immerse themselves in the Far East – or so they think – but they have only begun to discover what is truly China. Few ever will, for this dynamic land is always on the move, heading into the future and out of reach of full comprehension.

More About China

The Great Wall

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Pudong District, Shanghai

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Forbidden City, Beijing

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Terracotta Warrior, Xi’an

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Celebrating New Year of the Dragon in China!


My wife Jing, son, and I spent the 2012 Chinese New Year with Jing’s family in Shanghai, China. It was a special New Year’s for us, not only because it ushered in the auspicious Year of the Dragon but also because it marked a first for our family—the first time we had been together with Jing’s family in China for the holiday. My wife had not spent New Year’s with her family in almost two decades, and it would be the first time my son and I joined them. The happy hearts and big smiles of my in-laws when we arrived January 21 foretold a joyous reunion.

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Click here to read the original article on MG Edwards. Visit MG Edwards for more great travelogues, photos, and videos from around the world.

Happy Chinese New Year!


新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Lunar New Year!

Welcome to the Year of the Wooden Horse or the Year of the Green Horse. Why a wooden or green horse? The Horse is one of twelve animals representing a twelve-year cycle in the Chinese lunar calendar. Combined with the five elements in the Chinese Zodiac, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth, the calendar goes through a 60-year cycle where each animal is associated with a different element every 12 years. Visit HanBan for a great summary of the Year of the (Wooden) Horse. Click here for more information about the elements.

This year may bode well for those born in the Year of the Horse with some promising personality traits such as being outgoing, energetic, active, friendly, trustworthy, and popular with friends, family, and acquaintances. The same may hold true for all of us during the Year of the Horse if the Green Horse appears this year and proves auspicious. However, as Wood can burn Red with flame, 2014 may also bring turmoil and crises. Who’s to say which Horse will cross the chronological plain this year. 没关系 (méi guānxi). No problem. Party on! It’s time to celebrate Chinese New Year!

How do the Chinese celebrate the New Year? Well, it starts with days of shopping for and buying any and all things red, gold, and (this year) green to make the holiday more festive. Shoppers stock up on food, drink and treats for Chinese New Year dinners, fireworks to blow off at stroke of midnight, and hongbao (红包 or red envelopes) to fill with money for the children.

2012_01_22 Chinese New Year Shopping IMG_3096

Chinese New Year is a time for families to celebrate the holiday together. Families who stay home and host festoon their houses with New Year decorations and prepare huge meals for extended family who join them for an evening…or often longer. It’s a time to enjoy great food and holiday delicacies, to catch up with family you might not have seen for a while, and to give hongbao to the children. If you’re lucky, your child will bow before you and promise to be behave as they ask for their red envelope.

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Going home to visit family by train, plane, or bus is a holiday tradition not often mentioned. The week-long lunar celebration triggers the world’s largest annual mass migration with an estimated 3.6 billion trips made, including 225 million Chinese who traveled overseas for Chinese New Year.

After dinner, many Chinese families relax and watch the annual New Year Show on Chinese Central Television (CCTV). Part variety show, part music concert, the event is watched by an estimated 750 million people.

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Just before midnight, millions of Chinese take to the streets, rooftops, or any open window to blow off fireworks to usher in the New Year. The spectacle is unbelievably loud and beautiful. The fireworks during the 2012 Year of the Dragon celebration in Shanghai were incredible! Click on the video below to watch.

2012 Chinese New Year in Shanghai, China

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The next day, many Chinese families venture out to enjoy local public festivities. They may go shopping, watch New Year parades, or tour old, familiar places. The Lunar New Year is a time to remember family, friends, and ancestors, and many visit places that have been an important part of their families’ lives. These photos were taken in 2012, at the Temple of the Town Gods in Shanghai.

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新年快乐!Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy New Year to you and yours!

Map of China

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mge-kili-cover-front-thumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander, Ellie the Elephant, and Zoe the Zebra, three books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, and a 3-in-1 collection featuring all three. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2014 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

You’re the Adventurer–No Chinese Visa


Welcome to an experiment. You’ve been a spectator reading my travelogues about life overseas from Korea to Zambia, but now it’s your turn to go on your own adventure! Immerse yourself in the story and make key decisions by choosing from among several options. Your selections could make the difference between a great trip or a travel disaster! Read and make your choice, and stay tuned as your story unfolds.

If you haven’t read the story from the beginning, stop reading this post! Click here to begin your journey.

You’re all set for your journey to China. You can’t wait to experience the Far East with more than one billion people and 5,000 years of history. It’s going to be a great trip!

airport

You arrive at the airport and check in with the airline. Presenting your travel documents, the agent flips through your passport and asks, “Where is your Chinese visa?”

“What do you mean?” you ask, perplexed.

“You need a valid visa to travel to China,” they explain. The realization dawns on you that you should have applied for a Chinese visa before your departure. You assumed that you either didn’t need one or could get it when you arrived in the country, recalling that many countries let visitors apply at the port of entry. You respond sheepishly, “I didn’t realize that I needed to get a visa before I traveled.”

“I’m sorry, but you must have a valid visa before I can issue your ticket,” the agent informs you with a dismissive look and cool voice.

