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No Panda-monium: Beijing, 2011 Part 2

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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
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Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:19 am    Post subject: No Panda-monium: Beijing, 2011 Part 2 Reply with quote

No Panda-monium: Beijing, 2011 Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of my trip report to Beijing, in September,
2011. Part 1 of this report is

North By, AI and CA: Beijing, 2011 Part 1

and can be found at the following URL:

The URL for Part 2 (this report) is:

This part will cover an extremely exotic aviation enthusiast's
dream, The Chinese Aviation Museum at Datangshan, and places of
tourist interest namely, the Ming Tombs, the Jade Garden and
the Great Wall.

Part 3 will be:

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Beijing, 2011 Part 3

and is yet to come.
This report is organised in chronological order of the events
that occurred, and the places I visited, in Beijing. As in most of
my trip reports, this will have descriptions, factual
information, my interpretations, and my mind going into

I had set out from New Delhi on the night of 15 September, 2011,
and landed up at Beijing, on 16 September, 2011. It was late
afternoon, and I had finally located my room in the hotel, set up
my things, and waited for an acquaintance, who was supposed to
stay in the same hotel. The weather was extremely pleasant, with
a hint of a drizzle. I now explored the possibility of getting
some essential foreign exchange. Chinese Yuan were not available
in New Delhi, like other non-standard currency such as the
Russian Rouble. I had tried to do so at the Hong Kong
International Airport, but I had to go via the Hong Kong Dollar
route. Every currency conversion incurs a loss, but since I was
at a loss, not knowing how to go about it optimally, I decided to
encash some US Dollars (USD, hereafter) into Chinese Yuan
Reminibi (CNY/RMB, hereafter), anyway. I was handed back some
Hong Kong Dollars which remained unconverted. This was my first
welcome in 2011 to the Hong Kong SAR - the Special Autonomous
Region, which was a cash cow for mainland China, but the SAR had
its own rules and regulations.
And its own currency, too!
So, when I landed up at the hotel, I set out to look for some
local currency, and of course, food.
I found a Bank of China outlet near the hotel.
Not too sure of how good or bad the exchange rate would be, I had
another small quantum of USD converted into CNY.
Ah, China is a rapidly growing economy where electronics finds
its way into almost every aspect of life, so I would find credit
card machines at most places, I thought.
The reader may make a note of the above two sentences.
Food? I went around the place, and identified some shops from
where I could purchase some cup-noodles, to keep me `occupied'
during the meal times I was not at the conference venue.
And water?
I had read that tap waster in China (much like Moscow), was quite
hard, and not potable without boiling it, first. I was excited to
see an electric kettle in the room, and even more, on seeing a
fountain tap, that said, `drinking water'. I took a hesitant sip.
It tasted fine.
I downed a few glasses immediately.
My acquaintance arrived a bit late (having taken the more
time-consuming Singapore Airlines route - to Singapore, and then
on to Beijing - we had set out at about the same time, from
Delhi.) The lead up to dinner was troublesome, as we experienced
a severe language problem all around - right from some affordable
roadside shop food joints, to some decent-looking proper
restaurants. While none of us are fussy eaters, we did not have a
clue about what the portions would be, or how palatable the food
would be. We had nearly committed ourselves at a joint when on
we found out that they did not have any spoons.
We went back quite late that night.
Exhausted with the walking around, but with our tummies full.

