09.25.2012

A couple weeks back the Brisbane Table Tennis Centre once again became home for the QMHE – Qld Model Hobbies Expo, a weekend of scale model displays, workshops and competitions.

Being our first time out, we weren’t too sure what to expect but definitely weren’t disappointed with hundreds of builds on display from the basic kit projects to ultra realistic reproductions. Subjects covered the usual military, automotive and flying machines and on to fictional spacecraft, anime mecha warriors reenacted movie scenes to the straight up weird.

Retailers were also out in force selling all the staples along with some very specific items, you know its serious business when there’s a store pretty much only selling tiny metal facades for those wanting that final touch of authenticity. Unfortunately a lot of places were selling full blown RRP (and then some) but there were the odd jewels of exhibition specials and paints at “I’ll take two!” kind of prices.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a couple hours with a lot of very passionate builders only too happy to gush about their latest creation.

Complete QMHE photos gallery here

Getting There
The closest train station was over a kilometre away but we decided to walk from our hotel to take in some of the residential sites as well as making a short detour pass the Drum Tower, however after that there wasn’t much to see. Catching the train was a breeze – get on at Gulou Dajie, change at Xizhimen and get off at Beijing Zoo. A taxi would have been more convenient but judging from some of the traffic we saw along the way, I dare say the train would be quicker (depending on where you’re coming from of course).

Drum Tower

Once there you’ll have to purchase your tickets, don’t go into the courtyard and expect to get tickets at the gate, look for a line of ticket windows with a mass of people looking like a cross between the stock market and the lines at a music festival. This isn’t London, no
one knows what queuing is, throw in wandering tour groups and masses of school excursioning kids and you’ll understand why I recommend
pre-purchasing your tickets if you can. Like most major attractions there’s rarely a quiet time but a week day visit may see a few less locals.

When inside there’s three areas roughly divided into amphibians, reptiles and birds; big animals and aquarium; and lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). Of course the star attractions are the pandas and the area, especially at the start of the day, was packed so we decided to head away from the crowds.

Things kicked off with the reptile enclosures but the first flag appeared when we saw a group of locals coaxing otters by feeding
them sausages and other snacks while staff stood by unconcerned. I don’t know about you but I have no idea what otters eat let alone what could potentially kill them! I for one definitely wouldn’t want no otter homicide on my hands.

Normally we love zoos especially the big ones where the animals have plenty of space to roam but as we continued it became more and more obvious and rather disheartening to see a lot of the enclosures in varying states of disrepair not helped by the original poor attempts at “authenticity” re: jungle mural painted brick wall.

Sporting a similar poorly simulated scenery was the penguin enclosure, which like several displays wasn’t included in the ticket price. A separate ticket had to be purchased for this enclosure and quite frankly it wasn’t worth it, even with our overwhelming love for the little tuxedo wearers.

Like the penguins, it was an extra fee to get up close to the giraffes but this time you could actually feed them by hand (leaves and other greenery, not the stuff from your bag).

The hippo, rhino, elephants, lions and tigers were all either off in the distance or not visible at all so it was a quick breeze through those sections. Back to the pandas, the crowd had waned a little but it was still at least 3-4 people deep in parts and quite a battle to get close to the viewing glass to snap a photo, but well worth it when you do.

Photo tip: battling the crowd is the easy part, getting your camera close enough to no get any reflection from the glass or 10 camera phones in your shot while dodging some parent holding their terrified scream protesting kid in between the rail and the glass is the real challenge. Just like waiting at a bar to be next in line for drinks you need to choose your moment and make a quick move to any opening spots. Keeping an eye on the movement of other background animals could help you lock in a good shot as well. Wide to mid range zoom with macro ability will be the best lens choice for the whole day, I found a long telephotos lens wasn’t necessary.

With that bit of disappointment done and the rest of the Beijing sights seen, there was only one thing left to do… SHOP!

More Beijing Zoo photos here.

Beijing 2011 part #1 – Arrival + Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City
Beijing 2011 part #2 – The Great Wall – Mutianyu
Beijing 2011 part #4 – Shopping

Beijing photo gallery here
Beijing Zoo photo gallery here

Ironically it took The Boys to break up the sausagefest in our Time Off Magazine Live cover shoots. The spunkettes bring some sass to the pages in this week’s issue #1595.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read current and back issues online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

A very special event happened recently and it was covered by our good friend and landscape photographer extraordinaire, Mel Sinclair (who is currently on an Icelandic photographic tour, can’t wait to see the photos from that one!)

