China – The Little Potala

No, not in Tibet. The Little Potala or Putuo Zongcheng Temple is situated in Chengde, a few hours north of Beijing. It’s part of the Chengde Mountain Resort which I visited in the summer of 2007.

The temple is one of the biggest in China and if you want to see other parts of the mountains too, plan a few days. It was still an active place of worship when I visited but of course things might be much more touristy now.

Be prepared, too, for some steep staircases, especially if you want to see the lovely roof tiles and ornaments on top of the halls.

Although some parts were in disrepair back then, I loved the atmosphere and relative quiet. If you’ve been to China, you know this is something to appreciate.

Chinese Memories – Putuoshan

Putuoshan is an island near Ningbo and one of the holy mountains in Chinese Buddhism. I visited the place more than a dozen years ago and I’m pretty sure many things have changed since then. Back in the day I enjoyed a ride on the ferry and the fact that the island was very green, especially compared to Shanghai where I used to work.

On Putuoshan, I explored several of the temples. The views from the highest hill were quite lovely.

I must have picked a really lucky day too, because I don’t remember the place being swamped with tourists. Rather enjoyable. There were also no cars on the island.

Of course, no post without the local wildlife. Either there wasn’t much or, more likely, I hadn’t paid much attention. But anyway.

China – Wintry Days around Beijing

Beijing in winter is usually bone dry and flipping cold. It apparently rarely snows so when I was there more than a decade ago and everything was white even the smog didn’t matter that much.

I’ve been to the Forbidden City a few times, but this was quite likely the most peaceful ever.

For those who are interested, a four-star-rated toilet comes with heated seats. Or at least does so in my memory.

When visiting Beijing, the Great Wall is a must-see. On this occasion, I went to Si Ma Tai which is a bit further out and less touristy.

Of course, one should always follow the instructions given. I don’t recall a mini-train though.

Couples on their wedding shoot are great entertainment. Doing this in freezing temperatures – I just hope the marriage is still worth it.

Faces of Mongolia

In 2006, I travelled to Mongolia for about one week to see the Naadam festival (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naadam). I only got a glimpse of what I thought was a fascinating and truly wild country.

In the Gobi desert, I experienced rain and met some kids.

In the capital, Ulaanbataar, everybody was out in their Sunday best.

The members of the armed forces were only a little suspicious of a photographer.

Some were just pretending to be in Star Wars.

And some had bigger bums than others.

WorldBookProject – Grenada and Scotland

The world’s in a bit of a commotion these days but that’s no reason not to read the world. It can actually be a good time to take a breath, lean back and enjoy a really good book. Here are two of them.

176 Grenada: Merle Collins – Angel

I learned a lot about the history of Grenada told through the lenses of three generations of women. As I said before, reading in a local dialect is something I’m not so keen on, but here the use of different types of language added to the depth of the characters. The mum being worried about her kids’ education and fighting for it was my favourite.

177 Scotland: Jane Alexander – A User’s Guide to Make-Believe

In times of worries about data protection and privacy, this dystopian story comes as both a stark warning and gripping read alike. It was a book well worth waiting a few years for – including the unexpected way of creating a virtual reality and the gutsy main character.

 

Spain – A short break in and around Alicante

Did you know that there are really splendid ferry connections from and to Algeria? Besides places in France and Italy one can go to Alicante in southern Spain, and that’s exactly what I did. One needs tons of patience to go through the boarding procedures, mainly because there’s a lot of waiting for something. I’m not sure what, but I managed to listen to several hours worth of podcasts.

Oran port

I’m in the extremely lucky position to have friends who, although I hadn’t seen them for seven long years, allowed me to crash on their sofa and it was as if barely a week had gone by since last we met. Thanks Mr and Mrs Paella for existing! They took me around the local sights including hot chocolate, tapas, red wine, Phoenician archaeology and, for the first time in my life, avocets.  If you, like the WordPress spellchecker, don’t know – avocets are the most lovely birds ever. Note to WordPress: not avocados.

Alicante is well worth a visit because of the views, the great graffiti, the yummy vegetarian restaurants and lots of history to explore. Alicante is where the Spanish civil war ended.