The conference started the next day, 17 September, 2011. Once I
was through with the first session (which was of interest to me,
where I was supposed to represent my organisation), my mind
quickly turned to non-academic matters. The next day had the
guided tour of the Ming Tombs, the Jade Garden, and the Great
Wall. I was desperate to visit the Chinese Aviation Museum at
Datangshan. I had scourged the Internet for stray bits of
information on the place, used Google Translate to translate
pages into the Queen's Language, and finally, came up with the
conclusion that the only way I could get to the place was in a
taxi. I left the conference venue with the stealth of a F-117
interceptor, went back to the hotel, and requested the reception
to help me with a taxi. I had a Google Maps printout of the route
ready. The place was some 40km north of the `North Capital',
Beijing. The best deal that the receptionist could strike with a
radio taxi was for CNY 350, and the taxi would wait for me there
for a maximum period of an hour and a half. This was a complete
rip-off, from what I had read on the Internet, but I did not want
to take a chance. I was in an exotic land which is not a very
common destination. In my brief stay, in addition to my official
duties, would I get a chance to see this aviation enthusiast's
dream? No, I was to be joined by more of my acquaintances, none
of them is an aviation enthusiast. I may have to visit other
places together. I took the offer with some trepidation. I did
not have much in my pocket, and hoped that I would not have to
spend much there, so as to get back in one piece, and pay the CNY
350 to the driver. The language barrier was also quite a lot,
though the driver was pleased to see the Google Maps printout. In
some very basic broken English, he reminded me that I would have
to stick to the one-and-a-half hour time limit. I had been
looking forward to this trip, but I would have to really rush
through it. From whatever photographs I had seen of the place, it
would be very tight to make a complete trip in just
one-and-a-half hours. He dropped me close to the entrance of the
museum, and motioned in sign language, that he would be waiting
here for me, after the designated time period. I went out of the
taxi, which was a Hyundai Elantra, a model also seen in Indian
roads. There were some Chinese cars also around, running as
taxis. I was looking forward to see how these were. I was to
avail of this experience during my trip from the Hotel to the
airport (Part 3 of the report will have this `experience').

`Datangshan' comes from the name of a mountain, though the
official name of the place is the Chinese Aviation Museum. This
was the site of a former PLAF air base, entrenched in the hollow
of the mountain. This had been once home to a large number of
J-6s (Chinese copies of the Mig-19 `Farmer', and its variants).
Entry was free.
While I gasped a sigh of relief, my first stop was at the
entrance to the huge cave under the mountain, which had numerous
exhibits of military aircraft of all hues and colours, and
countries, too! The entrance had an entrance fee booth, where no
amount of gesturing could make the grumpy lady there understand
that I wanted to pay by card. Out went a good quantum of my
limited cash stocks. I was to learn later, that the museum
accepted only cash, for the non-free exhibits.

A word on the word `copy' or `copies' appearing all around this
report, especially when it comes to aircraft. The Chinese have
been quite infamous in creating `Chinese copies' of originals. It
is rumoured that the Russian supply of Su-27s to China was halted
when the Russians found out that the J-11 (which the Chinese were
manufacturing) was actually a copy of the Su-27. The Chinese
apparently also have a copy of the aircraft carrier-based Su-34,
as the J-16. Their fifth generation J-20 is also rumoured to have
design elements from the F-22/F-35, and the Sukhoi PAK-FA.

After I entered the museum, I headed straight for the exotic
tunnel inside the mountain. The entrance had a model of the
ARJ-21, the Chinese copy of the McDonnell Douglas MD-90, a
product of the famous DC-9 series, which finally culminated in
the Boeing-717.

Inside was a Mig-15 `Fagot' copy:

There was also a model of Chengdu J-10, the latest interceptor
offering from the Chinese stable. People say that it owes its
origins to an Israeli design, the Lavi.

It was interesting to see the Sino-Pakistani design, the
FC-1/JF-17 Thunder, next.

Here is a plane that was clearly derived from a piston-engined
aircraft. This is a Soviet Yak-17UTI, a trainer aircraft:

There is a huge collection of aircraft inside the large tunnel,
which leads to the other side. However, the progressive relative
darkness put paid to my hopes of capturing these with my puny
cell-phone camera. My favourite Analog SLR was mis-behaving a
bit, switching off all of a sudden, in spite of having new
batteries in its belly. What was the collection inside? There was
an Il-28 `Beagle' bomber, a Chinese modification of the same (the
Harbin HD-5), the Tu-2 `Bat' bomber, a Lockheed F-104
`Starfighter' of the Pakistan Air Force, a `Sabre' from the same
stable, a F-5, and many more.