And now over to the Bride and Groom!

-= Thankyou’s and Credits =-

Our special event could not have happened with out the help and kindness from many of our friends and family, we thank you all for a most wonderful and memorable day.

Wedding & Reception Planner:
Tiffany

Bride’s and Bridesmaids’ dresses:
Paradise Brides

Flowers and Decorations:
Treudie, Ashlee, Trudy
Flowers in Paradise
Aunty Patti (Handmade additions)

Photographer:
Mel Sinclair
Mel Sinclair Photography

Wedding Cake/Cookie cakes:
Nerolie’s Cupcakes
Facebook: Nerolie’s Cupcakes

Venue:
Dunes on Shelly

Celebrant:
Christine Mills

Catering:
Rosemary, Ben, Alex
Savoir Fare

MC, Usher:

Uncle Bruce

Parking attendants:
Tim and Mark

Late night Yum Cha:
Troy
Floral Apron Fryers



Mel’s Photo gallery here

Bonus photos from Katie here, thanks Katie!

Our Time Off Magazine Live cover shoot for this week is Martyr Privates.

Read about them in this week’s issue #1594.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read current and back issues online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

Gold Coaster’s (don’t hold that against them 😉 ) Miacarla are in the hot seat this week for our Time Off Magazine Live cover shoot. Their “Same ol story” track has been stuck on high rotation here for quite some time now with plenty of toe tapping and sing along moments, can’t wait till they venture up our way!

We also ducked out to the Beetle Bar to catch some very Brisbane style rock in the form of The Stress of Leisure.

Check them both out in this week’s issue #1593.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read current and back issues online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

Oceanics are in for this week’s Time Off Magazine Live cover shoot.

Check them out in this week’s issue #1592.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read current and back issues online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

You’ve probably been wondering where we have been for the last couple weeks…no? Well, I’m telling you anyway! Gettin’ hitched and going on a honeymoon to Hawaii! Full report and photos will be coming in due time, however till then, the Time Off magazine Live cover shoots we did before hand kept rolling out with a great bunch of locals – sizzling JJJ favourites Pigeon, mainstays Dubmarine, crazy punkers TheCityShakeUp and a bout of live action with Hunting Grounds have filled the pages over the last few weeks in issues #1589, #1590 and #1591.

Grab the latest issue FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read it and back issues online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

We managed to hold down Millions for a photo in the middle of some hectic touring for this week’s Time Off Magazine Live cover shoot.

Check them out in this week’s issue #1588.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read current and back issues online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

We’re not talking about the el cheapo 4WD and utes but the real mccoy, the one you can see from space! Its as vast as there are sections of it to see and options on how to get there.

Getting There
The first and quite common option is to arrange a tour. Like any tour, it’s a matter of fronting up the cash then waiting for your transport and instructions, easy enough. However the problem with this is a lot of the tour companies/bus operators/tour guides are in cahoots with local factories/markets so they make a few stops along the way so you spend money there as well. This might sound like a good idea but pick the wrong one and you’ll spend hours at a stop with nothing to do but get hassled by hawkers. Also not very good if you have a schedule to keep. There are of course legit operators and “private” guides that will take you directly to the wall, so do your research first!

Second option is to charter a taxi for the day, ie. You pay them to drive you there, wait and then drive you home. This option, while a bit expensive, would work well for a direct and quicker (no stops) travel but can be cheaper if you have a few people together to split the fare, the trade off however is trying to get a guarantee that the driver will hang around and wait for you and not run off as soon as some one else waves cash at them. On the plus side, there are plenty of drivers at the wall willing to take you back to the city so you wont be stranded.

Third, if you like living on the edge, is to hire a car. Cost is similar to most countries of $50-100AU a day for an “economy” size from a reputable dealer, however, assuming you have been in town for more than a minute and have witnessed the chaotic homicidal (or should that be suicidal??) drivers, this would be a last resort for most.

