Monthly Archives: August 2016

Winter Fun on the Wild Great Wall

Great Wall - Picture of Mom.

We made it to the Great Wall!

The world-famous Great Wall of China sees millions of visitors every year. The vast majority of tourists visit the restored sections, such as Badaling and Mutianyu. However, there are also many long stretches of the Great Wall that receive almost no visitors. During winter, it would be a rare occasion indeed to see another living soul in these parts.

When I went to the Great Wall with my mom, we weren't expecting snow. It was early November, and the weather was rather warm in Beijing. But as we ascended into the mountains, the temperature dropped. By the time we got to a village at the base of the Wall, it was snowing.

The snow continued throughout the night, leaving the Wall with a coat of fresh powder the next morning. We scrambled our way to the top and explored. While the snow prevented us from hiking as far as we had hoped, this was still an experience of a lifetime.

What do you think?

Great Wall - Picture of Mom.

The trail leading up to the wall is arduous, but once you get there, what a treat!

Great Wall - Picture of mountain.

In many places, the wall was built straight over the tops of mountains.

Great Wall - Picture of tower.

There is a guard tower every few hundred meters.

Great Wall - Picture of tower.

Approaching the guard tower for a bit of shelter from the snow.

Great Wall - Picture of window.

Looking out the window.

Great Wall - Picture of doorway.

Here's the entrance to the guard tower. I loved the light and the symmetry, broken up by some fallen bricks.

Great Wall - Picture of stairs.

Occasionally, it's possible to climb to the top of a tower.

Great Wall - Picture of me.

I put on my happy face.

Great Wall - Picture of Mom.

We were the only people on the wall that day.

Here are the rest of my photos from this trip to the Great Wall.

AtW Podcast, Episode 16: Ryan Campeau

Picture of Katie and Ryan.

Katie and Ryan getting grilled lamb at a street-side restaurant.

My guest this week is Ryan Campeau. We sat on my balcony in Beijing for a lengthy discussion about travel, specifically in China, Europe, and the good old US of A. Along the way, we did quite a bit of story-telling. I hope you enjoy our chat. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

[Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher] []

One of the places we mentioned was the panda center in Chengdu. Here's a photo and video from my trip:

Picture of panda.

It could totally be a guy in a panda suit.

We also discussed a few other parts of China...

Picture of park.

Jiuzhaigou National Park

Picture of Kremlin.

Harbin Ice Festival: The Kremlin

Picture of ice slides.

Harbin Ice Festival: Ice Slides

Picture of temple.

Harbin Ice Festival: A Chinese Temple

Show Notes:

The Fabulous Forbidden City

Forbidden City – Picture of canal.

The emperor could ride a boat from here to the Summer Palace.

For many visitors, the Forbidden City (紫禁城) is the highlight of China. It was the Imperial Palace of the Chinese emperor from 1420 until 1912. Today, it's known as the “Palace Musuem” (故宫博物院) because it houses a large number of ancient Chinese artifacts. It has 980 rooms, and the buildings exemplify China's ancient architecture. The compound was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. With 14 million annual visitors, it is the most visited museum in the world. Will you be among them?

Forbidden City – Picture of tour.

Come, join my tour group!

Forbidden City – Picture of square.

The Forbidden City can get crowded. Luckily it's full of large pavilions.

Forbidden City – Picture of city.

The city is in the center of Beijing.

Forbidden City – Picture of temple.

One of the temples inside the city. Remember, gold roofs are for emperors only.

Forbidden City – Picture of people.

Sometimes rock stars show up at the Forbidden City. Don't believe me? Just look at all of the paparazzi!

Forbidden City – Picture of Dragon Turtle.

Dragon Turtle, Dragon Turtle, does whatever a turtle can.

Forbidden City – Picture of stairs.

An elaborate carved staircase.

Forbidden City – Picture of thing.

The Forbidden City is also a museum, full of ancient artifacts.

Forbidden City – Picture of clock.

There's a large clock room with timekeeping devices from around the world.

Forbidden City – Picture of paint.

Everywhere you look, there are intricate carvings and paintings.

Forbidden City – Picture of statue.

There are many statues in the Imperial Garden, including this elephant with backwards elbows.

Forbidden City – Picture of park.

Just north of the Forbidden City is Jingshan Park.

Forbidden City – Picture of moat.

A moat surrounds the Forbidden City. This is the “First Ring” of Beijing.

Want more photos of the Forbidden City?

More photos from my first trip
Photos from my second trip

Beijing's Lama and Confucius Temples

Picture of bowing man.
Beijing's Yong He Lama Temple (雍和宫) is constantly beckoning. We live a short bike ride from it, and it's visible from our apartment's balcony. Whenever we have guests, we take them to the Lama Temple. They're never disappointed.

The compound has over 300 years of history, with many prayer halls and works of art to enjoy. The highlight of the Temple is the giant Buddha statue, carved from a single piece of sandalwood.

Picture of garden.

Before entering the temple, you get to walk down this long garden path.

Picture of worsippers.

Worshippers at the main entrance to the Lama Temple.

Picture of sign.

The signs are written in four languages: Manchu, Tibetan, Chinese and Mongolian.

Picture of people.

Incense burning.

Picture of buildings.

The Lama Temple has many buildings with cool rooftop designs.

Picture of girl.

A girl throws incense into a censer.