The outcome of my coming out was coming face-to-face with the
Mig-15 `Fagot', again:

There was a Mig-17 `Fresco' as well, or rather, its Chinese
variant, the J-5:

There is a Chinese Mig-19 `Farmer' variant, the J-6:

My attempt at capturing a white Mig-19 modification (the one with
a nose cone, in service with the Bangladesh Air Force, for
instance) came up a cropper, as it completely saturated out in
the bright sunshine. I will spare the reader the embarrassment of
looking at such a ghastly capture. I managed one a bit later:

This is the Nanchang Q-5, some variants of which were visible

The Chinese copy of the Mig-21 `Fishbed' - the J-7, came up next:

Beside it, there was a Shenyang J-8, which externally looks a bit
like a derivative of the Su-7 family, but is in fact, a Mig-21
derivative with not one but two turbojet engines. As the reader
can see, I fared slightly better at capturing their white visage
in the bright sunlight.

There was a lone Mig-15 `Fagot' in the distance, again.
A Yak-18 Trainer variant, the Nanchang CJ-6:

An An-24 `Coke' suddenly peeked from above the bushes, but the
bright sunlight again played truant. This plane was copied, and a
variant mass produced as the current Xian-60, which has western
power-plants in place of the original Ivchenko AI-20 engines.

Here is an impressive line-up of Mig-17 `Fresco's. The Chinese
variant is the Shenyang/Chengdu J-5:

This was also the first opportunity for me to come up-and-close
with a Tu-124 `Cookpot'. This was a Tu-124K, though some accounts
refer to this example in the Chinese Aviation Museum as the
Tu-124V. Here are two pictures of the same. This was a VIP
configured variant of the Tu-124 `Cookpot', which was a
scaled-down version of the Soviet Union's first successful
jetliner, the Tu-104 `Camel'. It was a short-lived experiment,
and the type was soon superceded by the Tu-134 `Crusty', which
has almost gone out of service altogether, after a few horrific
accidents and incidents in 2011 itself.

The IAF also had this very rare Tu-124K variant: one had
crashed at Jorhat, from which the then Prime Minister, Morarji
Desai had walked out. There is one inaccessible to civilians,
some distance from the secondary runway 09-27 at the IGI airport,
New Delhi. This used to be inside the IAF Museum, but has now
been taken outside, to join a De Havilland Caribou and a DC-3,
among others. The third, as a friend told me - is at the State
Museum in Lucknow. This may be perhaps the only opportunity to
see a very rare `K' variant of a somewhat eclectic and rare plane,
the Tu-124, which was superceded by the more popular Tu-134
variants. I look forward to some official work in Lucknow, to be
able to see this rare plane.

The An-12 `Cub' has variants still in production in China. The
Chinese copy is known as the Shaanxi Y-8. The Chinese
operational AWACS/AEW plane is based on this tried and trusted
platform, the Shaanxi Y-8. The Y-8 is designed from the basic
An-12 `Cub' platform, and has western engines.

The Il-12 `Coach' plane at Datangshan was the one which went
after the first Chinese nuclear test, to collect samples from the
Lop Nor site.

There was a Hawker Siddeley HS-121 Trident 2E (which the Chinese
carrier CAAC had used widely, a plane that had its unique
asymmetrical nose landing gear).

Beside it is an Il-18 `Coot':

Some interesting planes which I did not manage to take decent
pictures of, include the C-46 Curtiss Commando with its unique
double-bubble shape, and a Convair 240 of the CAAC, the plane
which flew the inaugural CAAC flight.
There was a beautiful example of an Il-62 `Classic' airliner.

Beside it was a Chinese light aircraft, a Harbin Y-11:

There were numerous planes in the lawns around the place, with an
An-12 `Cub' under restoration, and some rusted remains of An-2
biplanes (actually the Chinese variant, the Nanchang Y-5) around
the corner. As I walked towards the main building, I noticed a
four-engined flying boat, the Harbin SH-5. This had four Ivchenko
AI-20 turboprop engines. Here are two views of the same:

This is a unique flying boat, which looks inspired from the
Soviet twin engined Be-6 `Madge'. This design was not a big
success, and only 6 examples of the same were ever constructed.
This unique flying boat was one of the highlights of coming all
the way to this place.

