I do volunteer work at a dinosaur museum in my hometown and when the opportunity came up to go to China on a Paleo Tour with the museum, I took it.
by Linda Hoernke on June 6, 2010
I do volunteer work at a dinosaur museum in my hometown and when the opportunity came up to go to China on a Paleo Tour with the museum, I took it.My friend and I flew into Beijing early for the usual tourist sightseeing. Our China contact for Sinofossa Tours met us at the airport and took us to the Beijing Xinjiang Hotel in the Hadian District. We joined our host for dinner and found that you do not order separately on the menu. All meals come in large quantities and are served on a huge lazy susan for all to share. Food was interesting and good from tofu with an orange sauce and green onions to beef strips marinated with vegetables and sliced lotus root sautéed in olive oil. In the following days we visited The Great Wall at Mutianyu, The Forbidden City, The Bell and Drum Towers, Tiananmen Square, The Birdsnest and the hutongs which are ancient, twisting alleyways of neighborhoods that show the real life and culture of Beijing. In all my travels, I have never been to a country with such friendly people. We hooked up with our tour group and found there were 10 of us. We visited amazing museums including a behind the scenes look at the fossil research lab.Flew to Xian for a visit to the Ban Po Archaeological Museum and the Terra Cotta Army site. Had time to walk through the parks and take part in Tai Chi with the locals. A quick visit to The Wild Goose Pagoda and we were on our next flight to Lanzhou.Lanzhou is the most polluted city in China but it was also our base to work with Sinofossa on a dig. How cool is that? Digging dinosaurs in China!! During our 4 days of digging we found a sauropod trackway, theropod tracks and various bones. We also spent a few days visiting remote and interesting paleontology museums.Our trip ended back in Beijing with a visit to the Summer Palace and of course, time for shopping. Sinofossa leads geotours and is dedicated to the understanding of the past and sharing knowledge of China, both online and in the field. They highlight China's cultural, historical, and geological wonders, and integrate these wonders into geotours. Their website is www.sinofossa.org
by Linda Hoernke on June 3, 2010
The Xinjiang Hotel is in the Hadian District of Beijing. The hotel is upscale, comfortable and even has a computer in some of the rooms. Xinjiang Hotel is a good destination for business clients which is invested in by the government and managed by Xinjiang Hongfu Jiayuan Hotel Management Company. It is a luxury complex with accommodations, dining, recreation and convention services. The hotel is within walking distance of the Beijing Zoo and shopping. It is situated just 15 minutes from Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, 10 minutes from the West Train Station and 30 minutes from the airport. The hotel is 6 stories and has 166 rooms and suites equipped with high tech facilities. The rooms are clean and provide a private shower, mini bar, satellite TV, safe deposit box, coffee pot and hairdryer. The main restaurant provides a full buffet breakfast including noodles, rice, eggs, steamed & hard rolls, steamed pumpkin and fresh watermelon, mandarin oranges & other dishes. There is a newly opened beer garden on the 6th floor where you can enjoy the warm summer evenings, conversation and a good selection of wines and beer. The beauty salon and modern fitness center are located on the third floor. The Landai Sauna Center, located on the 1st floor, includes a 24 hour sauna center, fully equipped with sauna, jacuzzi, steam room, video sitting hall and dining hall. There are 48 private massage rooms. You have to make reservations for any of these services and I would suggest to have an interpreter help you set up the services you want. Room rates range from around $80 for a standard room to $150 for an apartment.