I just really fancy the idea of a place called Joyeria. Make of that whatever you want. I also got to see a very local bit of culture because the parade of the Three Kings was on. I felt a bit like in a live version of the opening of Life of Brian. Always look on the bright side of life!

WorldBookProject – Antarctica, Macao

This time, we’re visiting two very different places. Macao was sponsored by my parents and Antarctica by the brilliant volunteers of Project Gutenberg. Thanks all!

174 Macao: The Bewitching Braid by Henrique de Senna Fernandes

I’m generally not a fan of love stories, and as far as this book is concerned, the development of plot was fairly predictable. But I enjoyed how the writer created the atmosphere in the different parts of the city. I had a craving for wonton soup and jiaozi several times during my reading experience.

175 Antarctica: The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910 – 1913 by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

This book was an odd one. A lot of it was excerpts from people’s diaries, like Scott, Shackelton or the author’s own and a huge part of that was ‘it was cold, it was windy, it was cold and windy’ (paraphrasing only slightly), the repetition of which made for rather dull reading. Having said that, I enjoyed the parts about the Adelie and Emperor penguins and thought the final chapter really touching (when they found their dead companions just a few miles from the next depot). The analysis of why so much had gone wrong was full of insights into the dangers of a polar journey and the necessity of planning for as many eventualities as possible.

The next places (hopefully): Kazakhstan (yes, still reading) and probably Grenada.

WorldBookProject – Suriname, Uzbekistan, Curaçao

Yep, still reading and still posting. The books in this post were all sponsored by my parents – thank you 🙂 . On the nightstand at the moment are Kazakhstan and Antarctica.

171 Suriname: Surinam by Cynthia McLeod

I thought this was a fascinating historical insight into that particular part of Suriname’s history, especially the relationship between Jewish and Christian settlers. However, there was not enough voice given to the slaves but too much white perspective. On the whole, a somewhat flawed page-turner with good female characters.

172 Uzbekistan: The Devil’s Dance by Hamid Ismailov

This book requires undivided attention with its immersive frame story and core story, which become more and more intertwined as you read on. The mix of Stalinist prison with kings and queens and all the murderous plots are captivating and gruesome. Even more so, when you remember that the main character actually lived through this (although I don’t know how much artistic freedom the writer made use of).

173 Curaçao: Doppeltes Spiel by Frank Martinus Arion

I’m not a fan of dominoes, so this book had a slow and awkward start – a story about a day when four friends meet for a game. Having said that, the pace picked up a few chapters in and it turned out to be immensely enjoyable and gripping. You’ve got to read all through the end to understand the dedication to ‘brave women who fight’, and it’s totally worth it, I think.

WorldBookProject – Bahrain, Equatorial Guinea, Paraguay

Reading the world has been exciting from the word go. However, sometimes there’s a book which is particularly gripping and keeps haunting me long after I finished it. And every now and then, there’s a book which really isn’t my cup of tea. In this blog post, I’m writing about both kinds of book. On my nightstand at the moment are Uzbekistan and Antarctica (still). Thanks to my parents who sponsored all three countries 🙂 !

168 Bahrain: Yummah by Sarah A. Al Shafei

The basic premise of the book (child marriage and a resulting life story) was good. However, sometimes really odd writing was off-putting, e.g. people ‘screamed’ very often and the only thing important seemed to be a beautiful woman with a rich husband. Better editing help might have been a very good idea for this inexperienced writer. I felt this book was a missed chance.

169 Equatorial Guinea: La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono

I first heard about this book on www.ayearofreadingtheworld.com and was glad when it finally appeared in English translation. What a read! It is basically an exploration of gay people’s lives in the traditional Fang society. I started reading it while sitting in a dentist’s waiting room and was halfway through by the time the anaesthesia had worn off. The ending was a bit rushed, but apart from that it’s one of the best books I’ve read for this project so far.

170 Paraguay: Die Nacht der treibenden Feuer by Augusto Roa Bastos

Another book which is still haunting me! This collection of short stories managed to draw me into its pages from the very first sentence. The jungle, the river, the mid-day heat on the fields – and then invariably something horrible would happen. I had to take a break after each story because it was so nerve-wracking. Still, I’d love to read much more by the author who was a master of catching his readers and characters alike.