Nearby was parked a DC-8 of the Orbis project. There was a fee to
go inside most attractions, including a Mig-19 `Farmer', the
Orbis DC-8, (perhaps the building behind it, too), and of course,
the special exhibits: the transport aircraft used by prominent
Chinese leaders. I was already running quite short on cash.
However, my enthusiasm was running high. Quite high.

Right in front of the Orbis DC-8 was the logo of the Chinese
Aviation Museum, a stylised sword reaching into the sky.

Beside the Orbis DC-8 was a Chinese version of the Tu-16
`Badger' bomber, the Xian H-6A. This plane launched China's first
free-fall fission bomb.

And beside it, was...what people come to look for, here. The
prime attraction, and perhaps my main reason to come all the way
here, were two frames. The first was a Chinese copy (literally)
of the Tu-4 `Bull', which in turn, was a `Chinese copy'
(figuratively, here) of the Boeing B-29 Stratofortress bomber,
copied right up to a tracer bullet hole. Under the wings of the
first plane was a rocket drone. This would otherwise have been a
standard Tu-4 `Bull' with the exception of the special long
engine pods, housing the Ivchenko AI-20 turboprop engines. Here
are two views of the same, including one with a horribly
saturated fuselage. Any person in the right frame of mind would
baulk at the quality of the picture (or rather, the lack of it).
However, I have included this for its rarity (of the type, not
the photographic finesse!)

This plane carried two drones under its wings, an US-inspired
design, as some accounts state:

The next was even better. This was the turboprop-propped propah
Tu-4 `Bull', but with a radome on top! This was the Chinese
attempt at developing an AWACS/AEW plane, the KJ-1. This did not prove to
be very successful, and the project was terminated in 1971.

The current Chinese attempt `revolves' around an otherwise
standard Chinese copy of the An-12 `Cub', with a few visible
changes, such as the nose, and the tail section. This is the
KJ-200. There has been another attempt around an Il-76-based
airframe, the KJ-2000.

Next were two examples of the Chinese version of the Il-28
`Beagle' light bomber (the Harbin HD-5). One of the versions may
be still in use, with the designation standing for an
`electronic' variant.

One of the most picturesque sights at the Chinese Aviation Museum
is the Qing-6, the Chinese version of the Soviet Be-6P `Madge'
seaplane, at the edge of the waterfront.

The last exhibit I saw was the planes used by the Chinese
leaders, right from an Li-2 `Cab' used by Chou En Lai, to planes
used by Mao Zedong. There was a Vickers Viscount in the middle.

Right beside it was a beautiful Il-18 `Coot', which permitted
visitors to have a dekko inside. For a fee, of course. I
grudgingly let go of CNY 10 more, and boarded the VIP plane with
spartan interiors.

Here is a view of an Ivchenko AI-20 engine, taken from the
boarding ladder. The bright sunshine outside is evident from the
image saturation, and the presence of the ticket counter in the
shade under the wing.

Here is a man taking his daughter for a look at the cockpit.

This is a divan used by the Chinese leader, with his photograph
while seated on the same plane, on the wall. Another account says
that this was not really the plane he used - the original one was
broken up, and this one, suitably painted and decorated, to take
its place.

At the entrance to the mountain tunnel (which I had visited
first), was an An-26 `Curl'. This is an otherwise standard An-24
`Coke', with a rear loading ramp.

It is here that one can spot the Chinese Mig-21 `Fishbed'
derivative, the J-12, on top of a long and high structure. I
will spare the reader the blushes, by not putting in a nearly
completely saturated picture.

This part of the museum also has some interesting interceptors.
I will start off with the plane described above. An example was
the Chinese version of the Mig-21`Fishbed': the J-7I, which they
unsuccessfully tried to convert into an all-weather fighter.