Picture of door.

Another of the temple's many buildings.

Picture of a god.

Many gods are represented at the Lama Temple.

Picture of wheel.

A Tibetan prayer wheel.

Picture of Katie.

Katie admires the overlapping roofs.

Picture of Bhudda.

An 18-meter Buddha, carved from a single piece of Sandalwood.

Across the road from the Lama Temple is the Confucius Temple (孔庙). It's is older than the Lama Temple, and it's not quite as touristy. I've only visited once, with my mom and Katie. We got lucky when we were treated to a lovely dance performance, and we got to see kids working on their calligraphy skills.

Picture of Confucius.

Confucius say: When called an idiot, better to be quiet than open mouth and remove all doubt.

Picture of hall.

Inside the main hall.

Picture of dance.

A live dance performance.

Picture of calligraphy.

Kids practicing their calligraphy.

If you come to Beijing, you should add a visit to the Lama and Confucius Temples to your itinerary. You'll only need a couple hours to see both, so they're well-worth a visit.

You can see more of my photos from the temples here, here and here.

AtW Podcast, Episode 15: Honey Sherma

Picture of Dan and Honey.

Dan and Honey

My guest for this episode is Honey Sherma, from Jaipur in Rajasthan, India. He has traveled to every continent except Antarctica on cargo vessels. We discussed his life, both on the high seas, and in small towns in India. A large part of our conversation was focused on dhabas, those wonderful shops/guesthouses that always seem to pop up in the middle of nowhere in India. I like the concept of the dhaba, and the conversations that take place in them, so much that I even considered changing the name of this podcast to “Chai and Chat with Dan”.

[Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher] []

Picture of cows.

Here's Moomoo with her mommie outside of our hotel room.

Picture of pass.

Second-highest pass in the world.

Picture of dhaba.

A dhaba on the way to Leh.

Picture of dhaba.

Inside a dhaba.

Honey has a website called Manali Pass, from which you can get exclusive offers on attractions in and around Manali, India.

Show Notes:

  • The south slope of Cayambe crosses the equator at 4690 meters (15,387 feet). This is the only point on the equator with snow cover. Here's some more info about Cayambe.
  • Here's a link to the Captain Phillips movie that Honey mentioned. Now I have something new to watch.
  • The new Panama Canal expansion just opened in June. Construction cost $5 billion and took a decade to complete.
  • The status of the proposed Nicaragua Canal is in doubt. Construction has yet to begin.

Beijing's Jingshan and Beihai Parks

Picture of Dan and Katie.

From the center of Beijing.

Almost everyone who comes to Beijing visits the Forbidden City, one of China's highlights. Afterward, most people go back to their hotel, or at least to a different part of the city. But if you cross the road to the north, you can visit lovely Jingshan Park (景山公园), in the exact center of Beijing. Not only is the park beautiful, with great views of the city and mountains, but is has some interesting history, as well. This is where Congzhen, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, fled after Beijing fell in 1644. Out of options, the emperor hung himself from a tree near the park's entrance.

Picture of park.

Looking up at Jing Shan Park.

Picture of building.

One of the buildings on the way to the top.

Picture of city.

If you go on a clear day, you'll be rewarded with a view of the mountains to the west.

Picture of temple.

This temple is at the top of the hill in the middle of the park.

Picture of Forbidden City.

From the top you can get a great view of the Forbidden City.

Picture of city.

Looking north, you can see the Bell and Drum Towers. Olympic Park is on the horizon.

Leaving Jingshan Park, walk a block to the west and you'll see Beihai Park (北海公园), easily recognizable from its iconic White Tower (白塔) pagoda. This is another beautiful park that sees few visitors, at least when compared with the Forbidden City.

Picture of Beihai.

Beihai Park is a block from Jingshan.

Picture of lion.

Lions guard the entrance.

Picture of tower.

The iconic white dagoba is in the middle of the park. It was built in 1651 to honor the fifth Dalai Lama.

Picture of roof

The tiled roofs in Beihai Park are typical of Beijing's ancient architecture.

Picture of paddle boats.

You can rent one of these paddle boats to cruise around Beihai Lake.

Picture of building.

The buildings provide a peaceful atmosphere for walking.

Picture of lake.

Beihai might be the least popular lake in Beijing. That makes for some tranquil sunsets.

If you're coming to Beijing, Jingshan and Beihai Parks are both worth checking out. Try to visit them on a clear day!

More photos from Jingshan Park
More photos from Beihai Park

AtW Podcast, Episode 14: Ben

Picture of Ben and Dan.

Ben and I at high altitude.

For this episode of the podcast, I sat down to talk with Ben Ochner from Germany. We were huddled in a tarp-covered shelter called a dhaba on a cold and rainy day in the remote outpost of Chhatru, India, population 120. Just to mix things up, Ben decided to interview me for this podcast, so we get a little more insight into my life and why I chose to travel.

[Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher] []

Picture of dhaba.

Here's the dhaba, with the mountain we were attempting to climb in the background.

Picture of stove.

We spent most of our time huddled around the stove, waiting out the storm.

Picture of couloir.

But we did get to do some climbing. Here were are near the top of the couloir next to our project.

And of course, because we talked about my book, here's a link to get it on Amazon:

1000 Days Between on Amazon

If you want more info, including the first twelve chapters for free, Here you go.