HUTONGS, BEIJING, CHINA

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Our last tour in Beijing was the traditional residences of China, which are slowly but surely disappearing under the crush of concrete.

Hutongs (simplified Chinese: 胡同; traditional Chinese: 衚衕; pinyin: hútòng; Wade–Giles: hu2-t’ung4) are a type of narrow streets or alleys, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities, most prominently Beijing.

In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences.[1] Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining onesiheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.

Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.

A few of my favorite shots from around the Hutongs.

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Everything is painted grey … I was told in large part due to the previous Olympics, although now it is the standard. Black and white shots seem to be the best, as it was rather hazy.

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Very old mailboxes.

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Progress. Slowly, but surely, the old buildings disappear.

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Many of the cars have pieces of carpet or wood against the wheels – to stop the dogs and cats from marking the tires.

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Mixed in behind the side streets are a few remaining temples and buildings – buried deep.

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This many hundreds of years old plaque (if I remember correctly) is a list of the local elders.

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History disappearing.

ROOFS, FORBIDDEN CITY, BEIJING CHINA

In the Forbidden City the most interesting thing to me was the roofs. I can only imagine how much was lost during the different cultural purges of the last century.

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Right below the roof at the front of this shot is where a Starbucks use to be. It was removed prior to the Olympics as it was not good for their image. I would hate to have seen the lineup.

A few more roof shots from around the city. Grass can grow in the toughest of places.

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Deer are a popular ornament for under the roofs. Blue deer.

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Last shot.

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4:22AM

The time the sun rises in Tokyo. For some unknown reason Japan does not believe in daylight savings time. In Japan’s semi-tropical climate, no black-out blind every made can stop that UV 14 sun.

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I wake up very early every day. I guess there are worse things in the world than sitting on the deck and enjoying a cappuccino to this sunrise.

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INSIDE THE AMBER FORT, JAIPUR

Once inside the fort, it felt different than others we had visited. More opulent.

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You can read more of the forts history here. In a nutshell:

The aesthetic ambiance of the palace is seen within its walls on a four level layout plan (each with a courtyard) in a well turned out opulent palace complex built with red sandstone and marble consisting of the Diwan-e-Aam or the "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas or the "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over the water cascade within the palace. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace.[4] The palace was lived in by the Rajput Maharajas and their families. At the entrance to the palace near the fort’s Ganesh Gate, there is also a temple dedicated to Sila Devi, a goddess of the Chaitanya cult which was given to Raja Man Singh when he had defeated the Raja of Jessore, Bengal in 1604. (Jessore is now in Bangladesh).[3][8][9]

There are really two key areas. The central court yard and the third courtyard. It is beautiful.

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Looking down from the walls you see the ruler’s herb garden. Cooled by the lake, it allowed the ruling family to grow foods that would not otherwise do well in this climate.

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But the highlight of the fort is third courtyard which is breathtaking.

The building to the left of the entrance gate is called the Jai Mandir, which is exquisitely beautified with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. The mirrors are of convex shape and designed with coloured foil and paint which would glitter bright under candle nights at the time it was in use. Also known as Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), the mirror mosaics and coloured glasses were "glittering jewel box in flickering candle light".[4] However, most of this work was allowed to deteriorate during the period 1970–80 but has since then been subjected to a process of restoration and renovation. Carved marble relief panels are placed on walls around the hall. The hall provides enchanting vistas of the Maota Lake.[14]

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A shot where wall and roof meet.

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We wandered deeper into the fort.

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An ancient ventilation shaft. Love the way the light comes through in the shot.

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A beautiful fort, well worth the rather painful trip to get to the top.

THE AMBER FORT, JAIPUR, INDIA

Our last fort and our last site, as we finished our tour of the Golden Triangle. The Amber Fort is quite opulent, and flows across the hilltops with a great view of the town below.

A few of my favorite shots from the walls. Mostly in HDR with a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM).

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Great views.