Beside was an impressive line-up of different developments of the
Mig-19 `Farmer' (the Shenyang J-6), all lined up in a
chronological manner. Here are the variants in reverse
chronological order:

I was nearing the end of my scheduled time, as I hurried out. As
I bid good-bye to the nice museum, here are a few parting shots
of the VIP plane line-up, with an Il-14P `Crate' (which Chairman
Mao used frequently) beside the Vickers Viscount, and an Li-2 `Cab'.

I rushed out of the exit, straight to the parking lot. Oh no, I
had forgotten to note down the registration number of the cab.
There were a few Hyundai Elantra taxis around, but my cab was
nowhere to be found. Had I got late? No, I was just on time. I
looked up and down the entire lot, walked up and down the road.
This place is not frequented by public transport much. Even if I
did have to use it, the language barrier was far too much. As I
was coming back towards the parking lot again, I noticed an
Elantra beside some bushes. I went up to the car, and motioned to
the familiar face, that indeed, I was back. I heaved a sigh of
relief, as we drove out, back towards the hotel in Beijing. The
feelings were mixed, as I clearly was short of the CNY 350 I was
supposed to pay the driver. I was short by some CNY 20. What
should I do? My eyes searched for banks as we spend past some
extremely nice scenery. As we got into the city, I decided not to
request him to stop, but get down at the hotel, and try much luck
with some US Dollars that I had. It worked, and the USD 3 was
gratefully accepted. I thanked him, and went back to the
conference venue, much to the surprise of some of my
acquaintances, who had perhaps realised my absence by my sudden
presence. Some of them had come from Hyderabad, Calcutta, Pune,
and there were some from Bengaluru. My mind was clearly on the
outside. Some of them were to take the next day's official trip
to the Ming Tombs, the Jade Museum, and the Great Wall of China,
at Badaling. It was here that I realised that the official trip
was a complete rip-off. Some of them had already done the segment
by public transport (of course, without a guide), and their
purses were still intact.

18 September, 2011.
I arrived at the place where the bus was boarding from, for the
guided tour of the Ming Tombs, the Jade Garden (lunch was
included as a part of the package, in the cafeteria there), and
The Great Wall. As the bus sped away from the place, I noticed a
few acquaintances making a mad dash towards the bus. No, I was
not among them - I was inside the bus, for a change. Had they
changed their minds? No, they were staying a bit far away from
the conference venue, and had located the bus just by chance. We
covered the beautiful city of Beijing, with the friendly guide
telling us about the history of the city, and of some of the
places we would visit.

It was this lady who told us about the name of the city being
changed from Peking, the Abode of Peace - it was so named after a
long period of violence and upheaval. It had been changed to
Beijing, or the `North Capital', with the corresponding name
Nanjing, symbolising `South Capital'. She led us through a
labyrinth of symbolism with shapes, colours, animals, and much
more, which are deeply enthroned in the culture of the Chinese
people. When we arrived at the Ming Tombs, we stood at the
entrance, where our guide requested us to wait, while she got the
group ticket booking done, for us. In the meanwhile, I paid a
visit to my first attraction in the place, the toilet.

The entrance to this complex had a tortoise with a dragon head.
A tortoise symbolises long life, and the dragon, perhaps power.
Too much symbolism had gone into my head, and unfortunately, it
had overflowed out, so I cannot recount this properly. The lady
had told us about the emperors and the powerful empress, of the
Ming Dynasty, about which thirteen of the Ming Dynasty rulers had
their tombs here. This, like many other stories of emperors and
empresses all over the world, has stories of betrayal, mistrust,
revenge, and blood.

Men were supposed to cross the barrier at this gate with our left
foot first.

Legend has it that the Emperor Shah Jahan had the arms of his
workers chopped off, ostensibly so that no one would ever be able
to build such a monument, ever again. A Ming emperor had laid out
a feast for all his artisans, in which all of them partook of
some fine tea, which he had had poisoned. The secret of the
entrance to a tomb was bequeathed only by the emperor to his son,
and so it continued. My nebulous memories fail me with the
details, but it is something like what I have written. Somehow,
the details to the entrance to one of the tombs had got erased
with the sands of time, leading to some excavations at a few
places (one of the unsuccessful trials is near the entrance
itself). The architects had clearly made numerous diversions for
a greedy excavator. Success came only after the discovery of a
cryptic message on an excavated stone, and what we now know as
the main tomb, was brought into public view.