by Linda Hoernke on June 2, 2010
Mutianyu is located in the Huairou District about 56 miles from the city of Beijing. This long section of the Wall was originally built during the Qi Dynasty in the 6th century and is classified as the most beautiful section of the Wall. The scenery is spectacular as the wall winds its way across mountains and woodlands and it is much less crowded than the Badaling section.There are 22 original style watchtowers and Mutianyu is the longest fully restored part of the wall. The paths, pavements and steps of the Great Wall at Mutianyu are well paved with granite slabs and walking conditions pose no risks other than some of the steps differ in height and width. There is a steep climb form the parking area before you reach the Wall. There is the option to use a cable car to avoid the trek up to the Wall if you want to only trek downward. Another feature of the wall at Mutianyu is a toboggan ride down from the wall on a winding metal track. Next to the Mutianyu wall is a village by the same name. Mutianyu translates to mean "Admire Fields Valley" and the Chinese government classifies Mutianyu as a model village because of its rebirth, due to tourism and the glassware industry. Best way to get there from Beijing is to hire a cab. Three of us hired a cab and driver for the day. He took us there, directed us in the right direction, waited for us, took us for a lunch in Mutianyu village and dropped us back at our hotel for less than a total of $100. It gave us a chance to spend as much time at the wall as we wanted without the "hurry up" tour.Make sure you have well fitted shoes and plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen if it is warm
"The Birdsnest" was designed for the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing. Hergog & de Meuron of Switzerland built the building which houses an 80,000 seat stadium. The exterior included 42,000 tons of steel twisted around in a lattice work resembling a birds nest, hence the name. The 2008 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, took place Aug. 8th-24th. There were 43 new world records and 132 new Olympic records set and the United States had the most medals with a total of 110. The stadium cost $423 million and the 2008 Olympic motto of "One World One Dream" trully can be felt when entering this massive structure. There is an energy to it. There is a small fee to view The Birdsnest from the inside and you will also be asked to show your passports. Visitors over 65 are free. The best way to reach the Birdsnest is by taxi...just tell the driver Ao Yun Niao Chao or show him the Chinese symbols representing the Olympic Birds Nest....奥运鸟巢 The National Swimming Center also occupies the grounds and is like a giant cube that seats over 17,000 people. It gives the impression of a building fashioned out of bubbles, effectively dividing space and energy and creating an earthquake resistance structure.
My first impression of The Forbidden City was to run away from the crowds and the noise. Thousands of people shoving and pushing to get in line for a ticket...thousands more yelling to buy a booklet or whatever. The Chinese seem to have the words push and shove built into their character; not because they are rude but because they are used to sharing space with so many people. The Forbidden City is a symbol of royalty. During the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Yongle, built the palace in 14 years with over 200,000 laborers, finishing in 1420. The Ming capitol was then relocated to Beijing and the palace became the home to 23 Ming and Qing emperors until 1911. There are 800 buildings and 8,000 rooms. The whole complex was surrounded by walls and a moat. Many of the rooms have been turned into mini museums that have artifacts of clothing, weapons, personal belongings, papers and even a rhinoceros horn lantern. The city was built on the requirements of feng shui...a theory of balance of nature and soul. In 1987, the Forbidden City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to it's place in Chinese architectural & cultural development. The Forbidden City is the world's largest palace complex and is shaped in a rectangle. It was designed to be the center of the ancient city of Beijing. It is surrounded by a 26 ft. high wall which served both as a defensive mechanism and also retaining walls for the palace. The city is a series of courtyards which surround low horizontal buildings with elegant roofs. The roofs of the buildings define a stately and meaningful progression through the city which gives each building their own character and function. Every aspect of the designs reflected the Confucian thought which had become the inspiration for the Chinese society since the time of the Han Dynasty in the second century A.D.The city is open from 8:30-5:00 in the summer and 8:30-4:30 in the winter. You can also purchase self guiding audio sets in English while touring the city.Best way to get there is by taxi but since most taxi drivers do not speak English, make sure you get the Chinese symbols written down by your hotel to tell the driver where to go.
by Linda Hoernke on June 4, 2010
The bell and drum were originally used as musical instruments in China and later used for telling time. Dating back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220), there was a morning bell and an evening drum. With no other means to keep track of time, the bell and drum played an important part in helping people during their work and life schedules. As a result, the Bell & Drum towers were constructed in almost every city throughout the country. The stairway to the top of the Drum Tower is narrow and steep.The main room at the top housed huge drums and the biggest drum is the only one of the original 24 drums left. Kublai Khan built the first Drum Tower on this site in 1272. The present tower dates back to the Ming Dynasty. Views of the hutongs can be seen from a porch that goes around the outside of the tower. There also is a large time piece that runs on the movement of water. There is a daily ceremony preformed four times a day. They dress in traditional costume and beat the drums with huge sticks. A ceremony that you do not want to miss!The Bell Tower is another climb up steep stairs and the tower was renovated in the 1700s after a fire. At the top of the tower there is a huge bronze bell weighing 63 tons and supported by lacquered wood stanchions. The bell is the largest and heaviest in China. The tower, built of brick and stone, has two floors.and arched doorways on all four sides of the tower. The two towers are a few hundred yards apart. Best way to reach the area is by taxi. There is also subway line 2 that will take you to Guloudajie Station where you head southwest at exit B. You can also take bus 5, 60, 107, or 124 to exit at the Drum Tower Station.There is a small fee to enter the area and make sure you take a bottle of water with you as the climbs up each tower are steep.
