THE GREAT WALL

There are two ways to do the great wall. Hitting the tourist areas which are cleared out, easy access and involves a cable ride up and taking a ride down to the bottom via a toboggan  OR hitting an abandoned area with a guide.

We chose the abandoned hike route.

The hike was 7-8km long and not the easiest. A fit family, but when it is 35C (+humidity), not a cloud in the sky and the first 1.5km involves an elevation change of 800 meters, your fitness is tested (Actually, the other 3 did fine, the only one tested was me). Fortunately, our guide provided the right amount of instruction on quantity of water and ensured that we brought enough food.

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I will say that about half way up with a backpack full of bottled water, my Canon 5D Mark III, the 28-300mm f/2.8 lens and a 50mm lens stored in my pack (Why a 50mm? No idea), I was wondering if I should have packed a bit lighter.

Our starting point was at what use to be a resort hotel of some type – no longer.

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The chicken coop at the start of the hike.

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The trail up is a mix of steps (In a few of the steepest places) and rough hiking trails – at a 45 degree or steeper angle. The math makes sense, 1.5km, 800m elevation. Clearly not over-used. In our 7-8 hour hike, we saw 2 other people who were on a hike with their dogs.

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As we stopped, we took the time to look back over the valley. Beautiful views and a clear day. A stark contrast to the polluted Beijing sky.

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It is a long way up but very satisfying when we came around a corner and the wall came into sight.

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Our destination where we will break out lunch.

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A good start.

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TOKYO LAWN TENNIS CLUB, TOKYO

Just down the road from where we live in Tokyo. There is no lawn at this club, the courts are all clay (smile).

A few HDRs from when the azaleas were in full bloom.

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The path beside the club. I walked this path for a year – until we changed offices.

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HOUSES, BANGKOK

On the canals of Bangkok. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM.

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Collecting water.

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As we rode down the river, lots of people were playing music. Some with some very big speakers.

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These homes exist in the shadow of some of the world’s most modern buildings.

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Reminds me of Hong Kong.

A WANDER, JAIPUR

One of the benefits of having a private guide is itinerary control. When we arrived in Jaipur the family was ready for a quiet break from touring. I had to run an errand and Anu accompanied me – through the side streets of Jaipur.

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Once the errand was complete we stepped out and decided to take a one block loop around the shop. What fascinated me was the fact that the one block walk was a city, inside a city with a wide range of shops so diverse that the area could almost operate as a self contained unit. Food, mechanical shops, butchers, a pharmacy, clothing and apartments in a block.

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Rickshaws are like scooters in other countries, everywhere.

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Fossil fuels, specifically wood, is still used to cook and in homes around the city. This wood “store” was manned by a man and his goat.

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A micro-city, within the city, which also included a wide range of food – fruits, street vendors and of course, the local butcher.

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Last street shot. The hustle and bustle, in this case two guys trying to sell carpets. According to our guide, the women are tough negotiators.

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Highly recommend stepping into the side streets if you can.

CARPETS AND SILKS, INDIA (2)

The second stage of the sales cycle was to show us how they made a carpet.

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Hand woven and then burned with a torch to remove the extra silk.

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An intricate process of burning (to tighten and seal the knots) and shaving. With the wool carpets he took a blade to the fibers to finish the process.

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While it is all staged to facilitate the sales process just like in other places such as Murano, Italy, it was interesting to watch. The problem I have as a “tourist” is what is the right price? This vendor was pitching us rugs that ran from $5K-$12K USD. While I know silk rugs in downtown Toronto often go for that price (or more), I was instantly on the defensive. Certainly they send those to foreign markets at a fraction of the cost – so what is the right price?

In the end, that is why we did not buy. Perhaps we would have if we felt there was a compelling reason and a deal to be had due to the “buy from the source” scenario.

CARPETS AND SILKS, INDIA

Being Expats our propensity to “consume” is quite low. Beside the fact that we are living in Tokyo, we have entered into a phase in our lives where we are getting rid of things – not adding. It has to be pretty special to get into our suitcase on a trip.

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Our guide had scheduled a stop at a textile shop which is a collective and one that he trusts. I have a long sales background and appreciate a good selling process. Their process is all about creating that emotional tie, letting us know the background on the collective and walking us through how the carpets are made.

The selling process started with showing us how they print silk by hand. Amazing to watch.

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The finished process.

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Made me wish that we needed something. Carpets, their high price item, were next.