The Ming Tombs complex is a world heritage site, and beautifully
maintained. Our guide told us numerous tales of the period, the
rulers and their idiosyncrasies, ancient Chinese customs, and
much more, as we went through the well-preserved structures both
outside, as well as the underground chambers. Here is the picture
of the main burial chamber, in red jade. The colour red is
important, and perhaps then, only the rulers were supposed to use
it. The red in the Chinese flag is no accident.

There were many items such as the throne, and other artifacts
that the departed ruler may need in his after-life, so as with
many ancient cultures, these were also arranged in the tomb.

There was an important stone pillar with inscriptions on it:

After spending some time around the place, we were taken to the
Jade Museum. The Chinese hold Jade as being more valuable than
gold, and have made Jade carving, a fine art in itself. The
following photograph shows the entrance to the Jade Museum.

We were mesmerised by the different sizes, shapes and colours of the
Jade sculptures inside.

Right beside the entrance, there was a room where two artisans
could be seen using electric tools to carve jade works of art.
Here, the lady is carving a popular icon: three balls one inside
the other - all carved form a single small stone of jade. This is
supposed to be a very auspicious item - representing longevity,
three generations in the same family.

Here is a Chinese Bird of Paradise, in Jade.
Do check out the person with a big fat belly, right behind the
bird. Does that (w)ring a bell(y)?
Yes, it is the somewhat-jaded writer himself.

Here is an example of the three balls, one inside the other - a
close-up. At first sight, this looks like an alien head, but
wait - the carving is simply wonderful!

There was a lunch organised at the upper floor of the Jade Museum
itself. After this, we set out for a visit to the Great Wall of
China. I had heard numerous stories about the Great Wall of
China, among which was the myth that this was perhaps the only
man-made structure which could be seen from space. I had also
heard that this was perhaps the world's longest cemetery, as
numerous workers ordered to work on the wall perished in the
attempt, and were laid to rest amidst the structure itself. The
Wall as we know it today, is not a continuous stretch - it lies
in different segments, many different types of materials were
used to build the Wall, depending on the region in which the Wall
was to pass through. We were to visit the best-preserved segment
of the Wall, the one at Badaling. Chairman Mao had proclaimed
that every Chinese should visit the Wall and walk along it,
he/she would then be qualified for greatness. How much would be
possible to visit, given the limited time we had? We were told
that the length of one's visit should be gauged by the number of
watch-towers that one crossed. We were dropped off at the Bus
Station at the base of the Wall complex at Badaling. We had to
walk a little bit to reach the entrance. On the way, here is what
we saw, a Maruti 800! This had `Alto' written behind it.

and `Changan', in front.

This design clearly showed its Indian heritage. This is very
close to the final avatar of the famous car, which was designed
in-house in India - a far cry from the original Suzuki version of
the same 796cc engined car. The Maruti success story established
Suzuki as a serious car-maker in the world. The Maruti 800 was
the best-selling model from the stable - so much so that its
production had to be stopped, as its sales were eating into those
of the more recent design on which Suzuki had invested heavily,
the Alto.

Here is the entrance to the Wall complex at Badaling, with the
Chinese flag fluttering overhead.

A picture of the inside portion of a tower:

The surroundings in this area at this time of the year, were
extremely picturesque. Here is a view from inside an arch:

A shot of the Wall, from within:

A view from another arch:

This was an exquisite experience, and we timed our trip so that
we reached back to our starting point by the designed time.
I fell asleep in the bus itself, on the way back, and awakened
well in time, just before we reached the hotel.

The next day (19 September, 2011), some of us planned to set out
after an afternoon session, to see the famed Summer Palace. We
would take the Metro. There was a Metro station quite close to
our hotel. How would this experience turn out?