“How do I get one?” you ask, starting to worry that you can’t proceed as planned.

“You have to download the application online and apply through the Chinese Embassy.”

“What?” you exclaim, surprised. “I can’t do that! My flight is in less than two hours.”

“I’m sorry, but you can’t fly until you have a valid Chinese visa,” they insist. They’ve obviously confronted this situation before. “If you entered China without a visa, you would be turned around immediately and sent home.”

“Isn’t there any way I can get one on short notice, like here at the airport?”

“No, I’m afraid not. I’m sorry, but you have to apply through the Chinese Embassy. Good day,” they tell you and hand back your passport and ticket before you can protest.

man

You stand dumbfounded with your bag and travel documents as the agent helps another customer.

You’re going to miss your flight and will have to wait for a few days until the Chinese Embassy processes your visa. What a disastrous start to what could have been a great trip!

THE END

airplane

Images courtesy of Microsoft.

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories calledReal Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Storiesand Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. All characters and events appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons or events is purely coincidental. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the final installment of a five-part series about Ayutthaya, Thailand. This article features Wat Mahathat, the ruin of Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). Previous posts discussed the historic City of Ayutthaya; the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram; Buddhist monastery Wat Phu Khao Thong, and temple ruins of Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.

Wat Mahathat, or the “Monastery of the Great Relic” according to the website History of Ayutthaya, is a former Buddhist temple located in the heart of historic Ayutthaya not far from the old royal palace. It is one of the most famous sites in the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

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Wat Mahathat is best known for the photogenic Buddha’s head embedded in the trunk of a banyan tree. The well-preserved face with a serene look leaves a lasting impression. Experts believe that the sandstone head either fell from a statue and landed in the tree or was left there by a thief who could not haul it away.

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Although most visitors come to see the famous head, the temple itself is just as interesting.

Wat Mahathat was one of the largest and most important temple complexes in the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Historical records indicate that it was either built by King Uthong (Ramathibodhi I, 1350-69), King Borommaracha I (1370-88), or King Ramesuan (1388-95). The site fell into disrepair in the 1630s and 1730s before the Burmese razed it in 1767. Many of the prang and stupa or chedi (spires) collapsed after years of decay. Efforts have been underway since 1956 to preserve the site.

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (11)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (12)

The temple served as the religious center of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and was the seat of the supreme Buddhist patriarch of Siam (early Thailand). It once housed relics captured during military campaigns in Cambodia and elsewhere. During the annual Kathin (royal barge) ceremony, the Ayutthaya kings sailed in a procession of barges down a canal from the palace to the temple, where they would disembark, pray, and make offerings to the gods.

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Like Wat Chaiwattanaram, the Khmer-style Wat Mahathat was built in the shape of five-pointed structure (quincunx) with a large central prang (tower) more than 50 meters (165 feet) high representing the legendary Buddhist mountain Meru (Phra Men). Four smaller prang on the corners formed a cross symbolizing four continents facing the sea (a large, grassy courtyard). An ordination hall lay nearby. Records indicate that the temple’s architectural style, artwork, and relics grew more ornate during subsequent renovations as befitted a place of religious significance.

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Although efforts have been made to restore or add Buddha statues, most remain headless after being decapitated by the Burmese in 1767.

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Some preserved prang, chedi, and a few murals amid a discombobulated maze of rubble are all that’s left of this once-magnificent place. While not as visually stunning as Wat Chaiwattanaram, Wat Mahathat has a larger footprint and an openness that lets you explore up close monuments of the former kingdom.

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2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat
If you plan to visit Ayutthaya and the historical park, make a stop at Wat Mahathat. It’s one site you don’t want to miss!
Video clip of Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya, Thailand
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More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about the City of Ayutthaya and the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Click here to read about Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

Click here to read about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a historical Buddhist monastery

buythumb42M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

A Skyline View of Macau (Video)


I took a break this week from writing photo travelogues to try my hand at putting together a (semi)professional video clip. Here’s a clip I took from the top of Mount Fortress (Fortaleza do Monte) overlooking the Historic Centre of Macao. This and other travel video clips are available to watch on the World Adventurers YouTube Channel. If you subscribe to the channel, you’ll receive notification whenever a new clip is added. More than 30 videos have been uploaded to the site (although only a few have been edited). Stay tuned for more.

View of the Historic Center of Macau from Mount Fortress.

Click here to view the clip on YouTube if you have trouble viewing it on this page.

Posting travel videos is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I have raw video footage from around the world, but I’ve been too busy to edit and publish clips. It’s a steep learning curve figuring out how to add the video, audio, titles, transitions, and other bells and whistles to make an attractive clip and do it in short order. This is the first of many travel videos I plan to post along with the travelogues I’ve been publishing. Bear with me on the quality – I’m new at this, and it will take a few tries to learn how to make them look more polished.

I used Cyberlink’s PowerDirector software to make this. Having used some other well-known personal video editing programs, I’m convinced that PowerDirector is the best and easiest one to use. I shot this video using a pocket digital camera, so the quality is average. I will try to enhance the footage in the coming months.

Enjoy!