The final option and by far the cheapest, is to take public transport. I’m not sure about other sections of the wall but Mutianyu had only 2 bus services, slow and not as slow. Both will get you there eventually but one will make a lot more stops and a slight detour. The bus you’re after is the 936. To find this bus station, head east along the main road from Dongzhimen station for a few hundred meters. You’ll see the buildings die off, construction sites appear and it looks like you’ve gone too far (though, in the time since we travelled here its best to assume that there’s a new shopping mall/skyscraper there!), you’ll come across an open air bus terminal (see image). There’s a small ticket office (re: demountable building) but tickets are purchased on the actual bus. The journey is over 2 hours and there is a strong chance you may not get a seat and will have to sit on the floor. Also note, some seats have a different coloured headrest, after a lot of dirty looks and what we originally thought were comments about foreigners from elderly people we worked out that the seats were reserved for them. Strange since they were in the middle of the bus and not at the front, didn’t help that these weren’t signed/labelled!

Remember these are the options I looked at for the Mutianyu site, other sections like the popular and closer Badaling section will vary.

Bus stop

UPDATE: It seems they may have ditched the “express” 936 service and replaced it with the 867, however the stop seems to be the same. There is also mention of a 916, see Lonely Planet for more details.

Up the wall
Once at the wall, there are a bunch of different options to choose from depending on your available time, patience and stamina. The bus stop (cabs and carparks) are at the bottom of the mountain away from the wall. The ticket office and entry in itself is a bit of a steep walk to get to, made no easier with having to run the gauntlet of hecklers selling just about anything with the obligatory Wall reference.

Travel tip: Remember to bargain hard and never feel like you’re low balling them. Supply always far outweighs the demand.

From the entrance you have a choice of a hike up the mountain to the wall or a cable car. We figured since we were already going to be doing a bunch of walking we’d choose the relaxing trip on the cable car. If you are trekking to the untouched re: “wild” sections of this wall section then this is the way to go, it drops you at tower 14 and with 34 towers for this section itll save you some energy as well! We chose to head in the other direction back to tower 5.

Cable cars

The wall was constructed purely as a strategic military point of defence and offence (remnants of cannons still remain) and it becomes very clear once you’re on it how difficult it would be for any invading army to even begin to think of how to get across the mountains and foothills let alone the wall as well. So with that in mind, there’s no “easy parts”, its constantly up and down with uneven paving and stairs. This is where good quality hiking shoes are a must. Thongs (flip flops), sandals, “girlie” shoes or cheap/poor support/cushioning sneakers will leave you with more than just blisters or a rolled ankle before you pass your first tower. Water is a must as well but there are vendors along the way selling drinks, ice creams and even beer, just remember to use the bins provided or take your rubbish with you even if it is overly tempting to follow suit with the locals and hoik it over the wall.

The wall quite literally goes on forever, its hard to fathom the sheer man power and materials required to be such an epic structure which you feel with every step. Step long enough and you’ll make it to tower 6 and salvation! Well maybe not but its your ticket out of there, not just in style but with speed (for the most part anyway) as this is the top of the toboggan ride!

This is similar to a lot of toboggan rides around the world, small single person sled with a manual stop/go lever down a metal chute. This was great fun but would have been even better if we could get more than a couple corners at a quicker pace. Sadly like a lot of these rides, there’s the token “Henny Penny” that will scream and clutch at the ground with their fingernails if they could, even if they’re travelling at a snails pace. The signs warning NOT to brake as it will cause accidents were useless and at least half the ride was more like returning traffic on the last day of a long weekend. For those thinking that you could some how get hurt if you go down at full speed, there are signs telling you when to brake and judging from the way the track is laid out, you would be hard pressed to hurt yourself, even if you were being stupid. Either way it made the return journey quick and reasonably effortless.

Toboggan ride

By now you’ve probably worked up an appetite and if you’ve timed it right, you’ll have just enough time to grab a bite before the return bus arrives. Food choice is limited to a small selected on local cuisine or Subway. Like a lot of western fast food places, Subway staff spoke a little English but mainly in the form of menu items, any deviation from this required the usual gesturing and improv’ charades.

The line for the bus grows quickly so its best to line up as soon as you can to get a seat, if not you will have to stand or sit on the floor, which is rather uncomfortable for the quite lengthy ride.

Next up we continue the China must see’s and track ourselves down some Pandas!

Beijing 2011 part #1 – Arrival + Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City
Beijing 2011 part #3 – Beijing Zoo
Beijing 2011 part #4 – Shopping

Beijing photo gallery here
Beijing Zoo photo gallery here

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