The Beijing Metro is nice and modern, but like the slightly
better Delhi Metro (newer coaches, power ports to charge
cell-phones and laptops), it is...quite crowded! It is
interesting to note that the Beijing Metro also has fares
independent of the specific route, much like the Moscow Metro. A
fare of 2 Chinese Yuan RMB can get one from any place to any
other one on the Metro route. Another plus point is a la the
Singapore Metro, is that stations are quite close to points of
tourist attractions. This is a big boon for tourists (like me),
who do some roaming around while on official business, albeit on
a shoe-string budget. All signs and announcements were bi-lingual
- that is another plus point, making it tourist-friendly.
Language is a problem around the city however, but people in
general seemed to be friendly, and eager to help.

We reached the Summer Palace with light still around. At the
ticket counter outside the complex, we were told that the boating
complex had closed down, and we could just have a look around the
place. We entered, full of hope.

The first stop was the boat area, which is beautifully preserved:

Ah, the first view of the place/palace!

This turned out to be the best view that we were able to get, of
the summer palace. As we were about to enter the place, we
observed a lot of construction (renovation work) going on, and a
worker closed the temporary gates right in front of us. We tried
communicating with people around the place, but in vain. We were
able to pick up some sign language information, that we may be
able to enter the complex if we took a detour around the complex.
Full of hope, we undertook one of the longest wild-goose chases I
had ever made. At every point, we seemed to be going farther away
from the entrance, with the failing light being an extra
impediment. The number of people around trickled down to zero. We
were lost in an unknown place, without a sole soul around. And
that too, in pitch darkness. After a very long aimless wandering
by the light of our cell-phones, a lot of guess-work as to which
path we would take, we ran into two people who were a part of the
caretaker team, who were at least able to show us a way out of
the complex. A very tired team of six people made their way back
to the hotel, on the Metro, once more.

The great poet Tagore wrote, ``if no one heeds your call, then
walk alone, walk alone.'' My other acquaintances were busy the
next day. This was the only window of opportunity I had with me,
since the two days after that would be chock-a-bloc for me, in
terms of official work. I decided to go it alone, on 20 September,
2011. Very high on my agenda were The Tiananmen Square and the
Forbidden City, Mao's Mausoleum, and the Temple of Heaven.
How much of this would I be able to do, and that too, in just a
day? I would use public transport alone. I chalked out a route
map on the Metro.

[to be concluded in Part 3]

Links to my previous TRs, in reverse chronological order:

19. North By, AI and CA: Beijing, 2011 Part 1

18. Going Bananas over Oranges: Nagpur, Aug'11

17. To the City of Joy and back, on Air India: Aug'11

16. To Chennai, Mar'12 with a Celebrity Captain!
(This is out of sequence owing to sheer excitement, and nothing

15. Marble Rocks, Marbles Rock; Jul 2011

14. The Fish-Eye Beckons! Madurai, on Air India. Jul 2011

13. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 3: Monino!

12. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 2: The Central Museum
of the Armed Forces

11. To Russia, with Awe: Moscow, 2011, Part 1: The Overall Trip

10. The City of Lakes: Mother's Heart, Heart of the Motherland

9. Mostly Indoors, in Indore:

8. Inter-metro Shuttling on AI: DEL-BOM on AI810, BOM-DEL on

7. On the cusp: DEL-BOM on IC863, BOM-DEL on AI660

6. DEL-BOM on IT308, BOM-DEL on IC166

5. DEL-MAA on IC439, MAA-DEL on IC802

4. DEL-PNQ on IC849, PNQ-DEL on IC850

3. DEL-MAA on IC429 (A321), MAA-DEL on IC7602 (CRJ7)


1. IGI T3, AI 314 DEL-HKG and AI 311 HKG-DEL
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow Sumantra - lovely pictures of the different planes at that "ripoff" museum. Unsolicited advice - but have you considered getting a simple Point and Shoot camera - we'd definitely benefit from a clearer view of what you saw in first person Smile.

The language barrier in China is pretty strong I guess. I hope to visit China and Japan one day, and hopefully get a local to show me around (so I don't have to deal with the language barrier).
We miss you Nalini!
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating city. I'd love to visit Beijing.