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain available from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. They visited Macau in April 2012.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Historic Center of Macau


This is the second in a series of articles about Macau, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. As with the show The House of Dancing Water, we took too many great photos of the Historic Centre of Macao (the Portuguese spelling of Macau) to include all of them in my upcoming list of the Top Ten Things to Savor in Macau. It merits its own post with a full photo collage.

The colonial area of the city with its mix of Portuguese and Chinese influences was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. According to UNESCO, “with its historic street, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the Historic Centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West.”

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The Centre stretches over several square kilometers in two zones: one between Barra Hill to the west and Mount Hill in the center, and the other to the east encompassing the Guia Fortress, Guia Chapel, and Guia Lighthouse. The first zone boasts 20 monuments of special significance to the blending of eastern and western influences harkening back to Macau’s days as a Portuguese colony. A complete list is at the end of this article.

During our trip to Macau in April 2012, we visited the monuments near Mount Hill. They’re shown in the map above. Starting at Senado Square (10 on the map), we walked to Mount Fortress (21), the Ruins of St. Paul’s (29), and back to the square. The small area was packed with things to see and made a great daytime walking tour. Unfortunately, time and weather did not permit us to see the other sites in the Centre — perhaps during a future visit.

We started at the Mount Fortress (Fortaleza do Monte in Portuguese). The hilltop fortress was built in 1626 by the Jesuits to defend themselves from attack. The colonial government seized it after Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Jesuits’ Order, the Society of Jesus, in 1773, and the Jesuits departed. It served for many years as the residence of the governors of Macau and a military fort. It is now home to the Museum of Macau. You can almost hear echoes of the city’s colonial past near the cannons on the ramparts. The beautiful garden offers panoramic views of the old city.

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2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (8)

2012_04_17 Mount Fortress (9)

The Museum of Macau.

2012_04_17 Macau Museum

A short escalator ride down the hill is the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral and College, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Completed in 1602 by the Jesuits, it was one of the largest Catholic complexes in Asia but fell into decline after the Jesuits’ departure. It was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The cathedral’s façade crowning a long flight of stone steps was the only visible remnant of the church. Its baroque features reminded me of the Jesuit Reductions in South America that were built at about the same time.

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Statue depicting the Apostle Paul.

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The back side of the cathedral’s façade — an interesting contrast from the front.

Next to the Ruins of St. Paul’s is the nondescript Na Tcha Temple, a Buddhist and Taoist temple built in 1888 to honor the Taoist deity of protection, Na Tcha. Perhaps just as significant is the red-brown wall behind the temple that’s reportedly one of the last standing sections of the Old Wall of Macau destroyed by the Chinese in 1622.

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Na Tcha Temple and a section of the old Macau wall.

Na Tcha Temple

We walked down the steps of the Ruins of St. Paul’s to the intersection of Rua de Sao Paulo and Rua de Santo Antonio, where the shopping district of the Historic Centre of Macao began. Heading away from St. Paul’s, Rua de Santo Antonio became a cobblestone pedestrian street that headed to Senado Square.

St Paul (10)

At the base of the steps was an interesting statue depicting a Caucasian man and Asian woman that apparently signified the union of eastern and western influences in Macau. In an eternal pose the woman offers the man a lotus flower, and the man accepts with an open hand.

Love Statue

As we made our way through the Centre’s shopping district, we saw a variety of western and Asian storefronts sprouting from colorful Portuguese-style colonial buildings with signs in Chinese, English, and Portuguese. It was an interesting melding of the old and new. Most tourists here were Chinese drawn by the excellent shopping opportunities.

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A side street off Rua de Santo Antonio.

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An old home.

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Colonial building near Rua de Santo Antonio.

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Rua

Near the junction of Rua de Santo Antonio and Rua Sao Domingos, we passed by the beautiful St. Dominic’s Church. Originally built in 1587, the baroque interior is worth a look-see.

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St Dominic (4)

St Dominic (5)

Turning a corner, we entered Senado Square, or Senate Square, the heart of historic Macau. The square was paved with a colorful mosaic of cobblestones surrounding a contemporary fountain bedecked with a metallic globe. The Leal Senado, General Post Office, the Santa Casa de Misercordia (Holy House of Mercy), a Portuguese charity, and other colonial buildings bordered the square.

Senado Square (2)

Senado Square (7)

Senado Square (8)

Senado Square (9)

The Leal Senado (Loyal Senate) erected in 1784 was the seat of Macau‘s colonial government. Its name, bestowed in 1810, honors the colony’s continued loyalty to the Portuguese monarchy during the Iberian Union (1580-1640). It has served as the headquarters of the Institute of Civic & Municipal Affairs, which administers local matters, since Macau’s transfer of sovereignty to China in 1999.

Senado Square (11)

The General Post Office.

General Post Office

The monuments described above are only some of the significant ones in the Historic Centre of Macao. Others include (from Wikipedia):

The walking tour from Mount Fortress to Senado Square is accessible by foot and takes about half a day. If you’re planning a trip to Macau, take your time and set aside at least two days to visit the Historic Centre.

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clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain available from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. They visited Macau in April 2012.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.