The Beijing Natural History Museum was founded in 1951 and was the first large scale natural history museum created in China. The BMNH owns more than 200,000 specimens. The collections include major dinosaur fossils and mounted skeletons. The museum also engages in scientific research in paleontology, ornithology, mammals and invertebrates, zoology and botany. The "Dinosaur World" is divided into two parts, the Jurassic Park and the Cretaceous Park. The Jurassic Park dates back 140 million years ago and displays dinosaurs from that period, such as Mamenxi dinosaur and the flesh eating Yongchuan dinosaur.The Ancient Animal Exhibition Room displays amniotes and other vertebrates and illustrations of the evolution of these animals. The Animal Exhibition Room introduces the lowest and most primitive unicellular animal and protozoan. There are many other displays and rooms in BMNH including how human beings progressed through time into what we are now.
The Chinese Museum of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology is one of the largest paleontological institutions in the world and a global leader in the study of vertebrate fossils. Research is focused on both paleontology and those relating to human prehistory. The paleoanthrological study mainly deals with origin and evolutionary history of fossil human and Paleolithic archeology.Vertebrate paleontological research focuses on the distribution of various vertebrate groups as well as geographical, paleoclimatological and molecular biological problems. Many research results have been achieved and research papers have been published in Nature and Science. IVPP has an important fossils collection with more than two hundred thousand catalogued specimens including three stories of spacious exhibition halls.The institute has established connections with more than 20 countries worldwide, mainly on the studies of early vertebrates, fossil reptiles, dinosaurs and birds, terrestrial mammals, origin of early hominids and their environmental background.
The Xian Garden Hotel captures the spirit of the Tang Dynasty with it's spacious garden, museum, and theater restaurant that surrounds a small but beautiful lake that is home to colorful peacocks. The hotel is a display of Chinese architcture with it's pavillions and towers and has won the Architectural Gold Medal of Chinese Hotels in 1997. The hotel has 292 rooms that are clean & comfortable and include air conditioning, satellite TV, internet access, mini bar, coffee pot and hair dryer, safe deposit box and laudry service. Choices of rooms include standard, triple, deluxe, and deluxe suites. A sauna room and fitness center are available with first-class massage facilities and Chinese Qi-gong, offering the finest health and medical service. There is also an outdoor swimming pool.The hotel has three restaurants specializing in Chinese, Western and Japanese food. They have a tea lounge, bar, business center, gift shop and recreation area. A buffet breakfast is included in the hotel price which had a good selection of Chinese and American entrees. The Garden Hotel is about 5 miles from the city center and about 35 miles from the Xianyang Int'l Airport. The location is within walking distance of a beautiful park where people can walk among gardens, waterfalls and fountains. It is the perfect place to join a Tai Chi class, dance or exercise with the locals. It is also within walking distance of shops and The Big Wild Goose Pagoda which can be visited for a small fee.The hotel accepts all major credit cards and reservations can be made online. The hotel does have an English speaking staff.
by Linda Hoernke on June 1, 2010
The Ban Po Museum is located in the Shaanxi Province about 3 miles from the city of Xian. The museum is a Neolithic archeological site dating back 6000 years. At the center of the village is a large room that is surrounded by many smaller rooms. All the doors face the larger room, showing the villagers were well connected. A ditch surrounded the village which was probably used to keep wild animals out. There is an area for making pots and also a cemetery. Over 170 graves have been uncovered and some of the bones were "folded." These were people of importance as they were buried, dug up and later reburied. The exhibit area covers an acre and is divided into two exhibition halls and a site hall. The excavated ruins were similar in some respects to the ruins found in the U.S. left by the native American Indians. Earthen jars were found attached and partially built near the homes. These jars were for the childrens bodies that had died young. There were holes in the top of the jars where their spirits could leave during the day to play and return at night. Some of the jars found were tapered and used for water carrying. The people used and made tools of wood and stone. The women were responsible for making pottery, spinning and raising the family while the men fished for food.The museum is a wonderful and rare example of the Banpo people of the Yangshao Culture and is open from 8:00am-6:00pm.