Thanks for the lovely pictures.. I didn't know that Beijing even had an aviation museum, but now that I do, I know what to look for if I ever visit Smile
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Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot for your appreciation, Nimish and Rohit - it makes it all worth it. Moscow: I had known about Monino for a long time, but I stumbled on Datangshan accidentally, while looking for information on the Tu-4 `Bull'. Out popped a picture of the amazing turboprop variant, and I searched high and low for information on Datangshan. When the Beijing visit came up, I searched for information on whether it would be possible to visit the place - imagine my joy when I found out that it was abotu 40km north of the city I was going to visit. High on my wish-list was the Chinese copy of the Boeing 707 also, but that is very far away.

Nimish: your advice on the camera is well-taken Smile
This is not to avoid the point, but there are some points here.
I had collected pictures from some of my acquaintances also, during the Beijing visit. All of them had P&S ones, but the quality of the pictures I observed, was not too different from what I had clicked, for the same places of interest. I had some what better camera angles, and output. Hence, I posted my pictures alone. For me, my Analog SLR takes up a bit too much weight, and I have pictures at infinite resolution - do drop in a line when you come to Delhi, next. It will be a pleasure to meet up. Carrying two cameras is proving to me a bit time-consuming, as well as takes up a lot of weight, hence the cell-phone. My next trip report (after Part 3 of the Beijing trip, that is), is one to Madurai, then one to Bhopal, (on both of which I had my cellphone camera alone), but the next one after that was a family trip to Hubli (and hence, Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole and Hampi too!), on which I have some pictures taken by The Wife on her P&S. I will put them in. Promise.
Thanks, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra, I was waiting for this trip report for sometimes. Beijing aviation museum is impressive, it seems bigger that our air and space museum at Washington, DC.I also think China is expert in reverse engineering all kinds of Soviet built aircrafts. Do you know about their success with latest Sukohi and Migs. Did they succeed in producing vectored thrust jet engines from Russian inventory ? Indian defense planners should take this information seriously. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Sabyasachi! From what I know, thrust vectoring is too difficult a task, and given the low reliability of the indigenous engine, the Chinese-built J-11 and the J-16 are not quite there as compared to the Russian originals. Building an engine from scratch is an extremely difficult job, even if one bases one's design on exsiting engines and their variants. The Kaveri for the LCA Dhruva was doomed much earlier than the official towel-throwing, from what some of my DRDO friends told me. The Kaveri technology demonstrator on the Russian Il-76 was more of a PR exercise - the Kaveri and its variants are not expected to power aircraft in the near future.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WoW... the chinese military of the era in the meuseum was very close to the North korean secracy. However, every jet manufactured by the russians would find a body double in China ...

A great great read... Thanks a ton !
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your appreciation, Ameya! `body double' - good one! North Korea - hmm..., it would be nice to see what kind of military hardware they have. Their civil aircraft registry has the usual old Soviet exotic aircraft.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a superb description Sumantra! Really enjoyed reading it!

I wasn't able to visit the RAF museum in London due to insufficient time, but now I can claim to have seen the Chinese Aviation Museum, thanks to you!
Causal Determinism : We are hardwired to need answers. The Caveman who heard a rustle in the bushes and checked out to see what it was, lived longer than the guy, who assumed it was just a breeze.

- Greg House
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your sweet words, Rishul. I am eagerly looking forward to the other parts of your UK trip.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brilliant, Sumantra, brilliant. Loved it!

And I'm totally jealous of your trips to the East and Central Asia and such exotic places.

And I can't wait for "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" - the name alone tells me it's going to be a great read!
four years free of jetya punti!
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jason, I just have been lucky to be able to visit some exotic places last year - that is all. For a person of my middle-class means and not-so-high official position, I have really been lucky, I guess. Thank you for your appreciation - but please don't expect too much from me, of all people! The title may end up as the most interesting part of the report, after all. This will end up as a big piece, again.
Thanks once again, Sumantra.
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