by Linda Hoernke on June 5, 2010
One of the most important rulers in Chinese history, Emperor Qin Shi Huang is well known for his contributions to China as he is for sacrificing the lives of thousands of laborers for his visionary projects. He was made King of the state of Qin at the age of thirteen and by the time he was thirty-eight he conquered and united China from warring states to become its First Emperor. He built the Great Wall and collected works of art. He was obsessed with immortality and ordered 700,000 workers to build his tomb of life size soldiers, chariots & horses. Over 8000 life-size clay warriors were created to protect the tomb and no two are alike. His 3000 wives and concubines followed him to the grave. The Terracotta Army has been referred to as the eighth wonder of the ancient world and date back to 210 BC. They were discovered in 1974 by a local farmer near Xian and soon after became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
by Linda Hoernke on June 7, 2010
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a holy place for Buddhists. It is located in the southern suburb of Xian City, about 2 and a half miles from the downtown area.Built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it is a well preserved ancient building and holy place for the study of Buddhist scriptures. The pagoda is a good example of Chinese architecture as it was built with layers of bricks without any cement. The building reaches over 112 feet and looks similar to a square cone. Originally built 589 AD, it was renovated in 1964 after an earthquake. The stairway inside to the top is steep and offers views of the grounds below. The temple once had 13 separate courtyards and contained over 1800 rooms.There is a story that the people were starving and prayers were sent out for food. All of a sudden, a large goose fell from the sky and dropped dead on the street, thus answering their prayers and giving the pagoda it's name.The pagoda complex is open from 8:00-5:00
The Lanzhou Friendship Hotel was built in 1956. They have 650 rooms including 31 meeting and conference rooms. The hotel serves a buffet style breakfast that caters to the originality of the Chinese culture. The beef noodles are a specialty in this area and you can watch them actually make the noodles...an art all its own. They also have a beauty salon, bar, laundry service and tennis courts. The Lanzhou Friendship Hotel is the largest three star foreign hotel in the area. The rooms are large and comfortable although the beds are very hard. But, this is common among Chinese hotels. The one downside was constant noise from the outside. Lanzhou is a developing city and known as the most polluted in China. There is constant construction everywhere in Lanzhou and that includes around the hotel.
The Hezeng Paleozoological Museum of Gansu Province is located east of Hezheng County. There are numerous species of mammal fossils and the Hezeng Museum has one of the worlds most unique collections. It covers almost three & a half acres & includes over 10,000 pieces & 110 species of 7 orders in 2 classes. These precious fossils have been under excavation in this county since the 1950s. Colelondonta Nihowanensis, the earliest woolly rhino in the world can be found here along with the Hipparon, a three toed horse that lived from 5 to 2.5 million years ago. The Ovibos, which resembles a sheep but has the characteristics of the musk ox lived 12-5 million years ago and can only be found in this area. The museum also has the largest collection of the Platybelodon, a shovel tusked elephant and displays of the Dinocrocuta, the largest hyaena in the world. There are many other mammal fossils and The Hezheng Paleozoological Museum is one of the top museums in mammal studies and research.
The Geopark is one of 138 National Geoparks in China. The tracks are in the Lower Cretaceous (130 million years ago) Hekou Group which is housed in a wonderful museum on the side of a mountain. The discovery of these trackways and others led to the establishment of the Liujiaxia site as a Geopark. Dinosaur tracks were found in 1999 and the museum opened in 2005. This site has well preserved tracks and was the first significant fossil footprint discovery in the Gansu Province. The site is spectacular and was excavated by hand. The dinosaur tracks include meat eating theropod, long necked sauropod tracks, plant eating ornithopod trackways, bird tracks and a pterosaur trackway that consists of 24 consecutive footprints, and is the longest, well-preserved trackway on record. This site is about an hour and a half drive from Lanzhou.
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